NOTE: This is the first is a three-part series on knowing your audience when telling stories.
Before the holidays, I posted a blog called the “Stories We LOVE to Hate-watch” about the Hallmark Holiday movie season and the various ‘rules’ that are adhered to.
So what does that have to do with storytelling? Simple.
Hallmark knows their audience.
Hallmark started as a Christian greeting card company in Kansas City, Missouri in 1910. They literally began the company selling Christmas cards!
They know that their audience is predominantly:
According to Wikipedia, the TV division of Hallmark began in 1951. The time of the growing white middle class in what was considered a “Christian” nation.
See the connection?
I've met a producer of Hallmark movies, and he told me that they are specifically G rated, and indeed follow specific rules.
In fact, if you watch episodes of shows that run when it is not Christmas – such as The Golden Girls, and my personal favorite, Frasier – Hallmark bleeps words like “damn” and “ass” so as not to offend their audience. They understand that while other basic cable channels now regularly allow swear words, the audience for those channels is not necessarily theirs.
Or is it?
You may recall that around the time my last post was published, there was a big uproar over Hallmark cancelling a sponsor. The sponsor ran a television ad that featured a same-sex couple at their wedding. The backlash was fierce and swift and required Hallmark to apologize.
I don’t know this for certain, but I suspect that Hallmark is starting to understand not just the changing demographics of the United States, but also the changing demographics of their audience. I know a lot of women over 50 who love Hallmark movies, are married, and are Jewish or non-religious. I even know an over-50 straight man for whom Hallmark movies are his way to de-stress. Perhaps these audience members would love to see a movie where the main plot is a couple who falls in love and is over 50?? I also have a brother-in-law over 50, and he happily watches these movies with my sister.
Besides, for YEARS – the most concentrated audience for The Golden Girls? Gay men!
Having just watched a new Hallmark movie last week produced by that aforementioned producer, with not one, not two, but THREE kisses in it, I suspect we will begin to see some change – albeit minor and slow.
After all, storytelling is about knowing your audience.
Part II: What does a kid's medicine have to do with a Ferrari and a Mini-Cooper?