David Attenborough’s latest series, Africa, is a master class in marketing. I am always in sheer awe at the genius of the producers in making these shows. They really understand one of the biggest secrets of marketing, which can be very well demonstrated by the recent episode focusing on the Baby Green Turtle.
Now I have always found Turtles to be fascinating, probably since seeing so many of them on my 6 months sailing sabbatical around the Greek Islands just before I entered the legal profession approximately 300 years ago (or so it seems as I look back now).
They often would just float on top of the sea, creating obstacles for me to navigate around. As they can live to 80 years old some of them were absolutely huge, so you really didn’t want to sail into one of them.
So when David Attenborough started his episode on the Cape in South Africa, he started by introducing thousands of baby green turtles emerging from under the sandy beaches for their first sight of daylight, followed by a chaotic, mad dash to the shoreline and to relative safety.
At first the camera panned and followed hundreds of them making a dash for it. We saw them being snapped up from the sands by Yellow Billed Kites, and then Pied Crows (think big magpie). You realised at this point that perhaps the human form has a slightly easier birth process, but you were not yet fully engaged in the programme, until David played his trump card that is!
Suddenly the camera panned back up the sands to where all of the baby green turtles had emerged, to ‘the last’ turtle to emerge. Now he didn’t go as far as giving this specially selected baby green turtle a name, but David did start to play the heart strings. Only 1 in 1,000 of these babies will make it to maturity, and if they do they can live to 80 years old, but will this one make it?
Our new famous Baby Green Turtle scampers along the sand, think Usain Bolt with four paddles. He tries to blink the sand out of his eyes, he scrabbles up one sand dune (which must be the equivalent of a hill for us), then surfs down the other side. Things are looking good for Brad (David might not have named him, but I am), and he is scampering along as if his life depends on it, because it does. This looks like it is all going swimmingly, if you pardon the pun.
But then Kevin the crab spies Brad. Despite Kevin’s apparently smaller size, David (the human one narrating lest you have forgotten) informs us that the crab has herculean strength so size should not fool us. Good as his word, Kevin strides over to Brad and grabs him with his pincers and promptly starts dragging him back towards his lair. We are told if Brad does not escape before they get to the lair, it is curtains for him (obviously Kevin can create anything from sand – he must be married to Kirstie Allsopp the crab home maker).
Back to watching Brad’s possibly last moments on this planet, and I pause to look around my lounge and realise that family Jervis are all leaning slightly forward in their chairs at this point. David is working his marketing magic on us, and we have all bought in. We want, no we need, Brad to survive. Come on Brad, do it for us, but it is not good. Brad is struggling to elude Kevin’s grasp and is being dragged back up the sand. Kevin is nearing his lair, Brad looks like a beaten turtle, is this it? Thankfully no, because just as Kevin reaches the edge of his lair Brad makes one last, giant effort and finally breaks free. Hurrah we shout, well done Brad.
But don’t be fooled, he still has 100 metres of the beach to traverse before he can reach the sea. Run Brad run!
Brad runs. No Red Tailed Kite or Pied Crow is going to catch this bad boy turtle. Brad dives into the sea, we start to slink back into our chairs. Phew. Just before we all completely relax, David tells us that he is not out of the woods yet. David, no, you must stop this!
The current off the Cape is strong, very strong. The surf keeps pulling Brad to the top of the waves, then to the sea bed at the bottom. He is clearly tiring, is he to drown after all this effort? He catches a break and suddenly has passed all of the breakers, but all that effort took his toll on him. He needs some air, so he rises to the surface for a breather. Noooooo Brad, haven’t you been watching? The big bad Red Tailed Kite, we shall call her Elizabeth, hovering above suddenly spies Brad catching a breath on the surface. She makes an urgent dive for our intrepid little friend, her last chance for a quick and easy feed as all of the other turtles have gone or been eaten, but thankfully, just in time, Brad dives deep and swims off into the sunset.
I am shattered just writing this, it is like reliving the whole experience all over again! Brad made it to safety and we move onto the next section of the programme, if we or the other viewers have the energy to do so that is.
So why is this all so clever? Why are the producers of Africa and David Attenborough such marketing geniuses?
Well, they know that as soon as every human being child is born, they are immersed in stories and story telling. Bed time stories start as soon as we are born, then we have to read through school, through English exams and then we carry on reading stories throughout our adult life. We love to read stories.
So the BBC take this knowledge and they roll out a story for us to ‘buy into’, because they know that this is the glue that binds us to the programme. If they can sell us a story that we become involved and immersed in, we will watch the show, and we will talk about the show, and we will tell other people to watch it. My wife informs me that there has been Twittermonium after every episode of Africa; that is countless people commenting and getting annoyed at the death of some of the ‘characters’ that the BBC have created in the show.
And that is the point, these ‘characters’ are created.
I am certain that our friend Brad, the baby green turtle, was at least 20 different baby green turtles, but we are led to believe that it is only one turtle because then we are watching a ‘character’ and a story. We then want to watch the whole show to see if Brad really can make it. He was the ‘last one out of the sand’ (underdog), can he really survive?
The producers know that they have to create these stories to bind us to the programme and the series. It is marketing basics, marketing 101 if you like. If you can create stories in your marketing, you connect with your readers in a way that is almost otherwise impossible to do. Stories are full of emotion, and so the BBC knows that it has to use stories to engage their potential clients to ensure that their next shows are commissioned, so they do, and they do it brilliantly.
If you can use story telling in your marketing, you too can connect with your potential clients on a completely different level. Want to know how to do this? Well, join me on one of the webinar’s next Tuesday or Wednesday and I will show you how to do this to make all of your marketing so much more effective. Add your details to the form below to find out how to join me on the webinar. I promise not to harm any turtles in the making of my webinar.
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