A Content Formula Isn’t Lazy – It’s a ‘Hallmark’ of Bingeable Series

Hallmark Media is aware of you don’t look a content material reward horse within the mouth.

That’s why The Hallmark Channel and its sister networks will debut 33 movies this holiday season. (And for Hallmark, the Christmas vacation season began Oct. 21.)

Audiences tune in by the thousands and thousands – 80 million watched at least part of one in 2021. And the flicks don’t require large budgets.

And but, no Hallmark vacation film is all that unique. They share comparable plots. Some even share the identical lead actor (with a completely different character title and job). Cast members pop up in supporting roles throughout the lineup.

The formulaic content material works so properly that Lifetime, Netflix, HBO Max, GAF, Hulu, Discover+, Peacock, and others have created their very own “original” cavalcade of this vacation film style.

It all combines to present a reward to content material entrepreneurs – rethink the concept you will need to create progressive or utterly unique content material to draw and hold audiences.

#Content must be innovative to attract audiences, right? The success of @HallmarkChannel formula might make you rethink this in #ContentMarketing, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The Hallmark film method

Love them, hate them, or don’t care, you’re most likely considerably accustomed to a Hallmark film plot:

  • A girl experiences a life change and travels to a new vacation spot that’s imagined to be non permanent. It’s usually a journey to go to household or a short-term relocation for a work venture.
  • While there, she encounters a problem – the household enterprise is failing, or the proprietor of a property her employer needs to amass doesn’t need to promote.
  • She additionally encounters a man with whom she has a battle – a childhood classmate who wasn’t good to her, a one who works for her employer’s competitor.
  • As she works to resolve her problem, she discovers the person is useful or is just not the unhealthy man she thought he was.
  • The couple realizes they like one another.
  • She decides to remain, and the film ends with a kiss.

(Yes, each one of these motion pictures function a man and a girl within the lead roles, with Christmas because the central vacation. This yr, The Holiday Sitter turned the primary Hallmark film that includes a same-sex couple within the lead roles. And Hannukah has been the featured vacation in solely a handful of the flicks.)

Why does it work to inform variations of the identical theme daily for months and even all yr (Hallmark has expanded that storytelling mannequin from Christmas to all 4 seasons)?

Let’s discover how one can undertake a Hallmark strategy in your content material advertising and marketing.

1. Original content material isn’t (at all times) required

Take a web page from Hallmark’s script and spend much less time attempting to give you unique concepts and distinctive content material. Familiar content material remixed into new packages works simply as properly and even higher to draw and develop audiences. Recognizable content material alerts make consuming content material simpler and set expectations for easy-to-understand and rewarding outcomes. (Hallmark motion pictures lend themselves to multitasking – you possibly can simply catch up even in case you don’t concentrate for a jiffy.)

I’m not suggesting that none of your content material belongings ought to be unique or thought-provoking. You nonetheless want so as to add your model’s distinctive spin and a special approach to the acquainted components in your content material. Sprinkle in a few unique concepts that may appeal to viewers members who at all times need one thing completely different whereas retaining those that depend on the acquainted to assist them heat as much as contemporary concepts and approaches.

Sprinkle original thoughts into your #ContentMarketing, but repeat familiar elements, too. You’ll help audiences warm up to the fresh ideas, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

2. One story is just not essentially worthy of a marathon

Repeating a acquainted tone, fashion, and story arc gained’t assure content material success instantly. Hallmark aired solely 9 motion pictures in 2009 and added a few extra every year till it went into a Countdown to Christmas film marathon stretched over two months.

After you publish or air a few items of content material primarily based on acquainted components, stand again and take a look at your viewers’s response. Check your analytics: How many impressions or views does the content material get throughout the first week or month? How a lot time do readers or viewers spend consuming it? How ceaselessly do they click on on the decision to motion?

Your analytics questions ought to join straight with the objectives of your content material advertising and marketing technique. Once you discover which content material kind, theme, or story arc resonates finest, double down on that method.

3. No spoiler alerts wanted ­– it’s OK for the viewers to understand how the story ends

All Hallmark motion pictures have comfortable endings. If they didn’t, they won’t be as in style. Audiences benefit from the consolation of realizing how issues will prove. They don’t have to fret an excessive amount of that issues will prove badly for the characters.

In advertising and marketing, case research play a comparable function. A model wouldn’t publish a buyer story that goes awry and stays unsolved. Audiences devour them regardless that they know the result will probably be optimistic. They need to know the story that introduced a profitable end result to the client. What downside did they should resolve? How did they seek for a resolution? Why did they select yours? What advantages did they expertise from the answer? That’s the plot of a case research.

4. Familiar faces assist

Hallmark motion pictures often embody a acquainted face (or two). Many of the actors began their careers as youngsters ­ – Lacey Chabert (Party of Five), Tamera Mowry-Housley (Sister, Sister), and Alison Sweeney (Days of Our Lives).

Hallmark additionally makes use of the identical lead actors – women and men – in a number of motion pictures in a single season. They merely change out the pairings so the identical actress and the identical actor don’t play in opposition to one another in the identical season. For instance, this yr, Andrew Walker did double obligation, starring in A Maple Valley Christmas on Nov. 5 and Three Wise Men and a Baby on Nov. 19.

Audiences admire seeing faces they know. Think about that includes acquainted faces – sources or storytellers – all through your model communications.

If you do a photograph shoot for a buyer profile that runs in a digital publication, for instance, make it possible for the client turns into one of the faces in your company web site. That strategy lets your viewers see somebody they might acknowledge out of your different content material and communicates an authenticity that inventory imagery can’t.

Or create a video collection with one particular thought chief as host or presenter in each episode.

TIP: Improve upon Hallmark’s method for variety. Here’s the place I don’t suggest copying Hallmark. The channel’s lack of variety in casting  ­– particularly for lead roles – came under criticism a couple of years in the past and even led to this 2019 Saturday Night Live skit. Since then, Hallmark has made some strides (although it nonetheless has a lengthy approach to go.)

5. Consider producing sequels to in style tales

Some Hallmark motion pictures show so in style that the channel creates annual sequels. Does any of your content material name out for sequels and even a spinoff collection?

If you’ve profiled folks or companies, you may do a follow-up content material piece to see what has and hasn’t modified because you final instructed their story. Likewise, if a podcast episode spikes your obtain or listening numbers, take into consideration “what’s next” subjects and add them to the editorial calendar.

Or, in case you discover somebody who shines in entrance of an viewers, contemplate giving that particular person a video or podcast present.

6. A greater viewers doesn’t require a greater finances

Hallmark vacation motion pictures appeal to about 80 million viewers for one holiday season, barely greater than Netflix collection like The Crown or The Witcher, which price way more to provide.

Hallmark productions reuse capturing places (simply as they reuse plot factors) and no matter else they will. They could get a package-deal low cost when actors’ contracts embody a number of motion pictures, too.

Keep this strategy in thoughts as you ponder how you can do essentially the most along with your content material advertising and marketing finances. Explore the set of content material you’re planning and determine the assets you’ll have to create it. Then, search for methods to save lots of by packaging manufacturing. For instance, in case you’re planning to publish a month-to-month video, might you save money and time by writing all of the scripts and capturing them in a single batch? (You’ll want to contemplate whether or not your on-camera expertise ought to put on the identical garments or range their outfits.)

Or, if you realize you’ll want to rent freelancers to put in writing a number of tales over the subsequent six months, you would possibly save time by discovering one certified author and creating a single contract that covers all of the items. You might even ask for a bulk low cost.

7. Expect copycats

The appreciable success of Hallmark motion pictures prompted a number of copycats. This yr, Lifetime, Netflix, Peacock, Hulu, HBO Max, and others have dozens of these motion pictures. The rebranded Great American Family network introduced in a former Hallmark government and a few of the Hallmark stars (together with Candace Cameron-Bure) to create a new lineup of motion pictures. Discovery+ took the flicks to a new degree, that includes two movies with stars from The Food Network property in minor roles. Heck, even QVC bought into the vacation film enterprise with Holly & the Hot Chocolate streaming on QVC+.

Be flattered when different manufacturers recreate what you’re doing, however don’t relaxation in your (not-so) unique storytelling laurels. Even in case your method nonetheless works in your viewers, mirror on what tweaks you may make to maintain your content material present, related, and but fairly acquainted to your viewers.

Don’t rest on your storytelling laurels. Reflect on small tweaks to your formula to keep #content feeling current, relevant, and (yet) still familiar, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Watch out

I’ll finish this text following the Hallmark mannequin and ship what you most likely anticipated – an unambiguous decision. Fans, non-fans, and even haters of the Hallmark mannequin can study a lot about what to do – and what to not do – by learning its success.

The ethical of the story: Audiences wish to devour one thing acquainted. With a bit of ahead considering, you possibly can create cozy content material that works for them and your model.

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Cover picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

This article is an replace of the Dec. 19, 2021, model.