The Marketing of Arrested Development: 3 Content Marketing Lessons

arrested developmentOn May 26, the universe was reconciled.

After seven long years, Arrested Development returned to the screen with an all-new Season 4 – except this time the infamous Bluth family arrived via Netflix, foregoing traditional broadcast television distribution. (It seems creator Michael Hurwitz has been burned by FOX one too many times.)

In addition to being one of the all-time funniest sitcoms, Arrested Development has introduced content strategists to some brilliant and highly effective content marketing techniques. The show’s innovative, multi-channel content strategy brings together the best in ad copy, event planning, and social media strategy.

#1 Create Content for Every Channel

Arrested Development was marketed – and marketed well – through no less than 11 channels by my count:

Plus, there were the usual press releases, magazine interviews, TV talk shows, etc. (You can find all of the Arrested Development Season 4 launch marketing materials on the Arrested Development Wikia.)

Sure, Arrested Development has a bigger fan base and a bigger marketing budget than you do, but many of these marketing tactics are either free or cheap. For example, anyone can post to Reddit; anyone can create and host a website for just a few dollars; anyone can draft some simple posters (or pay someone a little to do it for them). What’s holding you back?

#2 Meet Your Audience Where They Are

Secondly, the show’s content marketing meets the audience where it already is. By donning the mask of AD characters (mainly Tobias), the show’s marketers waged a clever and subversive form of “guerrilla marketing.”

If you’ve never watched Arrested Development before, then you have to understand that the show’s fans are passionate – seriously passionate – in their love of every character and episode. Dialoguing with Tobias on Reddit produces a feeling somewhat akin to what a 14 year-old might experience on the receiving end of a @JustinBieber tweet.

The marketing team knows this, which makes a few Reddit posts (and the viral Tweeting and blogging that ensues) more valuable than a standard look-at-our-new-show-press-release.

#3 Make the “IRL” and URL Connection

IRL (“in real life”) is grossly underestimated by small time content marketers. Most businesses tend to focus their content marketing efforts on the web. Arrested Development did a great job of connecting online activity with offline, “real world” events.

The key word here is connection. Instead of creating two marketing silos (online strategy and offline), the two are interwoven. As HubSpot points out, the #BluthHunt is a great example of this connection.

The show’s fans were encouraged to hunt all over New York City for nine posters promoting the show. The challenge: take a picture of all the posters and share them on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #BluthHunt. When all nine posters were found, a tenth one was released online. The marketing campaign engaged people “in the real world” in New York City, as well as those online who couldn’t participate.

What was your favorite Arrested Development content marketing stunt?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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