3 Marketing Takeaways from ‘Serial’

2014-12-15-serialsociallogoIt all started on Thanksgiving Eve. A colleague had recommended the “Serial” podcast to me a couple days prior, and while rolling my arancini for the next day’s Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to give it a try. I’ve never been a big fan of podcasts, but 15 minutes in and I was hooked. Two days later I was all caught up on the nine episodes that had been released at the time. Is binge listening to podcasts going to be the new “it” term?

If you aren’t already a “Serial” addict, let me fill you in. In 1999, Adnan Syed was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee—both just teenagers at the time. His friend has been trying to prove Adnan’s innocence since his conviction and got in touch with reporter Sarah Koenig to look into the details. Koenig does, and shares the story with us in a podcast format, revealing new episodes week by week as she unravels the facts and what-if’s of what happened 15 years prior. Her narration is raw and honest. She shares her findings, the one-on-one interviews and her own inner dialogue as she’s pulled in several different directions, unsure of what to believe and where the truth actually lies.

You guessed it; this real life murder mystery has a tie-in to marketing. Koenig does several things brilliantly in “Serial,” which is why it’s gained such a dedicated following in such a short period of time. Here are three top takeaways.

  1. It’s all about clear, concise messaging – As I mentioned before, I’ve never been big on podcasts. Part of it is the fact that I’ve never really sought them out. The other part is that I have a wandering mind, which isn’t particularly conducive to the medium. That said, “Serial” not only keeps my attention with a compelling story, but it lays it out in such a way that makes it remarkably easy for the listener to follow. Your business should have the same type of crystal clear narrative. Keep the attention of your readers/listeners/viewers. Have a clear goal in every piece you put out into the world and make it simple to understand.
  2. Unique voice matters– Once you listen to an episode or two, you start to see the distinct style of the series—Sarah Koenig’s pattern of delivering information, asking open ended questions, the music that is uniquely “Serial” – it’s part of the brand identity. You want your brand to be recognizable. Let your personality shine through in your business and have a unique voice.
  3. You must have a story to tell – No, we definitely don’t want your brand’s story to be as dark as that of “Serial.” But each great brand has a story, whether it’s weaved into your brand’s mission or a feeling your customers get from your products. Let that story drive what you do.

You’re bound to have a bit of down time this holiday season. Give “Serial” a listen and let us know what your marketing takeaways are in the comments.

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