What Marketers Can Learn From Succession

BE WARNED: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS!

If you haven’t heard of Succession, we’d love to know what rock you’ve been living under – because it sounds like a lovely, quiet piece of real estate. But if you’re like the rest of the world, we’re going to bet you’re just as obsessed with the show as we are. And that means you’re frantically looking for some content to fill the Succession-shaped hole in your life since the series ended.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. As much as we could simply gush about our love for Succession over the next few hundred words, that probably wouldn’t be very useful (or enjoyable). In fact, there’s so much more that we can learn from the series than just how much we ship Tom and Greg – particularly if you’re a marketer. So, are you ready to come with us on a journey, Sporus?

What is Succession, and why is it so important?

It’s nice to see that you’ve poked your head out from under that rock! For the uninitiated, Succession is a long-running HBO show, created by Jesse Armstrong. It tells the story of the Roy siblings (Kendall, Roman and Shiv) as they battle to succeed their father, Logan Roy, as the CEO of his Murdoch-esque multinational media company, Waystar Royco. 

This might sound like a relatively dry concept and you’re probably imagining something similar to Suits or Billions, but you’d be wrong. Succession has long been heralded as modern Shakespeare, taking more inspiration from King Lear than anything written in the past decade – and it’s a masterclass in writing, business, and marketing. So before you read on, we recommend you go and binge all four seasons.

Succession’s 5 lessons for marketers

1. More is not always more

One of the biggest failings of the characters in Succession is their lack of relatability. And this starts with how they talk. The Roy siblings speak in confusing riddles and weird business euphemisms as they discuss money and deals, which just leaves both the other characters and viewers perplexed. This is set in contrast to their father’s direct style of speech, which is one of the reasons that they can never live up to him or captivate his audience in the same way. 

Logan understood the importance of saying less, not more – and this is a great lesson for marketers too. When it comes to communicating with your audience (whether you’re announcing the launch of a new product, creating a social media campaign or writing website copy), be intentional about your language. Don’t be tempted by fluff phrases or optimising for certain keywords – be sure that everything tells a cohesive story and delivers a clear message to your customers.

2. Changing with the times is crucial

Logan may be a better communicator than his kids, but they have the edge on him when it comes to innovation. This creates a huge point of contention in the show, as we see his stubbornness pitted against Kendall’s fervent progressiveness. While Logan would rather stick with what he knows, like local TV and news broadcasting, Kendall wants to move into the world of online content (think TikTok and BuzzFeed). And ultimately, while his father constantly pushes back on this idea, it’s Waystar’s unwillingness to change in the end that means they have to sell to a digital media startup just to stay afloat.

Marketers shouldn’t be like Logan here. As the world changes, you must be ready to adjust your messaging, targeting and distribution to move with the times. Just look at how short-form video marketing has taken the crown on social media over the last few years. In order to compete, you must keep up with industry trends.

3. Pay attention to the optics

The Roys are constantly concerned with how their decisions will look to the public. This is something we can all empathise with – us marketers are responsible for properly communicating our company’s mission, vision and values and providing the right customer experience, so keeping an eye on our audiences is vital. 

That said, you should probably take more practical steps than just market guesswork. These are a great starting point:

  • Carry out questionnaires to understand how your customers are using your product or service
  • Create case studies to get a realistic picture of your target personas
  • Implement feedback forms after someone makes a purchase to help streamline your customer journey

4. Teamwork makes the dreamwork

As we see time and time again in Succession, the family is stronger when they’re together – though this unfortunately rarely happens. The final season shows the siblings start as a unit and slowly stab each other in the back until they eventually ruin their chances at running the company. They work against each other and end up destroying their relationships, installing a fascist president and losing their company to Lukas Matsson. 

Similarly, when you’re a marketer, it can sometimes be easy to forget that you’re part of a larger team all working towards the same goal. If there’s something you can’t do, chances are someone on your team knows how to help – and if not, you have the option of partnering with a specialist agency. Don’t be an island.

5. Get an outside opinion

One crucial thing the Roys are always missing (or wilfully ignoring) is an outside opinion. They’re so caught up in their world of wealth, fame and business that they can’t relate to anyone beyond their specific circumstances – often leading to their downfall. In the final season, when the siblings are fighting to be named CEO, none of them stop to get another perspective on their strategies. Shiv keeps her partnership with Matsson secret, while Kendall and Roman seek to sabotage the deal using underhand tactics. All miss some obvious signs that their plans might not be as watertight as they think by simply not sharing what they’re doing.

And the same thing can be true for marketers (though not quite in that context). When you’ve been working solidly on a project or campaign, it’s easy to get tunnel vision – and that can stop you from identifying glaring flaws. This is where partnering with an agency can come in handy. 

At MYC, every piece of work we produce – whether it’s a social media post or an ebook – gets seen by several pairs of eyes before it gets to our clients. Work is never created in silos, and our team draws on decades of combined content marketing experience so you can trust our expert opinion.

Get in touch now to find out how we can help you be less Kendall.

Words by Holly

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