If you haven’t joined me and the 60 million who binge watched Bridgerton on Netflix, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. My grandmother pitched it to me as Pride and Prejudice meets Gossip Girl meets Fifty Shades of Grey. Considering her affinity for daytime TV soap dramas, this was not entirely compelling, but what else was I doing?
Hours in, I was enchanted and wanting more. The strategist in me wondered what deeper connection was resonating with today’s audiences (besides the steamy romance scenes). My hypothesis? Predictability.
The show’s emphasis on consequences befitting actions, mutual respect between peers and partners and a defined path to self-actualization offer an inviting escape against the backdrop of uncertainty. Let’s take a closer look at how each of these components should be of appeal to modern marketers.
Actions = consequences
We live in a time when anyone can say or tweet anything. That’s why Bridgerton fascinates audiences by taking place in a period when actions had clear consequences. Bridgerton’s Lady Whistledown is a gossip columnist, but she’s also a voice of truth holding people accountable for their actions. Her reporting has incredible power and influence, shaping the way people are seen in society. Poor behavior invites quick criticism that can destroy a reputation — even their entire family name.
Fast forward from 1813 to the late 1990s, when reality TV became a global phenomenon. With Survivor and Big Brother, producers discovered they could create entertaining content without hiring scripted actors, and the more shocking events they could orchestrate, the more eyeballs they’d attract. While Bridgerton’s characters wanted to stay off Lady Whistledown’s bad side, reality TV stars and hosts were rewarded for poor behavior with increased airtime.
As social media took off, our exposure to questionable behavior amplified. The proliferation of content blurred our concept of truth and made it difficult to arrive at clear conclusions. Now it’s hard for your consumers to distinguish real headlines from fake ones, and 31% of children who shared an article on social media have posted something that turned out to be false.
When there’s always another angle, consumers are missing the one voice of authority that Lady Whistledown wielded to create order and hold the public accountable.
Some things were still sacred
What our modern society considers to be typical behavior, would have been far past the line for the ladies and gentleman of Bridgerton. No spoilers, but let’s just say that in the 1800s, if a man were to kiss a woman in public, his next move would be to marry her or die for her honor. While I’m not advocating for marriage before public displays of affection, when we look at how modern courtship has evolved, suitors could take cues from Bridgerton.
When Daphne, our protagonist, is being courted, her suitors attempt to win her heart through good conversation and making their intentions clear. Any modern bachelorette can confirm that today’s multi billion-dollar online-dating industry runs rampant with bothersome and harassing behavior. Women under the age of 35 are especially vulnerable, reports Pew.
To create a more empowering dating space for women, Whitney Wolfe founded Bumble in 2014. Today, Bumble stock is surging following their groundbreaking IPO, bringing their valuation to $8.6 billion. Wolfe is the youngest woman to lead a company through an IPO and did so with an unprecedented 73% women-run board.
To us, Bumble’s mission to create a safe, respectful space for finding love is something to celebrate, but to the people of Bridgerton, mutual respect would just be something they could expect as a matter of course.
Happiness is not simply a social media post away
While life stages used to be clearly defined, we’ve shifted from checking off milestones to chasing self-actualization, and Instagram and other social media apps make it seem like everyone has found it, except for you. In the elusive search for happiness, Bridgerton offers audiences the map.
The show presents a world where characters are confined to expected roles. While each may test their limits, at the end of the day, everyone is clear on their responsibilities. With today’s lack of structure and increased flexibility across all aspects of our lives, consumers are finding comfort in escaping to a time when life was straightforward and expected.
Consider a traditional career path. The old model promised entry-level employees the ability to climb the corporate ladder until retiring at the ripe old age of 65. Our 21st century career paths are self-directed, which Deloitte describes as “difficult and unforgiving.” It’s typified by flat organizational structures, a lack of defined progression where established employees report to junior hires, and an atmosphere in which relevant skills become quickly outdated.
Although we revel in our empowerment to choose our own paths, a privilege our Bridgerton characters did not have, consumers want bumpers and ways to track milestones.
Peloton is a shining example of how consumers are creating order in their lives. The brand’s latest financials reported revenues of $1.83 billion in FY’20, up from $440 million in FY’18. This is part of a bigger movement where community fitness replaces the voids of traditional institutions like church. The trend made its rounds in Self magazine in 2015 and The Atlantic in 2017, and isn’t going away anytime soon.
Consumers today are facing more unknowns than they’ve ever had to deal with, from inconsistent consequences to surprising amounts of disrespect from leaders, peers or potential partners. And a path forward is up to each individual to pave for themselves. While Bridgerton is far from a timeless classic, it is surely a timely escape that lets audiences lose themselves in a much desired period of stability.
As marketers react to changing expectations of brands within society, we can’t forget that for most people, change is uncomfortable. The biggest lesson Bridgerton teaches is that the best thing a brand can offer consumers is predictability.