How HBO’s Westworld Can Make Us Better Digital Marketers

Unless you live in a cave with your hands permanently glued to your ears, you’ve probably heard of HBO’s new breakout TV series Westworld. The show is an exciting viewing experience and its story delivers a truly riveting experience.

What better example of storytelling can a digital marketer draw from to connect with an audience?

For those of you unfamiliar with Westworld, here’s a brief synopsis (no major spoilers ahead, I promise!) If you already watch the show, feel free to skip.

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The show follows the experiences of visitors in a futuristic, Wild West-themed amusement park, from which the show gets its name. The park is essentially a giant landscape populated by android “hosts,” programmed to lead the guests on adventures throughout the park.

The hosts, however, have no idea the park is only a fantasy, and are programmed to ignore any references to the reality outside of their world. Every day, they wake up to the same stories and new visitors, thinking it’s a brand new day in their reality.
Westworld is experiencing some unrest – as the androids become more and more human, they may actually cross the line into humanity.

This ambivalence and the question of what is and is not reality, and what is and is not humanity, is at the crux of the dilemma for the television audience.

Read on to see how the mind of a content strategist ticks when processing the immersive sci-fi experience that is Westworld.

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Don’t Feed Your Audience a Narrative – Immerse Them in a Story

The best advertising isn’t advertising at all – it’s storytelling. If you want your audience to develop an emotional attachment to the product or service you’re offering, you have to immerse them in a story. If you’re simply telling them what you want them to hear, they can choose to exit the narrative at any time.

In Westworld, the beauty of the story is that the visitors to the park believe they are living in it. While you may not have an entire fictional world to give your audience, you can do your best to give them a great story that addresses some part of who they are.

In the first episode, visitors to the park are addressed by a man looking for volunteers to chase down an outlaw who’s been terrorizing the city: “You there!” he calls to men as they walk by, “You look like just the man for the job.” The visitors are free to engage in the adventure or to walk by and pursue the next one.

A good inbound marketing funnel does the same thing. We draw a visitor into becoming a potential lead, letting them continue down the funnel until they find the opportunity that speaks to them. This is how you convert a lead into a potential client, by letting them live the story rather than forcing them into your own inflexible narrative.

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Technology is Most Effective When it’s Invisible

The latest and greatest in marketing technology means nothing to your audience unless it’s providing them with value. What your audience gains from interacting with any design or technology should be so great that they don’t think about the device used to deliver it.

In other words – your marketing should get out of its own way, and deliver an effective message.

The hosts of Westworld are a great example. They offer park visitors everything they want from their experience, without stopping to say, “aren’t I an amazing creation?”

Your marketing efforts should do the same. Make sure to take a step back, and ensure that your process is best for the consumer, not for you. Don’t pursue technology because it’s flashy and new. Use it because it’s functional.

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Blur the Lines Between Marketing and Reality

Westworld goes beyond television to bring its experience to viewers. Their marketing team has unsettled viewers just enough to make them wonder, “how close is this to reality?”

Two weeks ago, Westworld’s social media team tweeted that there had been a “glitch” in the system, and that episode 2 was available for viewing early. This was a great opportunity to offer value to Westworld fans, while furthering the narrative of the show.

A quick visit to the Westworld website suggests even more of technology slowly growing out of control – you can visit the site and explore the map of Westworld, even signing up to book your stay.

After a view minutes on the site, however, the screen glitches and breaks down into a series of bizarre screen malfunctions and a recording that repeats: “Hell is empty. All the devils are here.”

It’s unsettling, to say the least. For a second, you forget that this website can’t actually take you into Westworld. Good digital marketing should use all the tools at hand to break that fourth wall, and make an audience unsteady on their feet, in an exciting, memorable way.

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Never Forget the People on Either Side of Your Digital Marketing Efforts

At Tribu, we believe in something called the human connection. Our actions grow out of data and careful research, but we never want to be so entrenched in the numbers and results that we forget the real people behind our marketing efforts.

This seems to be Westworld’s fatal flaw – they’ve forgotten the “people” inside the hosts of the park. The more human the hosts become, the more the creators of Westworld struggle to bring them back into the world of computers and numbers.

As the creators struggle to dehumanize the hosts, the visitors seem to become less human and more monstrous, committing increasingly violent and despicable acts against the hosts.

Your customers will also act out if you don’t make their human needs and wants your priority. They’ll remove themselves from your marketing efforts and find someone else who addresses their needs.

Remember Anthony Hopkin’s iconic quote in episode two: “They already know who they are. They’re here because they want to know who they could be.” Excellent digital marketing should show your audience potential – how their lives could be better, easier and more enjoyable because of what you’re offering.

Ready to venture into the wild, wild west of digital marketing? Reach out to Tribu, and see what new worlds we can show your customers.

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Step Away from that Design or Else!!

Have you ever started a design or a creative concept and after hours of tedious work, generated nothing remotely close to cool or original? I have. And even after hours of creating nothing but delete-worthy ideas I continue to work on the same design. Why is this happening to me?? It’s because the only entity that can stop me is me, and I’m not backing down!

If you’re like me, you literally need to step away from the design. Seriously, walk away.

There are more designers out there besides you and I who’ve been in this situation. Your day may start out right. With a little coffee in you and a firm grasp on your creative concept you might just pull it off in time for lunch. You’ve finally sat down to work when out of nowhere; 5 o’ clock hits. Despite the hour you still insist on forging ahead with the hopes that you will create something groundbreaking, when in reality you continue to produce visuals that you wouldn’t dare let your fellow designer see, much less a client.

The simple solution: take a break.

Deadlines are a haunting b*tch, I know. And I know how hard it is to tear yourself away from a design, especially when you have worked so many hours on it and still have nothing you would ever consider showing. But the simple truth is, you need to take a break from your design and give your brain a rest.

What happens if you don’t?

It can lead to stress, exhaustion, distraction, and lets be honest, sh*tty ideas. The creative thought process is not designed for continuity. Your mind becomes fatigued after sustained use (just like your muscles), and needs a rest period before it can recover. Working over a long period of time can be invigorating but if you’ve hit a wall in the creative process, you are only draining your reserves, stressing yourself out, and quite possibly setting yourself up to present something mediocre or worse! Long forced hours don’t necessarily mean good work – original, creative, highly efficient, productive work is more valuable and frequent with the occasional break.

Give your brain a chance to refresh!

Breaks also promote and improve productivity and creativity. Sometimes you need to step away from what it is that you are designing and do something completely different. This may sound like the end of the world to a designer. But it’s not.
It is as simple as going outside, stretching, going out for lunch, or just having a really good laugh with co-workers about non-worked related stuff. Clear your mind of design. By doing this it takes you out of your tunnel vision perspective and brings a whole new perspective into play. And when you broaden your perspective, there is a chance that inspiration may hit and you’re able to return to your design with a fresh eye, renewed vigor, and optimized creativity.

The design process is demanding and so are the skills required to constantly create beautiful work and original ideas. So after a certain point when you feel the tunnel vision setting in and the delete-worthy ideas start reemerging, do yourself and your brain a favor, step away, relax, and take a well-deserved break.

Sometimes you need a little help. We all do… Take a load off.

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3… 2…1… Skip. Will Outbound Marketer’s Ever Produce Anything That’s Isn’t Annoying?

Imagine what it would be like if we lived in world where smiles were the currency. Marketer’s would be broke, and its true – we suck. For the last fifty years we’ve done a lot of talking, and naturally people have stopped listening. Seth Godin will tell you something about this in all twelve of his best seller’s, but I like this line in particular from his blog post:

“Ideas spread from person to person, not so much from you to them. So find your biggest fans and give them a story to tell.”

Storytelling isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you think about advertising, and that’s a problem. It’s one of many tools that marketer’s should have in their toolbox, and yet it’s nearly unheard of amidst agency chatter. Essentially advertising is lame. It’s discourse is centered around things like the best deal in town, and the please take me off your list. It’s the reason we have pop-up blockers, spam folders, and it’s almost always the most annoying part of every company. When the day comes, and you really have a story or an idea worth spreading, who’s going to listen?

boy-copy1-260x367Let’s Talk About Why You Hate Us

We have shoved things in front of your face at supermarkets, sprayed you with awful perfume, dressed up in customs, worn signs, spun signs, created jingles you cant forget, repeated slogans over and over, destroyed your dial up connection, spammed your email to the point where they had to make something called a “spam folder”, and butchered things that you used to love – feel free to add any other annoyances because I could go on all day.

Of course marketers are Seth’s “target audience”, but does he really have to remind us to stop talking at people, and start listening? Absolutely he does. There’s a reason why marketers are so awestruck by these simple takeaways. We are so lost in the traditional, outbound way of doing things that we cant even put the simplest things in to practice, like participating in a conversation instead of conducting an auction. Can you imagine what it would be like to sit down with a stranger over coffee only to have them begin auctioneering at you? The feeling would probably be to leave as quickly as possible, which is what most people do when they feel like they’re being marketed to. Your words wont make since to someone who isn’t listening.

Ask Questions and be Liked, Talk Alot and be Ignored

Remember when YouTube didn’t have any ads? It was a simple and beautiful day when I could watch a video about fishing and not see an ad for a new car. The car ad has nothing to do with fishing and for that I pay a little less attention to the car company. The more they spam me, the more influential the feeling becomes. You’ve probably heard this one from Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Forgetting the importance of a simple idea like this can lead to a mistake that you wont be able to bounce back from.

The Cost of Negative ROI

As a rule of thumb in marketing, don’t do things that make people angry. Your business will suffer from a thing called negative ROI. Now think about what that means for a moment… It means that your potential prospects, instead of converting to delighted promoters, will convert to enemies of your brand. People will tell others how much they despise your ads. You’ve lost a promoter, possibly hundreds of thousands of potential promoters, who just wanted to watch a video on Youtube about fishing, when you came in and interrupted them. What could have happened is you could have taken the time to learn about your customer, gained an insider understanding of their pain points, offered a solution, and possibly closed a delighted promoter. Promoters are the people that help grow your business. They’re your biggest asset. Don’t forget that.

i-want-that-graphic-design-san-antonioPut yourself in front of a device of your choosing. When you click, tap or swipe any object on the internet you do so for a specific reason right? You were told that it would take you somewhere that you wanted to go. A single click is a gift from you to the website owner. That click (gift) should be rewarded with a speedy redirect to the information you want to see, not punished by some cheap outbound trick. Here we made this for you… but first a countdown. If your like me you probably focus all of your attention on that little countdown in the right hand corner that lets you know when you can click “skip”. I’ve learned to love the feeling I get when I’m able to click the “skip” button. I’m certain I’d buy anything that that “skip” company sells. They know what I like, and the’ve made a special skip button just for me.

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Be a Revolutionary for the Sake of Marketing

Earlier today I shared some of my favorite marketing wisdom with our Tribe at our weekly Explorer meeting. I think it’s worth sharing with everyone. Don’t take this for granted….these ideas/strategies/insights are nothing short of absolutely brilliant.

Here goes….

1] Think at the crossroads of disciplines to discover breakthrough ideas where different worlds collide.
2] Think differently about thinking differently – experiment (!)
3] Use intuition, imagination, inspiration, and ideation to think the unthinkable.
4] Create new alternatives and perspectives.
5] Use forward looking thinking to define and communicate a compelling vision as part of entrepreneurial leadership.
6] Develop a balance between science and art, logic and imagination, using “whole-brain thinking”.
7] Think holistically by approaching marketing as a system with various ecosystems.
8] Think in 4D – beyond the limitations of the three dimensions inside and outside the box.
9] Solve problems in novel ways using pictures as part of kaleidoscopic thinking.
10] Use the mind’s eye, myths, memories, mystery, and magic to think metaphorically (this is why I’ve included the National Jewish Health dance ad….it’s a metaphor that believe strongly communicates & positions the National Jewish Health name. Genius creativity!)
11] Think in reverse by reversing assumptions about cause and effect to remove obstacles.
12] Think “leapfrog” to develop creative leverage that overcomes inertia
13] Use unconventional wisdom to develop a whole new mindset that channels thinking and action
14] Be a revolutionary for the sake of marketing – embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty to learn adaptively by thinking with tenacity
CREDIT: Schindehutte, M., Morris, M. H., & Pitt, L. F. (2009). Rethinking marketing: the entrepreneurial imperative. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.
…and a BIG thanks to Dr. Byus, the amazing person who shared this insight with me.

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Unite with Belief | Apple, Think Different Campaign

There’s a reason apple has the following it has. I saw a photograph the other day of an Apple logo with a few words underneath it. It read “we still think different”.

If you’ve never read the Apple mantra, their original campaign, it goes something like this:

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them,
glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.

They invent. They imagine. They heal.

They explore. They create. They inspire.
They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world…
are the ones who do.

johnyoko-165x165Sounds different doesn’t it? Imagine how “unusual” that was when it first came out. How unique. How inspiring. I mean, come on!..where’s the line that says “for only $9.99 you can get a [insert product shenanigan here]”. Or isn’t it missing the whole “We’re Apple and we sell revolutionary technological products” lingo?

Not at all. It’s perfect. It’s the essence of what good messages should sound like. I’m not going to sit here and explain to you the mass amounts of loyal followers Apple enjoys because I know you already know about them (heck, and probably are one of them). Here’s what I believe it’s important people understand when they see such greatness….one thing and one thing only….are you ready?

It’s important to honestly and genuinely engage your audience. It’s important that your business operate with a strong belief, a soul, that you can communicate to others. Tell them how you are influencing their world. Why should people do business with you? Because you want to make money? That’s not powerful enough. Because your product is cheaper than everyone else’s? So what!

How about….because I believe in [insert strong belief] and the power of my belief can change the world.

The goal of an entrepreneur should always be:

fueling growth.
solving important problems.
changing the world.
My awesome partner, Carlos A Castro’s about me has this excerpt in it which I love. It sounds like this:

Carlos considers himself a storyteller who believes in Design as a powerful vessel of communication and engagement. His cause is for those who have discovered an idea so amazing they are pleased to follow it through, no matter what.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? We’re all united and separated by belief. There are beliefs in the world that seek to unite us all, such as “one love” and we have beliefs that separate us, such as “abortion”. We’re passionate about those beliefs, and if not those, than definitely others. Our identities are made up of these beliefs. Businesses, who create belief, who share their beliefs, and who stand for beliefs become more than money generating (or losing) entities. They become part’s of people’s identities. They outlast their creators.

Here’s to Steve Jobs, a marketing genius, and the legacy he’s left behind.

Here’s to Apple, for hitting the nail straight on its head.

Here’s to Tribu and your business, because we can help you nail it too.

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