Content Marketing Lessons From Black Mirror Season 4

Content Marketing Lessons From Black Mirror Season 4

734 417 Lauren Harrison

Black Mirror clearly demonstrates the myriad ways technology alters our behaviour. This idea is absolutely central to content marketing.

SPOILER ALERT! If, like most of the UK, you spent the weird gap between Christmas and New Year binging Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror while elbow-deep in a box of Cadbury’s Heroes, none of this will be new to you. If you’re still waiting to catch up, read on at your own peril …

 

When Black Mirror first appeared back in 2011, creator Charlie Brooker had this to say about its content:

“If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The ‘black mirror’ of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.”

The series takes existing technologies and places them in a near future where they are just advanced enough to create various scenes of dystopia. Some are frightening, others are deliberately tempting; most notably Season 3’s San Junipero, in which people have the choice to temporarily or permanently upload their consciousnesses to the cloud.

                                                                                                                   

What has Black Mirror got to do with content marketing?

As observed by Andy Maskin for Adweek back in 2015, Black Mirror has more to say about the marketing business than Mad Men

“To many, Mad Men is a show about advertising, but to those in the advertising business, we know it is really a period piece drama set in an advertising agency. We know that it bears only a passing resemblance to what marketing is like in 2015.”

Black Mirror on the other hand, clearly demonstrates the myriad ways technology alters our behaviour. This idea is absolutely central to content marketing. As a side note, it’s also interesting that Jon Hamm has starred in both series.

 

Out of control

The overarching idea behind Black Mirror is humans losing control of the technology they have come to rely on. It’s unsettling because none of the technology in the show seems wildly futuristic or out of reach. It is ubiquitous – as unremarkable to its users as the smartphone has become to us.

Characters have little control over their own relationship with technology. If they are not controlled by a malevolent, off-stage presence, they simply exist in a reality where technology has evolved to the point where it has got the better of us. Again, this isn’t just a problem for future generations; while innovations like Boston Dynamics robots and creepy AI Sophia show us where AI is headed, phenomena like trolling, revenge porn and spambots show how we are losing our grip on technology today.

In this way, the show also highlights many of the ethical dilemmas faced by marketers. As consumers we are pounded with messages everywhere we go. Items in our ASOS shopping baskets vie for our attention at the edge of our work screens. Our smartphones use augmented reality to show us products and realities that aren’t really there. Surveillance technology allows billboards to broadcast adverts based on our age, gender and even mood. All this – and we barely even notice.

The key question is how far is too far? At what point does integrating comms into the consumer’s life stop being frictionless and helpful and start being annoying, overpowering or even frightening? When does technology become intrusive?

 

Here we take a look at the first half of Season 4, distilling key lessons that show us how we can be better, more responsible content marketers.

U.S.S Callister

Black Mirror Season 4

Netflix

In a nutshell

The episode follows a twisted code nerd Robert Daly as he traps self-aware digital clones of his co-workers in a Star-Trek like fantasy game. Able to feel emotion, fear and pain, the clones are moved to revolt. Particularly relevant in the current climate, some critics have compared the episode to recent events surrounding internet bullies and Harvey Weinstein.

What’s the moral of the story?

Just because we have power doesn’t mean we should exercise it.

And in content marketing?

Daly’s successful Infinity game gives its users control – but as usual, Black Mirror teaches us that technology enables people’s worst impulses. Marketers have the power to reach the consumer anywhere, but that doesn’t mean we should continuously fling messages at them. Creating a content strategy packed with original, valuable content compels the consumer to interact with you on their own terms and forges more meaningful relationships.

 

Arkangel

Black Mirror Season 4

Netflix

In a nutshell

After a couple of frightening moments with her young daughter, Marie has a monitoring chip painlessly inserted into Sarah’s brain. Using Arkangel technology, Marie can see what Sarah sees, monitor where she is at all times and shield her from seeing anything potentially stressful. This last feature in particular becomes more problematic as Sarah matures.

What’s the moral of the story?

Deny them the freedom to experiment and you risk losing them

And in content marketing?

Your customers don’t need protecting from the truth. Consumers, particularly ethical millennials respond positively to brands that demonstrate a social conscience. Keep it real, own your mistakes and create content that shows how your brand is doing its part, whether its cutting back on packaging, publishing whitepapers on workplace diversity or collecting clothes for homeless people.

Crocodile

Black Mirror Season 4

Netflix

In a nutshell

Distressed about having helped her friend cover up a hit-and-run, desperate Mia is moved to commit ever-more horrific crimes. Accident investigator Shazia mines the memories of witnesses to get to the truth of a related incident. Memories remain confidential unless the recaller is found to be hurting someone or themselves. The paths of the two women cross with disastrous consequences.

What’s the moral of the story?

Sharing personal information can be dangerous

And in content marketing?

The memory mining tech in Crocodile may be futuristic, but in a way it’s already here. We give big tech companies like Google and Apple access to all our personal information – think of every email, text, picture and video you have stored in the cloud. As the new GDPR rules come in in May, create a fun influencer campaign or animated video that makes a point of showing concerned customers that you can be trusted with their data.

 

In next week’s post things get even darker as we tease out some content marketing wisdom from Hang the DJ, Metalhead and Black Museum.