You want your content marketing to touch the hearts of your potential customers through storytelling. In order to achieve that, you thoroughly analyse your target persona. Yet, there is one aspect which many check lists and guides neglect: the stereotypes this persona has to face. With this DIY test, we put the right tool in your hand so that you can recognise stereotypes and avoid a clash between your target persona and your content marketing.
Stereotypes in storytelling
Stereotypes help to simplify and generalise facts. They allow us to interpret and communicate information efficiently. This is why stereotypes are so important in storytelling: Without them, you would need to start every story right at the beginning. Neither you nor your potential customer really has time for that.
In your content marketing, you invariably stereotype personas. The specialist term for this is unconscious bias (Article in German). That’s why you should take the time to review your persona’s position on these simplifications and generalisations. If your target customers don’t find them suitable, they won’t take you seriously. Once they have decided this, no more than a second will pass before the browser tab with your content is closed.
All that thought you have put into your content marketing cycle becomes worthless if you fail to consider your potential customers’ persona. A look at typical buyer persona questionnaires shows that due consideration is the exception rather than the rule. You won’t find any questions on the stereotyping experienced by the interviewees. So the big question is: How do you find out if you’re using the right stereotype?
Alison Bechdel never looked into content marketing. However, her work points us in the right direction on the question of which stereotypes are acceptable. In her comic “Dykes to Watch Out For”, one of her protagonists asks exactly the right questions. You can use these same questions to test your storytelling – even if you lack the resources for interviews.
Does your storytelling pass the Bechdel test?
Bechdel’s comic deals with the stereotype that women are dependent on men. Bechdel proposes three minimum criteria as a test basis:
• It must feature at least two women,
• who talk to each other,
• about something other than a man.
Panels from „Dykes to Watch Out for“
At this point, it doesn’t matter whether you are inclined towards Bechdel’s feminism, or whether you think that there aren’t enough independent women in the movies. The fact is that there aren’t many. Anita Sarkeesian shows this in her review of movies nominated for the Oscars. With respect to content marketing, the question arises as to whether or not women feel drawn towards stories that fulfil these criteria. The answer should be clear: Readers and viewers want content that makes them feel like they are being taken seriously. It’s obvious that women want to see strong and independent protagonists.
Video example: Storytelling by Cornetto passes the Bechdel test
Let’s apply the test to the content: Cornetto is currently engaged in content marketing with a series of love stories, the Cupidity Love Stories. One of those is “40 Love”. The story revolves around a female tennis player and a female line judge who fall in love. The feminist singer-songwriter Lily Allen leads the audience through the nine-minute story.
Storytelling with Lily Allen
The story passes the Bechdel test:
• The story features a female tennis player and a female line judge,
• who talk to each other,
• about the tennis player’s technique.
However, “40 Love” isn’t perfect. Bechdel would certainly have a lot to criticise, given that Cornetto doesn’t portray the protagonists as strong women. The tennis player allows her father to boss her about, the line judge is fatigued and insecure. The story doesn’t reveal whether the couple will have the confidence to stand up for their feelings in public – a missed opportunity, by the way.
To the Bechdel test and beyond!
The questions in the Bechdel comic don’t fit every content strategy and will depend on the target group of your content marketing. Does that make the test redundant? No. The fundamental thought of this test can easily be adapted to target groups other than women. In its generalised form, the Bechdel test looks like this:
• It must feature two people in line with your persona.
• These two people interact.
• This interaction is not about a stereotype that your persona faces against their will.
DIY test: two examples
Let’s apply this principle to two other target groups. If your storytelling targets homosexuals, you’ll need to consider that the persona of your buyer prefers not to be defined solely on the basis of their sexuality. So your test might look like this:
• It features two homosexuals,
• who talk to each other,
• about something other than their sexuality.
(Now, if you were thinking about gay men and not about lesbians, you have just proven stereotypical thinking.)
If you want to target the elderly, your test might look like this:
• It features two elderly people,
• who talk to each other,
• about something other than their age, illnesses, grandchildren or “the good old days”.
The exact definition of your third criterion should be part of your target group analysis in the content planning phase. There is no one-size-fits-all solution in content marketing. Your content strategy will impact this decision.
Crispy Content: A successful content marketing cycle in 6 steps
Include it on your storytelling check-list
Making your audience feel taken seriously has a positive impact on your conversion rates. It will become easier to generate leads and profits. The Bechdel test and variations thereof can help you to keep your content marketing strategy in line with your target group’s persona.
The key is in realising that you may not automatically be aware of all stereotypes. Before you move on to the next steps in your content marketing cycle, take a moment for your content planning: Try to understand which stereotypes exist in respect to your persona and your persona’s position on these stereotypes. A few ideas along the right lines can make all the difference in the creation of truly unique content that stands out from the masses of unreflective, stereotypical content.
Rules exist to be broken. And that is OK, if you do it for the right reasons. Storytelling that always complies with the norms is prone to becoming boring. These tests are not a mark of quality! Many legendary movies such as “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings” don’t pass the Bechdel test. Does that make those movies bad??
Of course, storytelling will work if you ignore these ideas. Stereotypes are difficult to break down. They are anchored so deeply that quite often neither the content marketer, nor the target group are aware of them. You might do quite well with your current content marketing strategy without the Bechdel test. But do you really want to be one of the last to utilise stereotypes? Or would you rather be amongst the storytelling avant-garde?
Did you like the article? We have more storytelling tips for you. We have prepared some video examples for some of the other questions you should ask yourself for good storytelling in the context of content marketing.
Founder & CEO
Gerrit Grunert is the founder and CEO of Crispy Content. Always revved up, he is a goldmine of creative ideas which are infectious to everyone around him. Gerrit knows how to utilise the full potential of this explosive mixture - both at work and in his leisure activities. While he continues to work towards his childhood dream of becoming the fastest guitar player in the world and tests his endurance in cycling races, he is also instigating the content marketing revolution from the Crispy Office.Unser Team