Episodic content and your brand
Create content that's worth the investment.
By Colby Miller, Copywriter
There is a popular perception going around that says attention spans are getting shorter. This, however, is generally untrue (and unsupported by scientific rigor). What is actually happening is an evolution of people’s expectations of content. People get bored easily. We live in the golden age of content. The bar to grab audience attention is now much, much higher. This means that, as content creators, we need to care more. Not only does content need to be worth it, but so does the format you choose (a little “the medium is the message” there). One potential format to explore: episodic content.
Even if you’ve never heard the term “episodic content,” chances are you’re still familiar with what it is: a fancy way to say a series. Episodic content isn’t a new or groundbreaking concept. Television shows, comic strips, even the old radio broadcast soap operas are all examples of content delivered in individual episodes as part of a series.
The concept of branded episodic content isn’t particularly new, either. After all, the soaps were called the soaps because they were created by U.S. soap companies as a way to reach 1930’s household purchase decision makers (also known as housewives).
But just because a concept isn’t a completely new or novel idea doesn’t mean that new novelties don’t materialize. With new channels and technologies come new adaptations. The radio soaps were dominant until the 1950's when televisions became common place. The genre experimented, evolved, and expanded. And if television—a monolithic entertainment platform—still leaves room for groundbreaking innovation, how do we begin to approach something as vast, decentralized, and democratized as the internet? What does that mean for branded episodic content?
One ring to rule them all?
No. There is no ring of power when it comes to episodic marketing content (which probably makes for a safer Earth). But there are general best practices to emulate.
Just like with writing a book or comic series, each chapter of content (episodes, in our case) must add more depth, insight, and commentary to the greater messages and themes embodied in the whole of the work. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Matrix…they all do it. Movies, books, television, comics…pick your format and genre, and you’ll notice similar delivery patterns in all successful works. But what does that mean for your brand?
Episodic content and you
OK, so we’ve established that episodic content is a thing that’s both new and old at the same time, but why should you care? How can episodic marketing content be viable for your brand? We aren’t punting on the answer here, but the truth is, that question can’t be answered without first asking and finding answers to a host of other essential questions. Anyone trying to sell you a silver bullet isn’t selling you what your brand actually needs—which might not end up even being episodic content, if the answers to those preliminary questions don’t point in that direction.
So, what questions should be asked when considering episodic content as a valid marketing tactic? We start by assessing objectives, channels, and audiences.
Objectives: What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to move leads along the decision process, or are you trying to fill the top of the funnel and boost awareness? This information is critical to proposing a strategically sound creative solution.
Channels: What properties do you currently own and what spaces are you active in? Is there something to build on, or are we starting from scratch? Are we able to team up or piggyback off of a past or potential partnership? The spaces we’re playing in dictate the fit and finish of the content just as much as the audience insights. You might drop five-minute-long minisodes on YouTube, but you might reconsider if your audience primarily interacts with your content on Facebook.
Audience: Who are you targeting? What are their interests? Where do they hang out online? And most importantly: what value are you going to provide them? Content marketing is value-based. You are either educating, entertaining, or informing people (preferably a mix of all) with a mix of emotional and rational appeal.
Why episodic content?
We’ve talked a lot about branded episodic content, and we haven’t really discussed what the benefits of this format are. Well, release your horses. (Or hold them still? Not sure what you do with the horses once the moment has finally come.)
Here are some of the top values and benefits of the episodic format:
Decreases viewer fatigue, increasing message retention
Allows for a longer, more compelling story arch
Creates more touchpoints with the viewer
Provides a greater chance to build momentum around viewership
Allows viewer to develop a deeper connection to the content, characters, and plot (if applicable)
Allows for more trial and error with the subject matter
Builds anticipation with the audience, increasing connection to viewers
And just as the benefits are wide ranging, so are the format possibilities:
The possibilities and opportunities to be inventive and deliver value are vast.