So You Think You Can Dance: 4 Content Marketing Tips It Illustrates
Nov 30, 2009
I think I’ve seen at least one episode of every “reality” TV show there has ever been. It doesn’t mean I liked it or that it made me feel good about myself, but I have. So I feel I can say this with confidence: So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD, as the kids abbreviate) is the greatest of them all. In fact, it’s good enough to transcend all the horrible things we’ve come to expect from the reality genre, and it stands up as solid entertainment in general.
These dancers have serious talent — that alone pushes it above most reality shows whose most important cast trait is sociopathy. And unlike American Idol and other “talent” based shows, there’s no place to hide when contestants are pitting they’re skills against others (no background singers and amped-up guitars to make them sound better than they really are). You should at least check it out once.
But now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I also think SYTYCD supplies solid reminders of some attributes of great marketing content. It can also reminds us of the of the biggest marketing pitfalls. First, the attributes. Here are four that apply to any type of content you create: written, interactive, video, animation, game, etc…
1. Tell a universal story in a unique way. A majority of the dances start the same: meeting the choreographer for the first time, and she says, “this dance is about a love story.” Yet almost none of the dances look or feel the same. And they aren’t different just because the choreographer adds “this is their first love” or “but one of them cheated on the other.” It’s the movement that they use to tell the story that evokes unique emotion. It makes the story about a specific love. And that specificity makes it special in the moment, and memorable after the fact.
The lesson for marketers: Don’t try to tell a story that means something to everyone. You’ll fail. You can use universal themes, but you should weave a story that is specific to you, and therefore, your audience.
2. One step should lead seamlessly to the next. I can’t choreograph a dance. In fact, I’ll go farther and say I can’t really dance at all. But I can critique the routines with abandon once they reach the end. And I’m bound to critique most when the dance “ends” before it’s supposed to. What I mean is that when the story the choreographer writes through movement doesn’t flow, they lose me. Non sequitors are killers.
The lesson for marketers: Don’t just throw a bunch of keywords, catch phrases, stock imagery and “moments” into a piece. Experiment with the steps until you achieve an unbreaking flow, pulling the audience through the piece, building intrigue with every connected turn.
3. When done well, the technique disappears, and the personality shines through. Again, I’m no expert at dance. But I can tell when people are concentrating more on pointing their toes than telling a story. More often than not, the dancers have practiced the techniques specific to the dance genre until they know it inherently. And once they’ve done that, they reach unconscious competence — and the performers can concentrate solely on conveying the story.
The lesson for marketers: Your audience probably doesn’t know all that goes into programming an interactive. But if they have to concentrate on figuring out the navigation and asking why you made it obtuse, they probably aren’t going to be affected by the content (if they even notice it).
4. The judges are important, but they’re not the real audience. For those that watch the show, you’ll know what I mean when I say the judges speak loudly, providing both pointed, constructive criticism and occasionally over-the-top praise. (Some more so than others. Time to tone it down, Mary.) The performers who are there to win and grow use the comments and make themselves better, but they still understand that they’re dancing for the audiences vote to stay in the competition.
The lesson for marketers: Listen carefully to the critics. Think about what both their criticism and praise really mean. Where applicable, use it to make your next efforts better. But don’t start trying to pander to them. Sometimes what the pros consider good creative misses the mark in terms of ROI, and other times efforts that get panned make an indelible impression on your real audience.
And the pitfall? No matter how well you dance the steps, if you don’t make a personal connection with your audience it was wasted effort.
Watching TV as a kid, I used to run to the bathroom during the shows so I could make it back for the commercials. Those days launched me down a path that included layout and writing for the college paper; communications strategy for political campaigns; marketing strategy and graphic design for Gensler (a global design and architecture firm); and the implementation of new programming, animation and design techniques for Centerline. Today I specialize in content marketing strategy and building digital deliverables to execute those strategies. But it’s about more than just creating killer digital content. At Centerline, we help clients succeed in the digital marketplace using a three-pronged approach: strategic (message creation, brand strategy), tactical (design, development), and analytical (measurement and adaptation). This experience-tested approach allows me to build campaigns that are both well-designed and effective for clients like IBM, GE and National Instruments.