This post is half about communications tactics; half an excuse to write about “Lost,” my all-time favorite TV show, which has its final season premiere tonight. Whether you are a loyal follower or you hate the hype, the creators of Lost – and the marketing team at ABC – have created one heck of show with an enviable following. I wish I could see inside Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s brains (so I could know all the show secrets, for one). But since I can’t, I instead offer 5 Lessons from “Lost” in creating customer evangelists.
- Don’t forget what you stand for. No matter how good a marketing machine they have, the real success of Lost is the storyline and the characters within it. The story is not about a plane crash on an island that travels through space and back in time, complete with mysterious inhabitants, smoke monsters and four-toed statues. (Seriously.) It’s actually about 10 passengers and their fate. Will they get off the island? Who is good and who is evil? Believe it or not, what Lost fans care about the most are the characters and what happens to them.
Lesson: Have a good story to tell.
- It is important to stay in touch. 20th century television sold 16-show seasons and then played them over and over again, ad nauseam. 21st century TV still shows 16 episodes. But ABC.com shows enhanced episodes with new clues. “Lost” writers/producers go to ComicCon, do blog interviews, and find other ways to interact with the fans. The marketing team creates elaborate games, websites and partnerships to keep viewers anticipation at a high…and talking until the next season starts.
Lesson: Create multiple channels for customer interaction.
- Take your job seriously. ”Lost” producers go to great lengths to protect their story. They believe not only in their story but in their ability to tell it. In fact, until today, they wouldn’t let ABC air any footage from the new season. That’s like Steve Jobs not offering a preview of the iPad…oh, wait.
Lesson: Control your brand.
- It’s personal. While it may not have been the creators original design, several blogs including my favorite, lost… and gone forever, are dedicated to dissecting the show’s hidden meanings, right down to the episode title and guest star list. This gives the die-hard fans a chance to post their own theories and interpret the story along the way. Some fans even re-create the story from their own perspective. Don’t believe me? Check out the always creative The Ack Attack.
Lesson: Let others control the conversation.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. A lot has been made of the fact that “Lost” is going out on its own terms. The writers developed the story arc and sold it as a six-season series. Instead of lingering and creating side stories just to take advantage of the ratings, ABC bought in and made the most of the six years they had with the very loyal viewers.
Lesson: Your customers are as smart as you are.
That’s all I can write today. I’m too distracted by all the newly released clips, previously unaired footage, theories and discussion happening online. What tips would you add about creating loyal customers? You know, the ones that would go to any lengths to discuss you product?