When Push Comes to Shove, Quality Content Wins the Day

I must confess, I have an unlikely favorite new TV show. That the show would become my new darling was improbable not only because it airs on PBS, but because the British accents and colloquialisms mean I often have to rewind to make sure I understand what is being said. Still, I have fallen in love with “Sherlock.”


“Sherlock”—starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the famed detective and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson—is produced by the BBC in England and airs on PBS in the U.S. Seasons consist of just three episodes, all running 90 minutes without commercials. Essentially, each season is like a trilogy of three movies that follow the adventures of younger, modern-day versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed characters.

Ratings for the show were up 25 percent for last month’s season three premiere which ended the show’s two-year hiatus. About four million people tuned in, a big number for a PBS show that gets little commercial promotion stateside. The path for the detective drama’s success was blazed by Downton Abbey, another BCC import that stands toe-to-toe in the ratings with many primetime network shows produced stateside.

But what does a British television show about an antisocial master of deductive reasoning have to do with content marketing or successful branding? Like most other questions he encounters, Mr. Holmes would likely say the answer is obvious—everything.

“Sherlock” is not promoted to huge audiences during NFL games or plastered on buses in cities across the country. The show succeeds in the U.S. because it is written, produced and acted superbly. Businesses looking to generate the kind of buzz “Sherlock” has created would do well to look at a similar model. Rather than putting as much content out as quickly as possible, focus on quality and engagement. Pay attention to the questions people are asking of your customer service agents and topics being discussed on Twitter. Don’t be afraid to take chances by framing your product or service in a new, distinctive way.

The advantage of promoting your brand in today’s world is that word can spread organically in more ways than ever before. If the content is interesting, informative or funny, people will tweet, share, e-mail and post it. You don’t have to have the resources of a global enterprise to expand your reach anymore: it just takes an investment in an individual or team that can create engaging content.

So consider taking a lesson from the sleuth in the funny hat and examine your content with a detective’s discerning eye. If you deduce that the material is not generating the brand exposure you need, it may be time for a new plan.

It’s simply elementary.

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