What You Can Learn From Shonda Rhimes About Branding

#TGIT

Since the 2014 TV season began, Thursday is referred to as #TGIT, (Thank Goodness It’s Thursday), because ABC has given the 8pm – 11pm time slots to 3 incredibly popular Shonda Rhimes shows.  Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder are killing Thursday night ratings.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, these shows have given ABC its highest-rated Thursday night in 5 years.  Ignore the NYT’s article that declared Shonda to be an “angry black woman.” Ms. Rhimes is an extremely talented screenwriter, director and producer.  She knows how to engage viewers and she uses a human behavioral insight to do it…Motivational Drivers.

4 Motivational Drivers — People’s behaviors are pre-cognitively driven by 4 Motivational Drivers . . . “Belonging,” “Power,” “Freedom” and “Fun.”   We need to feel these in our lives or we’ll become depressed.  The #TGIT shows take us through these feelings from 8pm until 11pm each Thursday.  That’s why they’re so popular!  Let’s take a look . . .

Start #TGIT With . . .

TGIT#2For those of you who don’t know, (where the heck have you been?), Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama.  ABC describes the storyline this way, “The doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital deal with life-or-death consequences on a daily basis.  It’s in one another that they find comfort, friendship and, at times, more than friendship.”

The show appeals primarily to the Motivational Driver of “Belonging.”  Secondarily, it appeals to our need for “Fun.”  Admit it, how many times have you danced it out with Meredith & Cristina? And, ahem, there are other types of fun going on in the lives of the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.  You know what I mean.

Next Up Is . . .

TGIT#3Break out the really good red wine!  It’s time to watch this political thriller that stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.  Olivia dedicates her life to protecting and defending the public images of the nation’s elite by keeping those secrets under wraps.  She doesn’t just fix problems.  She fixes people.   Now, that’s one powerful gal!

You guessed it.  Scandal appeals primarily to the Motivational Driver of “Power.”  But those of us who watch, know there’s an underpinning of “Fun” in each episode.  It’s fun to figure out how she’s going to fix the situation.

Finish #TGIT With . . .

TGIT#4

This suspense-driven legal thriller stars Viola Davis as criminal law professor and defense attorney, Annalise Keating.  She’s brilliant, passionate, creative and charismatic. She’s also everything you don’t expect . . . sexy, glamorous, unpredictable and dangerous.

This drama appeals primarily to the Motivational Driver of “Freedom” because its storyline keeps us wondering if her students and her clients are guilty or innocent.   Our opinions change from episode to episode depending on Annalise’s actions in and out of the classroom and courtroom.

As in most of Shonda Rhimes shows, this one offers up a dose of “Fun.” We experience this as we try to figure out what’s going on and speculate on the outcome.

#TGIT Appeals To All Motivational Drivers — Wonder why viewers enjoy Thursday night’s 3 Shonda Rhimes TV shows?  By watching, they’re experiencing all 4 Motivational Drivers.

Motivational Drivers And Your Brand

TGIT#5

So, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with your brand.  Wait for it…by embracing this human behavioral insight, your brand will be able to develop strong relationships with people – for many seasons.

Here’s Your Branding Assignment — Gather your marketing team, order in some pizza and grab a large Post-it-Note pad.   Yes, carbs and the large pages that stick to the wall will make this easier.  Post 4 blank pages on your wall.  On the top of each, write 1 of the Motivational Drivers.  On each page, post how your brand taps into that specific Motivational Driver.  Keep posting until you run out of “hows.”

Be honest when posting . . .  this is not a creative writing assignment.  Most brands don’t appeal to each Motivational Driver equally.  When you’ve completed this exercise, step back and look at the wall.

Which page has the most posts?  This is the primary Motivational Driver that your brand taps into.  Which has the least?  Your brand doesn’t really appeal to this Motivational Driver.

Assignment Dos and Don’ts

TGIT#6Let’s say your company is an accounting firm.  This category typically doesn’t appeal to “Fun.” It’s OK . . . this is a category issue, not a brand issue.  However, you may feel compelled to post something here and might post something like this . . . “You’ll have fun when you collaborate with our accountants.”  Buzzer sound!  Really?

But, let’s say your accounting firm conducts fun outings for your clients . . . you take them into NYC around the holidays to see the Radio City Christmas Show.  Now, that’s fun . . . post it on the “Fun” page.

The point is, the more Motivational Drivers your brand appeals to, the more likely it will be to develop long-term relationships with people.  But, don’t force it!  Shonda accomplished this through 3 #TGIT shows.

Now What? — OK . . . now you’re going into analysis, strategy and execution mode – the equivalent of being a screenwriter, director and producer.

If your brand taps into more than 1 Motivational Driver, which page has the most posts, which 2nd and 3rd?  This will guide you in your communication hierarchy.  For instance, if “Belonging” has the most posts from this exercise, your web and social media content should lead with this Motivational Driver.

Take a look at all of your marketing communications.  Do you see, read, hear the Motivational Drivers that your brand appeals to – in the proper order?  If not, your marketing team needs to get to work.

Are there Motivational Drivers that have the least posts, but you’d like to appeal to them because it’ll provide a fruitful competitive space for your brand?  Then, brainstorm.  Think creatively!  What can your brand do to appeal to those Motivational Drivers?

The Motivational Drivers exercise will help you structure and order your brand’s content and imagery.  It also helps identify pre-cognitive behavior drivers that your brand isn’t tapping into.  This should lead to discussions regarding whether your brand should and, if so, how to make that happen.

Human Behavior & Your Brand — Your brand needs to motivate people’s behavior.  It’s a no-brainer that embracing human behavioral insights will help you succeed!  I’ve got to go . . . time to watch #TGIT.

Fran Photo 2014

Fran Lytle is a behaviorist, brand strategist, author & co-founder of Brand Champs.  Fran develops brand strategy, emotional brand storytelling, content marketing & social media programs that engage people by applying psychology & human and gender-specific behavior.  She specializes in developing & implementing marketing-to-women programs. Contact her at fran@brandchamps.com connect with Fran on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.