3 Marketing Lessons From MTV's 'The Real World'

MTV used to regularly air music videos during their programming. I swear this happened, it’s true. While that stopped many moons ago, its show The Real World has been a staple of the channel for over two decades. Largely credited as the first reality television show, the premise puts seven 20-something strangers in a house, usually located in a major metropolitan city, and lets the cameras roll as fireworks inevitably ensue.

28 seasons later, the show is still a must-watch for me (*bows head*). Its longevity has me thinking lately: what we can learn, as Digital Marketers, about the The Real World beyond the obvious (e.g. sometimes, young people are insecure; other times, young people are just crazy; alcohol prompts extreme inhibition)?

1.) Evolve or Perish

The Real World is the same age as students graduating college this spring. That perseverance is almost unprecedented in the television industry. How has it survived so long? Well, for starters, MTV developed a spin-off show, The Challenge, where popular Real World cast members face off in ridiculous competitions against one another. More importantly, The Real World stays young by, um, staying young. There are no holdovers -- year by year, the cast constantly changes.

Your Digital Marketing strategy has to take that same approach. Whether it’s embracing social media (like, with an actual strategy and everything!), or finally getting around to optimizing your website for mobile devices, as a marketer, peaking around the corner to see what’s next is part of the job description.

[Related Statistic: More than half of marketers expect their 2014 budget to increase; only 3% expect a decrease. No excuses, play like a champion!]


2.) Your Website Is The Immediate Star

What’s the first thing we notice every season of The Real World? The house! It is almost always a luxurious adobe (Side note -- this begs the question: why is this show called The Real World? I’m quite certain I live in the real world, and my apartment in Boston fails to resemble anything close to the digs given to cast members of this show).

Your product or service is the important content that will captivate your audience (like the RW housemates). However, marketers must realize that without a stunning website, replete with a dynamic design and elite user experience, your business loses that immediate opportunity to gain visitor traction and interest.

[Related Statistic: 40% of visitors will abandon a webpage if it takes more than three seconds to load]

3.) Know Your Customer, Surroundings

OK, what’s the second aspect viewers notice: In the first episode of every season, a roommate usually takes down one -- or 17 -- too many shots, and things happened. Bad things. Maybe a fight or an ill-advised hookup.

Real World fight 

And the viewers at home? We absolutely judge these people.

The moral of the story here is that first impressions are everything. You don’t want to bombard prospective customers with offers and over-the-top fluff on your website. Instead, take a deep breath. As a marketer, subtlety is your best bet. Know your audience or, better yet, create the illusion of familiarity ...  that way they won't judge you.

Top-tier Content Management Systems, like iAPPS Content Manager, have features that automatically populate content geared toward your site visitors based on a number of factors (e.g. navigation behavior, source traffic, the type of device the visitor is using to access your website, and more).

[Related Statistic: 69% of North American marketers say dynamic, personalized content is important for their website. Only 5% say it’s of low importance.] 

4.) No One Likes A Cheater

The Real World has covered every vice in the history of the human existence – drug/alcohol addiction, sexual orientation, religion, and whatever else – but one mainstay that rears its ugly head every season is infidelity. A housemate enters the fold, seemingly confident in their relationship back home, and vows that their experience on the show won’t come between “what they have.”Because that's important and stuff.

We know better, though. Without fail – BOOM! – wandering eyes. Even worse, wandering eyes staring at a fellow roommate -- leading to a hookup and an awkward exchange between the mistress and significant other in the living room when the latter comes to visit. It's all very tragic.

The takeaway: SHOW VALUE! Don't just talk about it, be about it. In other words, you can create an engaging experience without sacrificing important customer relationships, but it starts on your website. Nurturing isn't possible without a great user experience. If marketers cannot provide a good user experience on their website, it hurts their credibility, brand, and chance at customer conversion.

[Related Statistic: More than 9 out of 10 respondents (95%) agreed with the statement that "good user experience just makes sense."]

The good news? We can help! To learn more about our Digital Solutions, visit Bridgeline today or give us a shout on Twitter!


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