6 Content Marketing Lessons from Classic 90s Sitcoms
Ah, the ‘90s. The last decade before everyone began to have a cell phone in hand. A time just before technology really took over. Life was a little slower (and some would argue less stressful) without social media feeds to scroll every time we were just a little bit bored.
And in the absence of new tweets and TikTok trends to keep up with all the time, we turned elsewhere for entertainment. Namely, we turned to the many hilarious and heartwarming 90s sitcoms that were on every week.
Not only did the likes of Uncle Jesse (have mercy!), George Costanza, Ross and Rachel (and their Friends), and Zack Morris (among many others) keep us laughing, they also taught us some valuable life lessons that—if you were like me growing up at that time—you took as full-fledged advice for how to navigate life’s tougher moments.
A quarter of a century (say what?!) later, I’m here to tell you how some of those lessons can be applied directly to content marketing. Believe me, there’s a thing (or several) that you can really take away from some of our favorite memorable episodes.
So, without further ado: 6 content marketing lessons I learned from watching 90s TV.
- Content marketing is always evolving. Marketers must be willing to embrace change and step out of their comfort zones to keep up.
- Timing matters — failing to make a plan and stick to it can lead to lost opportunities.
- Resourceful tactics like repurposing old content boosts the ROI you earn on content assets.
- Outsourcing to an agency can help you execute your content strategy with more confidence while you focus on other strategic priorities.
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Content Marketing Lessons We Learned from 90s Sitcoms
Sometimes It’s Good to Do the Opposite
Image Source: GetYarn
When you’re not getting the results you want from your content strategy, take a little advice from George Costanza and do the opposite. In this episode of Seinfeld, George laments that the decisions he’s made thus far in life have all been wrong, and Jerry sagely advises him:
“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
Now I’m not suggesting your decisions have all been as wrong as George’s, or that you flip your entire content strategy on its head to do the exact opposite of what you’re doing now. The takeaway as I see it is about not simply digging your heels in and sticking to the plan, even when it’s not working.
Be willing to be like George and admit when something’s not going as expected, then figure out how to adjust. Content best practices evolve and change like any other part of business, and there’s a lot to get right when it comes to making Google’s algorithms happy, engaging the right target audience, and creating content that actually converts.
Undoubtedly, there will be times when you don’t get it right the first time, and need to do some trial and error to get back on course.
The content marketing lesson: Keep trying. Keep improving. Do the opposite of what your instincts tell you when your instinct isn’t working. Do your research and adjust your strategy until it succeeds.
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Change is Hard (But You’ve Got to Embrace It)
Image Source: Looper
Uncle Jesse moving out of the house. Mr. Feeney dismissing his students after the last day of school. Will Smith standing in an empty house after his family leaves for the final time. If there’s one thing we know from 90s sitcoms, it’s that change is inevitable and it feels tough.
As a content marketer trying to keep up with the latest content trends and best practices, it’s a feeling you’re probably familiar with yourself.
For example: There once was a time when all you had to do to get content ranking on Google was stuff it full of your target keyword and press publish. But Google (and its users) got smarter, and today the algorithm’s expectations for content quality are much more sophisticated.
It was a change met with resistance and even resentment as marketers realized they’d need to do more to create competitive content. But the brands that won are those that embraced the change to get ahead.
Here’s the lesson: Content marketing is fast-changing. New tools and technologies come out, trends come and go, and user expectations evolve. Embrace it all. Keep up with it. It keeps your content fresh, relevant, and engaging for your audience.
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Great One-Liners Grab Attention
Image Source: Tenor
When you watched an episode of Family Matters and things went inevitably wrong on screen, you could count on Steve Urkel to turn around and ask with an aloof smile, “Did I do that?” Inevitably, when Friends’ Joey Tribiani saw an attractive woman, you waited expectantly for his “How you doin?”
When someone didn’t give Stephanie Tanner her way on Full House? You knew you’d hear an exasperated “How rude!” Blossom heartthrob Joey Russo stole hearts with a single “Whoa!”
Many of our favorite 90s TV characters became so beloved because of the familiarity behind their signature taglines. If our attention veered for a moment, you could count on these lines to grab it back to see what was happening.
And while brand taglines might be more relevant to direct advertising, there are important lessons we can take away for content marketing too. Namely, that a single line — a blog headline, email subject line, etc. — is what grabs your audience’s attention and makes them decide to stick around.
Consider this: 8 of 10 people will read your blog headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read your full blog. About a third of email recipients decide whether or not to read an email based solely on the subject line. No matter how great your actual content is, you’ve got to get the headline right if you want them to actually read it.
Sometimes You’ve Got to Be Resourceful
Image Source: Full House Fandom
When Uncle Jesse, Stephanie, and Michelle got locked in a mechanic’s garage on the morning of Michelle’s birthday party, they could have thrown their hands up and called it quits. After all, they planned and purchased for the party happening at the house, and now all they had to work with was the equipment locked in the garage with them.
So what did they do? They got resourceful. They looked internally for things they could use to recreate a birthday party. What resulted (at least for kids like me watching from the couch) was just about the best party a girl could want.
As content marketers, we often end up in situations where our budget doesn’t stretch as far as we want it to or we just don’t have the bandwidth to get everything done that we planned for a given time period. But you still have to publish. You still have to engage your audience.
Just like Stephanie and Jesse used auto equipment to turn the garage into a circus, you can look right inside your own library of content for ways to keep your strategy active.
Repurposing or reusing content is a powerful way to keep web traffic flowing to your site. In fact, HubSpot found they earned 76% of their blog views from old articles they updated.
The takeaway: Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the content wheel every time—especially when you’re feeling stretched too thin.
Look at your current content library for ways to boost activity. Repurpose content on other platforms. Give older articles a refresh and repost. Rather than stressing about what you can’t do, look to maximize ROI on what you already have.
Timing is Everything
Image Source: Insider
There were two types of people in the 90s: those that thought Ross and Rachel were on a break, and those who thought they weren’t. The will-they-won’t-they storyline between these two Friends characters was a staple of 90s pop culture, and if you tuned in, you know timing never seemed to be on the couple’s side.
Take the scene pictured above, when Rachel finally decides to tell Ross how he feels, only to be unexpectedly introduced to his new girlfriend. Ross loved Rachel, but she waited too long. To put it in content marketers’ terms, she lost her guy to a competitor.
Timing is debatable in the content marketing industry — the best day and time to publish your blogs or send an email or publish a new social media post largely depends on your audience and your industry (although there are general best practices to follow).
We’re thinking of timing here more holistically. It’s essential to plan your strategy ahead of time so you can keep things consistent, build traffic reliably over time, and capitalize on opportunities like seasonal demand or new product launches.
Using a content calendar to plan your timing and stick to your plan is one of the smartest ways to put this important lesson into practice.
Otherwise? Your brand might end up like Rachel at the airport, watching potential customers (even those who may have loved your brand) more go with other brands who got to them first.
It’s Okay to Ask For Help
Image Source: TV Insider
Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor was notorious for trying to do everything himself — as he often liked to proclaim: “A real man doesn’t need a manual.” He even shrugged off the help of his loyal assistant, Al Borland, which led to many a home improvement disaster when things inevitably got out of his control.
While Tim’s stubbornness may have been a shtick, it offers a valuable lesson for founders and marketing leaders: Content marketing can’t be a one-man show, and trying to do it all on your own will likely lead to wasted effort and poor results.
It’s understandable, especially for startups and growing small businesses, to want to save on costs by executing your content strategy in-house, even when you don’t have the resources to do it. The problem is that you end up with lower ROI and less time to focus on what matters most to your business — serving your customers.
The lesson here is that it’s okay (and smart) to ask for content marketing help when you need it.
Outsourcing content is an alternative that’s proven effective for most companies (84% outsource content in some way) and can offer you convenient bundled services, access to key tools and expertise, and easier scalability than is possible when you hire an in-house team.
Over to You
If you’re ready to take your content strategy to the next level, Marketing Insider Group is here to help. We’re a top-ranked content marketing agency helping companies like yours to reach, engage and convert quality leads. Check out our SEO Blog Writing Service to learn more, or schedule a quick consultation to get started!