Top 10 Marketing Takeaways from Science Fiction

Vintage_sci-fi_poster
I’m a huge Sci Fi fan and was recently watching reruns of Star Trek, when my mind went suddenly into a spin.

I was watching the episode of TNG where Barclay loses track of what’s real and what’s on the Holodeck and I realised that Marketing is often about differentiating what we internally think of the brand versus what our market thinks of the brand.

We can learn a huge amount about humanity from Sci Fi, but are there business and specifically marketing lessons to be found beyond that example?

Perhaps my passion for communicating using technology is somehow born out of a childhood interest in Sci Fi? The early adopter in me screamed yes. So I decided to look a little harder.

Clearly, I needed to do a lot more research so I watched quite a lot more Sci Fi, purely for research purposes obviously, and fantastically found an unquestionable set of Marketing learnings from Sci Fi in at least 10 more places.

1) Star Trek: Going on journeys with your customers.
Star Trek is all about missions and directives. Whilst the story arcs and characters in Star Trek come, go and have evolved over the years – the heart of the franchise has never swayed from its original ethos of exploring our world, of progressive ideals and of mutual understanding. That consistent journey gives fans a soul around which to orbit. Brands need to behave the same way.

TepFu Takeaway: It’s logical to remain focused to your overall brand and business objectives.

2) Star Trek: Boldly going…
Star Trek is easily deserving of two places on this list. So many decades of the franchise yet so much of it began with the haunting “these are the voyages…” monologue. These words allowed even a Star Trek newbie a way to understand the story’s context. A tactic that should be adopted by marketers all over the land – situating your campaign in a wider context is extremely important.

TepFu Takeaway: Context is King, make it so #1.

3) Red Dwarf: Respect is earned…
This Sci Fi comedy was a staple of my late 80s and early 90s (and many of yours I’m sure) and damn good it was too. However, not only is it fantastic fun, but it also offers some compelling marketing advice. Take Rimmer, one of the main characters on the show. Poor Rimmer couldn’t catch a break, was the butt of every joke, and the subject of every prank. Interestingly, the show’s creators stated that Rimmer’s surname originates from a snobby prefect at school who failed to listen to the needs and wants of his peers. Not unlike poor Rimmer. And a familiar failing of many a marketing department sadly. From Rimmer we learn that it is absolutely vital to listen to your market / peers – vital that you find out what they desire and require. And then give it to them. No man is an island, so make sure to heed what is going on around you and adapt your marketing strategy accordingly.

TepFu Takeaway: Be in and of your market, not apart from it and god forbid, definitely not above it or you’re basically a Smeghead!

4) Star Wars: It’s a trap!
So many mega brands are guilty of this. And I’ve told it to the Senior Marketing Leadership of at least one of them. And they agreed. But the brand especially at enterprise level has a momentum beyond significant human influence and control. In reality, you are not in control of your brand, your consumers are. Your brand is not a Death Star…it’s a moon and it orbits your consumer. To think otherwise is to fall into a dangerous trap. You have to listen to your market when they’re happy but also when they moan, stamp their feet and scream, and then you must adapt to match their needs. Or have a good reason for not doing so. Ignoring those negatives get you nowhere. When your market talks to you, listen and talk back. As my first teenage crush Princess Leia once said to Governor Tarkin in Star Wars, “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

TepFu Takeaway: Relax your grip. Work with and listen to your market. Don’t just go all Death Star on them.

5) Back to the Future: The Power of Love?
Back to the Future achieved phenomenal success which was due, in part, to its innovative and intelligent way of imagining the past and the future. However, what made it a family favourite was its fab story of hope and love. Of a boy trying to make his world all fit together again. And that is the reason Back to the Future is beautifully, ironically timeless. So take a little inspiration from this fantastic film and make sure your marketing strategy focuses on the love and hope. Give your brand some heart and soul.

TepFu Takeaway: Be the brand trying to help people make their lives fit together. Be a brand coming from a place of love for your customer and whatever they love. No matter how mundane it may seem.

6) Stranger Things: Embrace the Upside Down
Stranger Things is all about the bizarre, wondrous, out-of-the-box ideas that change the way you think. It starts off being a missing child drama and ends up being also about a new dimension and how we communicate with it. Don’t be afraid to completely pivot your idea, find your alternative dimensions and turn your model upside down. Embrace your monster!

TepFu Takeaway: We all have plans. When they go wrong (and they will) and you find yourself in your equivalent of the Upside Down, embrace the monster you are faced with. Use it to grow and challenge yourself.

7) The X-Files: It’s all about ROI…
If we learnt one thing one from The X-Files it is that the truth is out there, you just have to search for it properly. If only Mulder & Scully could have communicated ROI a bit better though. Similarly, your ROI is out there, you just have to arm yourself with a metaphorical torch and know where to look for it. Anything less and your management team will just think you’re seeing ‘little green men’ – and that’s no way to secure a budget.

TepFu Takeaway: Every Mulder & Scully needs a Deep Throat pointing them at the Truth. Find your ROI Deep Throats!

8) The Prisoner: Free your own prisoners!
Number Six was proud to famously exclaim, “I am not a number, I am a free man”. Your brands need to enable your customers to feel and say the same. People buy from people, so never forget that behind every large corporation sits a person waiting to be inspired. Keeping that emotional connection alive is the key to authentic marketing.

TepFu Takeaway: If your customers feel like numbers they will behave like numbers. Logically treating you like a commodity. Want them to value your value-add? Value them!

9) Doctor Who: Even brands need occasional resuscitation
When Doctor Who returned in 2005, not many had high hopes. It was a tired format that had been overdone. However, with a dash of romance and some modern thinking, it took the nation by storm and well over a decade later is still going from strength to strength. Learn from this: if your brand feels a little tired, hit the refresh button and enthuse a whole new audience.

TepFu Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to take what is precious about your brand and replace it with something better if need be.

10) Avatar: Embrace the pressure.
An epic tale of enemies overcoming their differences in the face of a common enemy; of coming together. Businesses should never forget the power of their competitors and the opportunities that await beyond the veil of fear – learn from them, research them, and find ways to work with them to make the market stronger for consumers and for each other. Each person and brand has their own strength and together you are so much stronger.

TepFu Takeaway: I ask myself every day: How can I make money with my competitors? You should too.

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