What Reality TV Shows Teach About Marketing

It’s that time where that much-anticipated event is taking over our screens, social media feeds, and pop culture news.

Yes, it’s the new season of The Bachelorette.

Something you may not know about me is that my wife has a nephew who’s part of the 2020 lineup. Blake Moynes is the son of Emily Moura-Moynes (my sister-in-law, who is also an author, coach, and client of mine).

He’s the dapper gentleman in the green suit on the right.

While I’m not a personal fan of the show, I think it teaches a lot about marketing.

Last night, as the show’s premiere graced our screens, my wife’s family were all huddled in front of their TV sets, posting Instagram and Facebook snaps with #teamblake as their hashtag.

It almost felt like when Portugal won the Euro Cup in 2016. (Sidenote, my wife’s family, including Blake’s mom, are of Portuguese descent.)

With The Bachelor/Bachelorette, the show is into its 30th season (the two shows combined). With six spinoff shows since its debut in 2002, it’s obvious that millions of people are enamored with watching the drama, including the flings, heartbreaks, catfights, and occasional train wrecks — which, apparently, this latest season seems to be one, or so I’m told.

Much has been written on the topic, but to reiterate what writer Haley McDevitt wrote in Marketing Insider Group, the key takeaways are applicable to any form of content marketing.

Hers included “first impressions matter,” “know your worth,” “build anticipation,” “nurture your brand (and your community),” and more.

I agree with all of them.

But the one that stands out for me the most is “be authentic.”

On this show (or any other reality show), the most common reason for the downfall of any of its contestants is shadiness, inauthenticity, and outright lying.

Studies have also shown that when reality TV shows are obviously scripted, rehearsed, or unrealistic (which makes “reality TV” feel a little paradoxical), they do get a lot of traction — because, as McDevitt pointed out, the show thrives on relatable human experiences.

That’s the power of telling stories in your marketing.

Losing out. Taking risks. Being rejected. Feeling elated. Being embarrassed. All of the normal things everyone goes through at some point — even when they’re in a scripted context, they don’t feel contrived or unbelievable.

That’s authenticity. It’s not about being real versus being fake. It’s being vulnerable. Being genuine. Being willing to take risks. Even welcoming criticism and having a good dose of humility can be vulnerable.

I once wrote about authenticity is more important than transparency. Reason is, some companies and professionals believe that “radical transparency” is a sound marketing tactic. I don’t think so.

As McDevitt also wrote, creating anticipation and playing with cards close to your chest is important to “stay in the game.” After all, if you reveal your cards too much or too early, you are giving away your strategy, showing desperation, and providing others ammunition that can be used against you.

I believe you can be tastefully candid without giving away the store. It shows vulnerability in your marketing, and communicates authenticity.

So be yourself. Be open. Take risks. And as McDevitt said so well:

“Avoid fluff, false claims, and insincerity. Be authentic, because your audience will see right through you.”

Haley McDevitt
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By Michel Fortin

Michel Fortin is a digital marketing advisor specializing in SEO, communications, and strategy. For over 30 years, he helped hundreds of thousands of clients increase their visibility and their revenue. He is also the VP of Digital Marketing at Musora, the company behind award-winning platforms Drumeo and Pianote. He is the author of the More Traffic Memo™ SEO email newsletter.