It was the second day when I binge-watched Lebron James’ production called “The SHOP” This episodic content with pro athletes, actors, comedians, and even politicians, made me think about how a pro athlete like Lebron James is building his media empire by creating binge-worthy content for his audience.
And, it’s funny because he is a basketball player. Shouldn’t his role be just to play basketball? Why is he doing these interviews? Why is he and Mav Carter building brands like Uninterrupted, The Spring Hill Company, More Than, Kneading Dough, and others?
As Rand Fishkin said in an interview for Typeform “this episodic content world, I think is where we are headed. If you wanna build great, sustainable, long term content marketing.”
Because these days not only media companies should create content, communicate with the audience, and connect with people.
Now let me ask you something:
When was the last time when you binged on your favorite brand content?
Yes, you read it well, “your favorite brand content”.
Would you watch 3 seasons of video series produced by your favorite coffee shop, or by your favorite clothing brand?
Content marketing can be your answer for all of these questions, like:
- How am I building a brand? By creating consistent content and market it to the audience.
- How should I promote my product if I have a small or limited advertising budget? By creating consistent content and distributing it to the audience.
- How can I differentiate from my competition? By creating consistent content and promoting it to the target audience.
Your role as a content marketer is not only to get people’s attention, these days you need to hold their attention. And how do you make this? By creating episodic content.
What is Episodic Marketing?
Episodic Marketing or as others call it, Episodic Content Marketing is a type of content strategy that divides the content into flawless episodes that build brand awareness, teach leadership and engage with a target audience. Episodic Marketing is an effective way of storytelling that draws and keeps people attention with engaging audio or video series.
In this article I want to teach you how to create binge-worthy content for your brand, by showing you some examples, giving you tips and tricks, and hopefully, after you read the entire article, you will get a sense of how to create a binge-worthy content strategy for your brand.
- Start with the audience
- Establish a theme
- Choose the right type of episodic content
- Distribution is the key
- Examples of Binge-Worthy Content from Brands
1. Start with the audience
You are creating your content for your audience. You don’t want to create binge-worthy content for your competition (they will consume it anyway) or for your managers, or your own family to brag about it and show them what you do at your work.
Before you launch that trailer or your first episode, you have to understand WHO is your audience. And how do you do this? By looking up for them.
Let’s take for example the fact that you are a brand new company and you start to build your brand, in which case you don’t have an audience. What do you do to start an audience, to have that first follower on your Instagram or your Twitter?
Start using Sparktoro. I recommend this tool because it will help you understand who is your audience, what content they consume, who they follow, and what they talk about. It’s a marketing tool that will make your life easier when you are about to launch your next episodic content project.
I used Sparktoro to show you what websites are following or Youtube channels are subscribing to the people who are interested in “sports cards”. Here are the results:
This information gave me a sense on who is my audience, what content they consume and what words they are using in their profile bio. Moving forward, I have these podcasts and YouTube channels that I can subscribe to, engage with their audience and maybe sponsor them, so I can get my audience on my new binge-worthy content about sport cards.
2. Establish a theme
When you know who is your audience and what’s their interest, the second step you have to take is to establish a theme for your episodic content.
What kind of content do you want to produce in order to capture the audience and convince them to pay attention to your release calendar? You need to make sure that every time you post a new episode, they will click on that play button.
What’s the theme of your show?
Take for example THE SHOP. They talk about culture, the future, and other situations Lebron’s guests have met.
Another example of a theme is my own podcast. I host a podcast where I talk about marketing and life. Why marketing and life? Because these are the 2 important elements that I found my audience is interested. Some of them are interested in the principles of marketing, tactics and ideas while others are interested in different situations that arise in the life of a marketer such as leadership, community, feedback, decisions and many many others.
How can you find the theme of your show?
Start with a brainstorm session. Even if you are doing it alone or you have an entire team at your side, start with that brainstorm.
If you have a team, the best way to do a brainstorm is:
- Choose the one in your team that you know to be able to come with great ideas. You don’t have to be 10 people in the room. Sometimes, 2 people may be enough.
- Send them a brief about this show with details like who is your audience, why do you want to do this show, what do you want to accomplish, and other details that can help them.
- Schedule a date, a deadline, to share those ideas. Try to give them at least one week to make the research, consume other content, and look for inspiration.
- At the meeting, let everybody have 10 minutes to present their ideas based on the brief.
- Don’t vote for the best idea. Choose the best idea and refine it if needed.
And if this team wants to follow you on this journey, here you go; now you have an entire team you can rely on when in need and also share the tasks and work to do.
Now that we have the idea and what the show will be about, let’s move forward and find the narrative.
There are 5 essential elements of a narrative.
- Characters: They are the individuals that the story is all about. Every story has a main character. But in our situation, this “character” can be even a multi-person. Maybe your character is a street artist, or a barista, or a mompreneur. They can be several people under one character.
- Setting: this is the location of the action. Where do you want the entire situation to take place? Do you want to build a studio? Do you want to go to your character’s home or office? Will it happen on the streets?
- Plot: the actual story around which the entire show is based. This means that your plot should have a very clear beginning, middle, and end (if you think about seasons).
- Conflict: what’s the situation you are solving. This is your conflict. The entire plot is centered on this conflict and the ways in which the characters are going to solve the problem.
- Resolution: that’s how you solve the situation. This is important because it can fit the rest of the show in a tone and voice that will make the consumer part of the conflict.
Don’t rush in these elements of your narrative. Take all the time you need to figure it out for everyone. It’s important to get the best of these narratives, because based on these descriptions you will carry out your activity and build your own binge-worthy show for your brand.
Looking on different branded shows I found that many of them are using the Zeigarnik Effect (named after the founder, Russian psychiatrist and psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik), that is based on:
- Initiate and start to draw attention to an interest – make people curious about what you are talking about!
- Allow people to participate in some way – give them the chance to comment, to share, and to engage with you on social media.
- Finish the show prematurely so you can create a cognitive tension – this will give you a chance to think about your content from a Season perspective (just look at how House of Cards is built on seasons).
- Invite participants to return for the resolution – show them a trailer based on your next season, and ask them to subscribe to your next season.
3. Choose the right type of episodic content
The format of your show will help you differentiate and stand out from the crowd in this already crowded market.
The great people from People of Story who made several episodic contents came with 7 types of the brand shows you can choose from in order to start creating that binge-worthy show you are dreaming about:
1. The Docu-series
In 2014 Matt D’avella had a dream, to create a documentary about minimalism. But the big problem was that he didn’t know anything about how he should do it. So he embarked in this journey of creating long-form content documenting what is minimalism.
Now, you can watch this documentary on Netflix. But for Matt, this wasn’t enough. So he moved forward and created Making Minimalism, a six-part series where he is deconstructing the entire process of making his first feature-length documentary.
A docu-series can be a long form movie or can be a mini-doc.
When can you use this format?
- When your existing customers have an interesting story to talk about and can hold the audience’s attention
- When you have the right budget for this type of production and also the qualified people who can take care of this type of content
- When you have a powerful standpoint and you can establish a movement with your documentary.
This type of episodic content is not like any other videos series you saw on Youtube or Vimeo. In this case, you don’t get to just talk directly about your brand or your product. Instead, you are showcasing your customers’ story that can indirectly relate to your solution for their problem.
2. The Talk Show
Lately, this is the kind of episodic content I love to consume. Especially the ones that make a difference and don’t follow on the same script and scenario like the others.
For example, I loved to watch every episode from The SHOP. This wasn’t only the kind of talk show when one host and one guest are talking about a topic or an idea. It was built around an idea and Lebron James invited other important guests from a specific industry to present their point of view.
Another great example is the “My next guest needs no introduction with David Letterman”.
Not only that Letterman is one of the greatest hosts for a talk show, but it is also very interesting to see how easy he can talk with his guests and make your stay 100% focused on your screen because you don’t know what his next question will be.
For some brands this can be the easiest episodic content you can produce. But if you are not making it interesting enough for your audience and you are not able to invite interesting guest to your talk show, you will be facing a big problem at the end of the day.
This is also a great way to develop your brand’s “thought leadership” in a much creative and engaging way.
3. The Scripted Series
This kind of episodic content can be a great way to point out a problem and establish your brand’s position about it. For example, you can create a show that feels and looks just like a mini movie with different episodes dedicated for a target audience.
Sometimes it’s based on a fiction situation. This type of content can have different actors, with everything a big Hollywood movie project can deliver. The most interesting thing is that you don’t need millions of dollars to invest in it. You can make it with a much smaller budget.
4. The Learning Series
Today you can have every answer at your fingertips. All you have to do is to just type the question in Google and voila, here are the answers. And when you want to learn something new, there is a ton of new types of content you can consume to see every step you can take to learn that specific idea.
And, brands have today this power of teaching people how they can leverage something from their industry.
For example, Wistia is teaching its customers everything they need to know about video production in a new remote world. “(Out Of) Office Hours” is solving different video production problems, showcasing different Wistia challenges, and presenting tips and tricks about live streaming setups from home.
You can start a learning series by taking all the FAQ questions or all the questions your customers asked from you and start recording a video with your answers.
5. The Reality Show
This type of content can be a great way for brands to grow their awareness if they want authentic emotions and unscripted moments that only reality shows can deliver.
For example, Ellen Degenere’s digital network, Ellentube partnered with Chevrolet and created a 6 episode series called The Build Up. A reality show where Ellen’s two guests use their drumming skills to inspire and motivate students from their former high-school and the Baltimore community.
Another example can be the WERRRK! series from MailChimp Presents.
This reality show is all about solving the problems of small businesses that are struggling with various issues that are holding them back from great success. Theoroe, Misti and Mat make up the WERRRK! team and work together to make serious changes.
6. The Animated Series
Another great way to do episodic content is via animated series. All you have to do is just start from a topic, work with some professional illustrators and animators and voila, your animated series is done. Yeah I know, it’s not that easy, but all I wanted to show you is that it’s possible.
For example, let’s take The Bible Project that started as a Youtube video series, with sketches from different parts of the Bible.
The Bible Project features topics such as Biblical themes, Torah series and others.
7. The Solo Series
Another video series you can do if you are a small business or you just want to make that episodic content for the company you’re working for, it’s the solo series. It can be only you, presenting and talking about a topic.
You can do the things that Gary Vaynerchuk did when he was at the Wine Library and presented different wine bottles or, you can do something similar to what Ryan Holiday is doing with the Daily Dad podcast or Seth Godin with the Akimbo podcast.
Some of these solo series can be videos or even in audio format.
4. Distribution is the key
“If you build it, they will come” it’s a quote that I don’t believe. Because we are living in a world where just creating content it’s not enough. You need to work on your content distribution.
How can you distribute your episodic content to get the amount of consumers that will want to eventually consume it?
1. Start with what you already have
If you are creating episodic content, start promoting it on what you already have. I’m recommending you to make your website the place where you put all your episodic content.
Take for example Convertkit who created this beautiful landing page and a documentary series where they show how creators like bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters are living their lives. And, besides this video, they even launched a book called “I Am A Blogger”. There are 9 episodes where you can watch and see how these bloggers are living their lives doing what they are passionate about.
That’s why, a good piece of advice is to make your website the place where people can consume the content. Upload the videos on video hosting sites like Wistia or Vimeo and create a landing page so people can enjoy the videos there.
2. Work with a publisher
As I already said, The SHOP by Lebron James & Maverick Carter is the kind of episodic content that got me engaged with it until I finished all the episodes. They had a distribution partner for this content, it was HBO. All the work that was invested in the creation, inviting, and interviewing the guests, branding, and everything was on the Lebron & Maverick part, while HBO dealt with the distribution. This is something I saw that David Letterman had with his new show on Netflix, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
Find a distribution partner and talk with them about your next episodic content. It doesn’t have to be a big global partner.
You can work with someone local. For example let’s say that you want to create a binge-worthy content for your local coffee shop about people who drink weird coffee combinations. Go to your local TV station and make the deal with them, you give them the content and they have to distribute it on their TV stations. In this case you have the distribution ready and all you have to do just focus on the content. Guess what, all these media publishers want something that only creators can give them: good quality content.
3. Focus on content repurposing
Your job it’s not done after you finished recording, editing and publishing all your episodes. No way. This is when your job is really started. Regarding your content, you need to watch it over and over and extract the value from it, create micro content parts and start distributing them on social media to engage with your audience.
Many creators are making these mistakes, they only focus on the big content.
They invest a lot of energy and resources in it, but then they forget about the opportunity to grab it and create bridges between the big content and their audience. The answer is micro-content. Just think about how many short videos you can make from one-hour long video content. Or how many graphics quotes you can make for your Instagram from one season of documentaries.
That’s why I’m recommending this distribution strategy. Because it’s working and not many people are doing it.
Examples of Binge-Worthy Content from Brands
I made this short list with examples from B2B and B2C brands to give you as inspiration. All I hope is that you will find something useful for you and you can start working on your next episodic content.