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What Squid Game Can Teach Advisors About Storytelling

by Advisor I/O

If you haven’t heard of Squid Game, you likely haven’t opened any of your social media accounts recently. The latest craze from Netflix has moved into the top spot for Netflix, all-time, and is set to generate nearly $900 million for the streaming platform.

The premise is not too dissimilar from a modern-day Hunger Games, in which individuals compete in a life-or-death series of games. Here, participation isn’t compulsory – it’s driven by a cash prize and all the contestants are struggling under staggering debt loads. It was a wild ride, but one that hooked people across the globe.

We won’t give any spoilers away, but what made Squid Game so great?

In our view, the storytelling.

Storytelling is our oldest method of communicating things that are important, and the brands that do storytelling the best are the ones winning in today’s market. It’s THE key differentiator now.

Storytelling is defined as: The social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, which are shared as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values. Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters, and narrative point of view. Thank you, Wikipedia.

But what Squid Game and so many others do well is follow a storytelling formula, one that’s been used for generations to convey information in a particular order, connect the dots, and keep suspense to a maximum.

What is that formula? It comes down to these key points:

Squid Game Story TellingIt Put its Characters at the Center of the Story

While the games themselves were exciting, the real experience was character development. It gave full context to the characters, put them at the center of the story, elucidated their backgrounds. This created an immediate connection to each character. Without this element of storytelling the entire content will fall flat. Any great movie you’ve seen, you likely connected with the main and supporting characters in a way where you thought about them after the movie was over.

As an advisor, the characters of your story are you and your clients. You have your experience, your background, your story of how you built your practice. Your clients have their own story, their own money journey. All of these are providing you insight and information to shape your message.

Use these insights to fuel your storytelling in two ways:

  1. How you built your business, case studies, why you chose to be an advisor, etc.
  2. How you highlight working with clients through case studies and hypothetical story-based content

It Explained the What, But More Importantly, the Why

It didn’t just explain that each character needed money; it broke down why they needed it. The “why” gave emotional meaning to the story; without that, the character development would have fallen flat. As advisors, make sure you’re telling your why consistently, people need to hear it multiple times, and we mean multiple times, for it to connect.

The why connects it all, and helps you set your marketing goals. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, creating content, sending out emails, outside of the obvious (drive business), then your marketing content will always come across as surface level and opportunistic.

It Made the Needs and Wants Relatable

 Everyone has had money struggles. This easily understood concept was drilled home throughout the series through different examples. This made the content immediately relatable. It highlighted the connection points between the show and the real world.

Make your content relatable, make it real, give examples.

How do you do this?

  1. Keep your story simple: If people need to connect too many dots, they will end up dropping off
  2. Stay away from manufacturing a story: Not only is this bad practice in general, but it’s very easy to unearth in a 2021 digital world where everything is on record
  3. Give behind-the-scenes looks: Everyone is going through something, and choosing what to share and what not to is always a balance, but the more you show and unpack, the better
  4. Align the stories with data or headlines: Ensure you’re connecting the story to what’s going on across the headlines, whether it be the economy or the markets

It Gave us a Takeaway Each Episode  

The suspense was high throughout the series. As some would say, the call-to-action kept people on the edge of their couch through each episode. It created tension, leaving the viewer wanting to watch more to get more. If you’re sharing content, ensure you’re creating tension in your CTA – what will they get if they click through? How will you unpack situations or insights to go deeper? Give them a reason to click, and create a sense of FOMO at the end of every piece so they want to dive deeper, consume more, etc.

The Bottom Line

So, Netflix isn’t just guilty pleasure entertainment – it’s straight up marketing research. You probably can’t deduct your Netflix subscription as a business expense yet, but when opportunities like these come along, they should be highlighted to show what makes them so great, and how you can use them as inspiration to fuel your marketing now and in the future.

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