How To Be a 'Supernatural' Brand
In surveying the internet marketing landscape, I feel I can hardly overstate the importance of a single demographic: teenagers.
As I wrote in "Take the Teen Smartphone Challenge for Your Business" (http://goo.gl/mW6mvm
), "Teens drive consumer technology in the 21st Century." ... "These are your future, if not present, customers."
The last statement is a truism, of course: today's teens are tomorrow's adults, so obviously if teens are not already your customers, at least some will be as adults.
Teens have a less immediate impact on popular entertainment, depending on the type; their influence on music, for example, is greater than their influence on television or movies.
Their tastes, as we know, change quickly, especially as teens soon mature into adults and "put aside childish things". Yet, for nearly a decade, one TV show has held the attention and enthusiasm of a largely teenage audience, even retaining many of them as fans as they grow to adulthood: Supernatural
First launched on the WB Network in 2005 (which merged into The CW Channel in 2006-2007), Supernatural
follows the adventures of two brother 'hunters', Sam and Dean Winchester, who battle ghosts, demons, and other supernatural and mythical beings.
While the Dawson's Creeks
, One Tree Hills
, and Smallvilles
of the same network have folded, Supernatural
has continued to win the new teenage audience every time the old one grew up and moved on. So how did they do it?
Putting it bluntly: repetition. The entire show can be described as a repeating story arc with slight variations: at first some catalyzing event, usually a tragedy, reunites the estranged brothers, who set out for revenge and to help others along the way. Sam faces a spiritual crisis of some sort, whereby he can go down a path leading to doom or damnation, or pull back. Dean takes charge when he feels Sam has gone too far, and asserts his own impulsive judgment. Sam goes too far, Dean pulls him back just barely in time (but always just a bit late), and one brother or the other dies, forcing the other to make a foolish self-sacrifice to bring the other back. The brother who is brought back resents this, other things go wrong between them, and they split.
With slight variations, and only as a simplistic framework, this is the formula of the show. And it works. In addition, the arc opens to a new adversary each time: ghosts, demons, angels, werewolves and vampires, gods, etc... The brothers remain the same, but the trappings of their adventures are given a fresh coat of paint.
What can your brand learn from this? In the first place, that consistency works. Absolute originality may be the obsession of the starving artist, but even the great artists always use a certain degree of formula. For businesses, where you won't be judged in a softly lighted gallery over wine and gourmet cheeses by intellectuals, formula is indispensable.
Beyond that, while the formula remains the same, something has to change to keep people interested. Even a huge brand like Coca Cola has reimagined and reinvented its branding too many times to count. The cola may remain Classic, but nothing else is too sacred to at least explore other options and approaches.
Your target customers and clients are as fickle as teenagers when it comes to choosing you, and why shouldn't they be? They owe you nothing unless you win their loyalty, over and over again. Give them what they want, while keeping them delighted, and they'll help keep the demons of poverty from breaking the circle of your bottom line.
~ +Eli Fennell
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