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  • Writer's pictureJustin Bunnell

5 Marketing Lessons Businesses Can Learn From Black Mirror

Black Mirror is a haunting anthology television series that takes a deeper look into the many ways in which technology has affected our lives–or could in the near future. Rather than demonize technologies such as virtual reality or social media, it takes an introspective look into how the human condition is affected by these technological advances. What’s this got to do with marketing?

If you’re a business owner or are part of a marketing team, there are valuable lessons that can be taken from this series. Take “Nosedive”, the season three opener, for example. In this episode, we meet a young woman named Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is part of a world in which each person is ranked on a scale of one to five stars for every social interaction–no matter how trivial. Your ranking affects whether or not you can have access to certain items, changes the way you’re treated by your peers, and can even lead to social ostracization if your score dips too low. Stuck at a 4.2 rating, Lacie is dedicated to raising her score to a 4.5 so that she can be accepted into a high-class social circle.

As with all Black Mirror episodes, Nosedive is unsettling because it hits close to home. We already rate our meals, doctors, lattes, and customer experiences across popular sites like Google and Yelp. We even rate each other through social media platforms by liking, sharing, and commenting on content. Showcasing a future that is not far off, this episode may give some people reason to close down all social accounts and become a recluse.

But, if you’re a business owner or marketer, you know it’s not that simple.

Ratings and social media are already here. They are part of doing business. You have to play the game if you want to market your products and services in today’s digital space. However, Nosedive offers a few lessons in order to maintain one’s sanity–and humanity–throughout the process.

Here are our main takeaways for business owners and marketers:


Don’t Be Desperate

In Nosedive, Lacie yearns to get a coveted 4.5 star rating in order to live in an apartment complex with other elite individuals. Her personal analytics advisor gives her advice on how she can slowly raise her ranking over the next year, but Lacie is impatient. She goes out of her way to impress a 4.6 on an elevator ride, but her desperation is transparent, and she receives only a 3-star rating for the interaction–lowering her overall score.

Lacie’s analytics advisor tells her she is trying too hard, and we concur. This is similar to when businesses use sales promotions on social media. It may seem like a great way to bring business in quickly, but your audience will sense desperation. They expect quality content. More often than not, their brand loyalty is what will drive them to your stores–not your promotions.

Lacie is also given the opportunity to jump-start her ranking increase by delivering a speech at her childhood friend’s wedding. With an audience of 4.5’s and above, she is destined to raise her own score considerably.

But in true Black Mirror fashion, the event does not go as planned. After a disastrous experience at the airport, Lacie’s rating drops and the bride tells her not to attend the wedding. Despite her bad luck, and the bride’s request, Lacie still shows up, hoping that her speech will be powerful enough to win over the high class guests.

Our advice? Don’t crash a wedding to get business. There are many ways to engage with your audience, and desperation is not one of them. Spamming inboxes, posting deals, self-advertising, badmouthing competition, or trying to win over the business of people that don’t relate to your product will all lead to unlikes, unfollows, and lost business. You want to develop content that is relatable, sharable, interesting, and informative for your audience instead.The more desperate you are for attention, the less people will care to notice you. Which brings us to the next lesson from Nosedive:

Be authentic

Every interaction Lacie has is highly calculated and planned. She spends hours practicing her smile in the mirror, posts content that is sure to garner likes, and tells people only what she believes they want to hear. She pretends to be someone she’s not in order to attract people she’s not even that fond of.

This plastic, saturated world full of fake interactions makes the audience uneasy due to a sense of impending loneliness that can only be brought about by inauthenticity.

For business owners and marketers, there is a difference between giving your audience what they want and being disingenuous. 91% of consumers want the brands they follow to be authentic in their posts because it inspires trust and builds brand loyalty–eventually leading to sales.

People want to see the real you, not a portrayal of what you believe they want to see. It is your true, authentic self that will garner likes and followers for your business. This type of openness is necessary in today’s business world in order to land leads and obtain new customers.

So instead of pitching content, let it flow through your brand voice. Develop content that is meaningful and organic. Don’t be afraid to show behind-the-scenes moments. Your audience will take notice and your business will reap the rewards for years to come.


Numbers aren’t everything

As we learn over the course of the episode, it’s not your number that truly matters. If you have an authentic personality, a good ranking will follow.

The same is true when you are marketing a business. Many business owners are chasing after the wrong metric–desperately trying to attract more followers and gain more impressions so they will have the appearance of success. What they fail to realize is that actions speak louder than impressions. A “like” to your Facebook page does not necessarily lead to a sale, but a share, or a click can. Rather than chase higher numbers for your follower count, aim to produce quality content that your audience can actually engage with, feel something for, and believe in.

It’s important to keep in mind that the majority of users who like your social media pages may never engage with the content. In fact, only 1% of users who like a business page will actually visit that brand’s Facebook page. For this reason, social media likes can’t be correlated to more business or even more engagement. Instead of increasing your follower count, strive for audience engagement and conversation. It’s better to have 30 loyal followers that interact with your brand and purchase your products than 3,000 who don’t.

Keep your cool

When Lacie finally makes it to the wedding covered in mud, sweat, and tears, she quickly loses her cool. Her speech is authentic, but at a price, and is filled with expletives and demeaning remarks. Her social ranking becomes decimated by guests and onlookers as she lets her anger and frustration get the better of her.

From a consumer standpoint, it feels great to let loose and speak your mind after you’ve been unable to for years. From a business standpoint? It’s career suicide.

Your customers and clients can use social media to voice their displeasure with your company. They may try to spread false rumors about your organization or provide hurtful feedback. In times like these it’s imperative to remain professional and composed so that you can respond appropriately to negative feedback. Instead of fighting, berating, or ignoring these comments and reviews, think of them as an opportunity for your organization to shine.

It’s always best to respond politely with an apology (when necessary) as well as with a solution to the customer’s problem. Resolving a complaint in your customer’s favor will lead to them doing business with you again 70% of the time. It may be hard to swallow but remember: It’s six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one so it is important to keep your cool and ensure that the customer has a great experience no matter what.

Don’t discriminate

Lacie is fearful of what an interaction with a person of a lower score might mean for her. In her quest to achieve higher ratings, she runs into Chester who is struggling at a 3.1. At first, Lacie plays along and gives him a 5-star rating boost after he provides her with a smoothie as a gesture of good faith.

However, as Chester’s ratings decrease and Lacie’s quest for 4.5 stars ramps up, she treats him poorly–not wanting to be associated with anyone who has a low score. As a result, Chester’s score decreases even further until he is no longer allowed inside of his work building.

Your customers and prospects deserve your attention and recognition regardless of their ranking or social status. While some of your customers will be more profitable than others, it is the way you interact with them that matters. If a profitable customer, who shops with you every day, sees you treat a first-time customer poorly, it will affect their perception of your brand and can influence their purchase behavior.

You may think that people with a higher Klout score are more important, or that a person who regularly complains about your services isn’t worth your time, but you never know what impact word of mouth can have on your brand reputation. As a rule of thumb, treat everyone kindly, and with respect.

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