Content Strategy
Digital Marketing
Experiential Marketing
HBO Westworld
Human Connection

How HBO's Westworld Can Make Us Better Digital Marketers

The Tribe
October 27, 2016

Unless you live in a cave with your hands permanently glued to your ears, you’ve probably heard of HBO’s new breakout TV series Westworld. The show is an exciting viewing experience and its story delivers a truly riveting experience.What better example of storytelling can a digital marketer draw from to connect with an audience?For those of you unfamiliar with Westworld, here’s a brief synopsis (no major spoilers ahead, I promise!) If you already watch the show, feel free to skip.


The show follows the experiences of visitors in a futuristic, Wild West-themed amusement park, from which the show gets its name. The park is essentially a giant landscape populated by android “hosts,” programmed to lead the guests on adventures throughout the park.The hosts, however, have no idea the park is only a fantasy, and are programmed to ignore any references to the reality outside of their world. Every day, they wake up to the same stories and new visitors, thinking it’s a brand new day in their reality. Westworld is experiencing some unrest - as the androids become more and more human, they may actually cross the line into humanity.This ambivalence and the question of what is and is not reality, and what is and is not humanity, is at the crux of the dilemma for the television audience.Read on to see how the mind of a content strategist ticks when processing the immersive sci-fi experience that is Westworld.


Don’t Feed Your Audience a Narrative - Immerse Them in a Story

The best advertising isn’t advertising at all - it’s storytelling. If you want your audience to develop an emotional attachment to the product or service you’re offering, you have to immerse them in a story. If you’re simply telling them what you want them to hear, they can choose to exit the narrative at any time.In Westworld, the beauty of the story is that the visitors to the park believe they are living in it. While you may not have an entire fictional world to give your audience, you can do your best to give them a great story that addresses some part of who they are.In the first episode, visitors to the park are addressed by a man looking for volunteers to chase down an outlaw who’s been terrorizing the city: “You there!” he calls to men as they walk by, “You look like just the man for the job.” The visitors are free to engage in the adventure or to walk by and pursue the next one.A good inbound marketing funnel does the same thing. We draw a visitor into becoming a potential lead, letting them continue down the funnel until they find the opportunity that speaks to them. This is how you convert a lead into a potential client, by letting them live the story rather than forcing them into your own inflexible narrative.


Technology is Most Effective When it’s Invisible

The latest and greatest in marketing technology means nothing to your audience unless it’s providing them with value. What your audience gains from interacting with any design or technology should be so great that they don’t think about the device used to deliver it.In other words - your marketing should get out of its own way, and deliver an effective message.The hosts of Westworld are a great example. They offer park visitors everything they want from their experience, without stopping to say, “aren’t I an amazing creation?”Your marketing efforts should do the same. Make sure to take a step back, and ensure that your process is best for the consumer, not for you. Don’t pursue technology because it’s flashy and new. Use it because it’s functional.


Blur the Lines Between Marketing and Reality

Westworld goes beyond television to bring its experience to viewers. Their marketing team has unsettled viewers just enough to make them wonder, “how close is this to reality?”Two weeks ago, Westworld’s social media team tweeted that there had been a “glitch” in the system, and that episode 2 was available for viewing early. This was a great opportunity to offer value to Westworld fans, while furthering the narrative of the show.A quick visit to the Westworld website suggests even more of technology slowly growing out of control - you can visit the site and explore the map of Westworld, even signing up to book your stay.After a view minutes on the site, however, the screen glitches and breaks down into a series of bizarre screen malfunctions and a recording that repeats: “Hell is empty. All the devils are here.”It’s unsettling, to say the least. For a second, you forget that this website can’t actually take you into Westworld. Good digital marketing should use all the tools at hand to break that fourth wall, and make an audience unsteady on their feet, in an exciting, memorable way.


Never Forget the People on Either Side of Your Digital Marketing Efforts

At Tribu, we believe in something called the human connection. Our actions grow out of data and careful research, but we never want to be so entrenched in the numbers and results that we forget the real people behind our marketing efforts.This seems to be Westworld’s fatal flaw - they’ve forgotten the “people” inside the hosts of the park. The more human the hosts become, the more the creators of Westworld struggle to bring them back into the world of computers and numbers.As the creators struggle to dehumanize the hosts, the visitors seem to become less human and more monstrous, committing increasingly violent and despicable acts against the hosts.Your customers will also act out if you don’t make their human needs and wants your priority. They’ll remove themselves from your marketing efforts and find someone else who addresses their needs.Remember Anthony Hopkin’s iconic quote in episode two: “They already know who they are. They’re here because they want to know who they could be.” Excellent digital marketing should show your audience potential - how their lives could be better, easier and more enjoyable because of what you’re offering.

Ready to venture into the wild, wild west of digital marketing? Reach out to Tribu, and see what new worlds we can show your customers.

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