Be the Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian of Marketing. Really!

Marketing has become more like Reality TV than Madison Avenue. That’s one of the messages I took away from expert digital marketer Cedric Devitt of New York-based Big Spaceship who spoke at the recent Intermarket Agency Network (IAN) Spring Meeting.

Imagine that … Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian becoming the models for today’s marketing? Seems far-fetched. But as people become more adept at filtering out traditional marketing messages, smart marketers need to find new ways to grab attention. So what can today’s mind-numbing reality TV teach us about marketing?

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Participation. Who gets voted off the show this week? You decide! That’s the game many reality TV shows play. They engage their audience by allowing them to play a part in the story. And when you have skin in the game, and a rooting interest, you’re much more likely to pay attention. Think of it this way. Thirty years ago, you watched TV for entertainment. You didn’t have to do anything. Just watch. Today, we live in a world where half of the population grew up playing video games. They didn’t just watch. They participated. And even when they are watching TV, they’re doing it with their smart phone in hand, texting, tweeting and voting about what they are watching. Look for ways your customers can participate with your brand instead of just observing it.

Nimbleness. Today’s consumers have shorter attention spans. Watch any reality TV show and you’ll see their formula for keeping people’s attention is to create multiple storylines that they can switch between. If you’re not interested in what’s happening now, wait 10 seconds and you’ll be onto the next story. Marketing is moving that direction as well. The old advertising adage is that a person must see your ad at least 7 times before they pay any attention to it. Today, if they’ve seen your message 7 times, they’re likely ignoring it. Look at one of the best ad campaigns in recent history – remember the Old Spice Guy campaign? It’s not running anymore, right? Know why? Because if it continued, people would begin to get exhausted and the good brand work done at the beginning would begin to irritate people. Your creative should be fresh.

People-focused. Reality TV is about people. They may be artificially enhanced, photo-manipulated and expertly edited people, but they’re still people. People relate to other people. They compare themselves with these people. They aspire to be like them. Or they are just in awe of the stories behind them. Today’s best marketing is about developing a personality for your brand that your customers can relate to. Look for ways to make people a centerpiece of your marketing.

Audience Shift. The younger generation is the most engrossed in Reality TV. According to Devitt (and I find this amazing if it’s true), 86% of the workforce will be made up of Millennials in 5 years. That’s a huge turnover. Now think of some of the famous, long-term brands that are not even relevant to these consumers. Why? Because they haven’t changed the way they market. Devitt gave the example of Jack Daniels. If you’re 35 years old or older, you know Jack Daniels. If you’re under 30, you may not have a clue that it’s one of the world’s most famous whisky brands. Now think of some of the biggest brands in the world. Google. Facebook. Amazon. Tesla. These are brands that were born after most of the Millennials. They’ve found ways to become relevant quickly while older brands risk becoming obsolete because they have not adjusted to the changing demographics. Make sure your brand is engaging in the younger audience so it doesn’t become irrelevant.

Sharable. Speaking of Millennials, most of them also grew up with a cell phone in their hands by the time they were 10 years old. That means they had instant access to photos, video and social media platforms to share all of it on. They’re not afraid to share. In fact, in some ways they gauge themselves based on how many likes, retweets and followers they can accumulate. Now, find a Reality TV show that doesn’t look to take advantage of this by creating a hashtag, a website or other tools that allow their viewers to share. Probably can’t find one, huh? Look for ways to build “shareability” into your marketing so you can leverage the power of word-of-mouth and influencers.

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