5 Brand Storytelling Lessons from Binge-Worthy TV Shows — and How to Apply Them to Your Business

There’s nothing quite like great TV to glue you to the screen and make you forget about everything else… 

Now, how do these shows do that? And more importantly, what can they teach you about engaging, binge-worthy brand storytelling? 

That’s exactly what we’ll try to find out today! 

This week, we’re looking at 5 iconic TV shows — from sci-fi classics to famous sitcoms and cartoons — to try and discover what made them so irresistible to viewers. And most importantly, we’ll pull actionable lessons from each of those shows and apply them to your brand storytelling!

You will learn:

  • How “Star Trek” managed to stay relatable to audiences that weren’t used to sci fi
  • Why everyone loved “Seinfeld” despite nonsensical stories and horrible characters
  • How an animated show for kids captured the imagination of millions
  • The #1 brand storytelling lesson we all can learn from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” 
  • How a goofy comedy about doctors tackled death, trauma, and other heavy subjects

And more! Let’s dive in…

5 brand storytelling lessons from binge-worthy TV shows

1. “Star Trek” — the power of emotion

This comes as no surprise to anybody, does it?

We’re unapologetic Trekkies here at The Draw Shop — and to be honest, we could fill a dozen articles just with storytelling and marketing lessons from this show. And we still might!

But this time, we’re going to limit ourselves to just one key lesson… the same one Dr. Spock had to learn time and time again. Here it is:

Emotions matter.

In episode after episode, the dispassionate Vulcan scientist learned that humans don’t always make rational decisions and that feelings play a huge role in how they choose to act. It enriched his understanding of humanity and helped him become a better Starfleet officer…

…and helped millions of viewers fall in love with the character — and the show. Because no matter how fantastic and out of this world (literally!) the plots got, emotions always anchored the audience to the stories being told.

What’s the lesson for your brand?

Each brand story you tell needs to make people feel something, whether it’s hope, peace of mind, righteous anger, joy, satisfaction, envy, curiosity… you name it.

Emotional stories are more relatable, more engaging, and more memorable. And we’re not just saying that — it’s science. So try to anchor your brand storytelling in real-world emotions as much as you can, and you’ll have no trouble grabbing (and keeping) your customers’ attention!

2. “Seinfeld” — holding up a mirror to real life

“Seinfeld” is famous for two things:

  1. Nonsensical plots (it’s known as “a show about nothing,” after all!)
  2. Characters who were terribly flawed — but fascinating all the same

So, in a way, it was a show about life. In real life, events don’t arrange themselves in neat storytelling arcs. In real life, characters are often off-putting and have very few redeeming qualities. “Seinfeld” zeroed in on these things and translated them into fiction, which made it the most popular comedy show of all time.

What’s the lesson for your brand?

Anyone who can get people to nod and say, “Yes, that’s exactly like my situation!” is a terrific storyteller. And that’s what “Seinfeld” managed to achieve!

If you want to connect with viewers on the same deep level, you want to ground your brand stories in the real world as much as you can. For example:

  • Whenever you’re talking about your customers, speak the same language they would use to describe their situation.
  • Take inspiration from real-life problems your viewers are facing — even if they don’t always get neatly solved at the end.

Customers should recognize themselves or someone they know in your brand stories. That way, they will be more likely to relate to them — and (eventually) buy from you. 

3. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” — remembering the big goal

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is widely recognized as one of the best (if not the best) animated shows of all time. It’s tough to extract just one storytelling lesson from it — but we’ll try anyway…

The world of “The Last Airbender” is divided into four nations, representing the four elements: air, water, earth, and fire. A small minority of people in each nation have magical abilities that allow them to control one of the elements. Only one person — the Avatar — can master all of them. And it’s their responsibility to maintain peace and harmony between the nations.

The plot follows a boy named Aang, whose only mission is to become the Avatar and end a world war that’s been going on for 100 years. This one clear goal fuels the entire show: all 3 seasons and 61 episodes’ worth of different stories and fascinating characters.

Now that’s a commitment to storytelling!

What’s the lesson for your brand?

Your company’s mission should be at the heart of every story you tell. Whether it’s a story about your company, your product, your customers, your employees, your founder — or anything or anybody else — always make sure it aligns with your #1 mission.

If a story doesn’t convey or support your mission, then maybe it’s not the one you should tell! That’s one of the reasons brand storytelling fails.

4. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — the importance of stakes

(Pun 100% intended, as always.)

Remember “Buffy”? We sure do! It was way better than a TV series about a vampire-slaying teenager had any right to be. And one of Buffy’s greatest strengths was how expertly the show handled stakes — not the wooden stakes (although there was that), but the dramatic stakes.

“Buffy” easily switched between plots about cosmic, world-ending events and small-scale personal conflicts of its characters — and made the viewers care about both. If anything, we cared about small stakes more, because they were more relatable!

What’s the lesson for your brand?

Even if you’re not saving the world or saving lives, your brand still has stories worth telling! Small-scale drama can be just as engaging as large-scale drama — you just have to communicate what’s at stake properly.

Look at this video, for example. It’s about one man’s story of trying to get his life back and stop wasting time on things that don’t add value to it. The world isn’t ending, nobody’s dying… but the tension and drama are still there. We know the stakes, as small as they are, and we root for the character to get what he wants. And that’s all you need!

Speaking of getting what you want…

5. “Scrubs” — how to handle ‘bad’ endings

“Scrubs” was a goofy sitcom about doctors that ran from 2001 to 2010… and dealt with topics like death, terminal illness, abandonment, trauma, isolation, toxic relationships, abuse, and many, many more.

You know, like any 2000s comedy series!

That’s not really what was special about it, though. Lots of sitcoms explore hard-hitting subject matter. But “Scrubs” did something truly remarkable…

It allowed bad stuff to happen to its characters — and played it 100% straight.

“Scrubs” episodes often ended on a downer note: death, heartbreak, disappointment, you name it. Even the series known for its trippy throwaway gags and ridiculous dialogue was mature enough to know: you can’t always get what you want…

…but you can always find a way to keep living.

What’s the lesson for your brand?

The stories you tell as a brand won’t always be 100% positive. Sometimes you’ll need to talk about how you messed up, or how something tragic happened, or the difficulties you’re facing.

These difficult stories are still worth telling. They’re important. They’re authentic. And they humanize your brand a lot more than the artificially upbeat “we’re always kicking butt and innovating, yessir, nothing ever goes wrong on our watch!” types of stories.

And if you don’t tell them, someone else will do it for you.

Get a free strategy session to level up your brand storytelling

Do you want to tell brand stories that engage, delight, and most importantly — convert?

We can help!

Here at The Draw Shop, storytelling is what we do, all day every day. We employ world-class copywriters and storytellers who can discover the core of your message and make it resonate powerfully with your target audience. And then our skilled artists will bring it to life with eye-popping visuals.

Your brand deserves nothing less than an unforgettable story. If you want us to help you tell it, let’s talk!

Book a free video marketing strategy session with The Draw Shop experts