I’m Netflix bingeing the show Scorpion. The show follows the (supposed) exploits of Walter O’Brien who has one of the highest IQs in the world, and very little EQ (Emotional IQ).
The show is textbook formulaic, which makes it valuable for an aspiring fiction writer. But it also contains a marketing lesson.
Every episode, Team Scorpion is called in to solve a problem. There’s always a short time fuse. They solve the initial problem. Something bad happens (a twist). They work that out, which causes another, worse problem — an unintended consequence — which shortens the amount of time they have before disaster strikes. They try to fix that and someone (usually one of the team) is about to die and the time line comes down to seconds. They pull off a heroic, near impossible feat, and then they all go back to the office and have a barbecue. (The denouement.)
It’s basically the hero’s journey (think Star Wars or Hunger Games). Stay with me because I’m getting to a marketing point here. Just one more piece of information.
Jumping the Shark
There’s a thing in TV series called “jumping the shark” so called because of an episode of Happy Days where the writers seemed to have run out of ideas. In that episode, Fonzi pulls off a stunt where he jumps over a shark on water skis. The “jump the shark” episode in any series is that point where the quality of the show heads into a decline. It becomes all plot, no character development. Writers just have things happen to keep the series going, no matter how implausible.
Scorpion — the entire series — occurs after the shark has been jumped. (And yes, there’s an actual episode with sharks which is what brought this all into focus for me.)
What makes a piece of fiction work in the long run is the audience’s emotional involvement with the characters. If you don’t care about the characters, there’s no point in continuing to read or watch. The characters on Scorpion are emotionally stunted — that’s part of the story line: how they are trying to relate to “normals” and each other. But the show relies so heavily on the action that every episode leaves you feeling like something was left out.
That something is you.
When you watch a good show or movie, when you read a great book, you put yourself in the hero’s role. You identify with Luke or Leia or Han or Katness or any one of thousands of heroes down through the ages because they start off as regular people who are put in extraordinary situations. They become better versions of themselves. And you feel like that is a possibility for you, too.
With Scorpion, the real life Walter O’Brien gets to play out his hero fantasies. But he starts out extraordinary — he has a 197 IQ. As a viewer, you never feel like you’re the person who can be the hero. You’re a “normal” who is shut out of their world. You should just watch and be awe-struck by their genius.
The Point Where I Finally Get to the Point
Your marketing is not a piece of fiction, but it is a narrative that you tell your prospective customers. When you tell how your business came about or how you help your clients, or what your product will do for someone, you’re creating a story. We want to position ourselves as authorities and experts, the person who can pull off a miraculous transformation, the go-to person in our field. The Walter O’Brien.
We all want to be the hero.
But your marketing story is not your story. Your marketing story is your customer’s story. It’s how they can be the hero in their own story… with your help.
For some of us, it’s hard to be the person behind the curtain. The marketing world, especially social media, is full of people shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!”
Here’s the thing:
People who don’t know you don’t care about you. They want you to look at them. To see them. They care about what you can do for them. They want to know that you can help them. Then they’ll care about you.
But you have to care first.
I did stand up comedy for a bit and there’s a thing that happens onstage when you’re in front of an audience. You want the audience to like you, even love you. You want them to respond to you. There’s a “trick” to it that’s really no trick at all.
As a performer, you have to send out energy and love to the audience. You have to give them everything you’ve got. In truth, the audience doesn’t give you energy and love; they just reflect it back.
You don’t give, you don’t get.
When it works, there’s a continuous energy exchange between the performer and the audience and it’s got to be one of the biggest endorphin rushes in the universe.
You want to be a hero? Help other people become heroes, in their businesses, in their lives. Your marketing should show them their possibilities. They should read your book or see a piece of your marketing and think, “I could do that; I can be that.” Their second thought can be, “And this is the person who can help me.”
You need to care about your clients’ success and believe in them first. Maybe even before they believe in themselves.
The world needs more heroes. Let’s make some.