Four Marketing Truths That Would’ve Made “Westworld” a Better TV Show

Westorld Unsplash

HBO’s Westworld” has wrapped up its second season to poor reviews, like this one from Entertainment Weekly or this one from Rolling Stone. I love the show, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t frustrating at times. Let’s not get stuck in the negative. Instead, I’ve got some old trusty marketing truths that could’ve helped show creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy make Westworld” better.

Be clear

Whenever possible, smart marketing should be clear and easy to follow. Your target audience should know exactly the action you want them to take, and how to do it. Trunk Club’s Style Profile does just that. Simple to follow with a clear vision. And at the end, you get to look good.

Westworld”? Not as clear. With the show jumping between multiple timelines and the possibility of a character’s consciousness being uploaded into a different body, it was confusing to say the least. Without a clear direction or focus, you could often find viewers deep in Reddit or on Twitter asking a simple question: What the hell just happened?”

Get emotional

Apple isn’t about the products, it’s about the experience. Nike doesn’t just make shoes, it makes your life better. Marketing, at its core, should evoke emotion. Whether it’s elation or sadness, it must be present.

When asked what would make TV critic Andy Greenwald like the show? Give me a human character with some sort of emotional stakes or journey.” Well said. In fact, arguably the best episode of the series was Kiksuya” (Season 2, Episode 8), and it focused on the entire life of host/​robot Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon), a member of Ghost Nation. How did I know it was emotional? My wife cried for about 85% of the episode. Plus, remembering the last few paragraphs, it was a clear story, a singular timeline and great storytelling.

Create urgency

Time is running out! There’s still time left, but hurry! Get yours while supplies last! We all know what’s happening here. Marketers are the kings and queens of creating urgency, sometimes even if it’s not real. Urgency spurs deadlines. Most of the time, it’s not life or death, but it urges the user to act.

Speaking of life or death, who’s alive in Westworld”? Or dead for that matter? That’s the issue, and it’s hurting the show. Westworld’s” HBO counterpart, Game of Thrones,” changed television by offing the main character at the end of Season 1. Oh, spoiler alert, but come on people, it’s been like eight years since the show started. The difference between Game of Thrones” and Westworld” is that character is still dead. Only one major character from GOT, Jon Snow, died and then was resurrected. In Westworld”? It’s happened a bunch.

That leads to no urgency. If everyone can live, who cares if a character dies.”

Invest in writing

Poor writing is like a cold sore during winter. Sure, you’ll survive, but it’ll be painful. Here are some lines of dialogue from this show, a show where the per-episode budget is estimated to be anywhere from $8 million to $10 million:

  • I’m tired of playing cowboys and Indians.”
  • If you can’t tell the difference, does it matter if I’m real or not?”
  • Dreams don’t mean anything. They’re just noise. They’re not real.”
  • Real love is always worth waiting for.”

Not exactly Charles Dickens. It wasn’t all that rough, but there was more on the nose” writing than there should’ve been.

Writing is a skill, just like swinging a golf club or balancing on your toes. It’s something marketers need to constantly invest in to make sure their content is enjoyable and thought-provoking.

What now?

Westworld will have a third season and, for the moment, I’m still in. I beg Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy to use these marketing truths to take this show to the next level. They don’t call them old trusty” tips for nothing!

Content Marketing & Social Media Supervisor Andrew Knoblauch loves few things more than a good whiteboard. A Twitter purist, he’s big on cutting to the chase.

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