Five Lessons in Content Marketing from In the Night Garden

April 7, 2017

Content Marketing Lessons

I honestly thought the Teletubbies were as surreal as children’s programming could get. Then I moved to the UK with my wife and young daughter. It turns out that for fever-dream-bizarre imagery, Tinky Winky and friends can’t hold a candle to In the Night Garden.

If you’re not familiar with the show: first, congratulations. Second, you don’t have to take my word for how fascinatingly strange it is. There are full episodes on YouTube:

My daughter is absolutely obsessed with this programme. She knows her Ninky Nonk from her Pinky Ponk. She can tell Unn, Ooo, and Eee apart and knows all three are Tombliboos. I’m equal parts impressed and confused.

As an adult—at least nominally—it’s hard to see the appeal. But I find it fascinating from a marketing perspective. Since I’m stuck watching all 100 episodes on repeat, I figured I should see what the show can teach marketers who don’t know a Pontipine from a Haahoo.

1. Strong Visuals Are Essential
This is the Pinky Ponk, the airship that flies around the Night Garden:

With the propellers, fins, and flashing lights, the Pinky Ponk definitely catches your eye. Every element on the show is just as fascinating to look at. You can see a single frame of In the Night Garden and never mistake it for any other programme. Is that true with every header image on your blog?

We’ve been saying that visual is the new headline for a while now. When you only have a fraction of a second to catch someone’s attention, stock photos aren’t going to get the job done. You need something original, authentic, and interesting.

2. Repetition Is Memorable. Also, Repetition Is Memorable
Nearly every episode of In the Night Garden starts the same way: There’s a child going to sleep in a bed, then it cuts to Igglepiggle sailing his boat to the Night Garden. Then the Pinky Ponk or the Ninky Nonk appears, and then there’s a brief counting lesson with the Pontipine family.

I fully understand how ridiculous the last two sentences sound. The point is, it’s an extremely repetitive show. That’s part of the reason kids can’t get enough of it.

There’s an old marketing adage called the “Rule of Seven,” which says someone needs to see your brand message at least seven times before they’re moved to take action. Even though we know repetition works, many content marketers post a single link to their content on social media and call it good.

There’s a fear that we might overwhelm or annoy our audience with too many messages. But repetition is memorable. When your audience sees your content link for the third or fourth time, they’re likely to be more compelled to click, not less.

3. Be Bold in Addressing Your Target Audience
I have to admit, In the Night Garden can be hard to watch for me. It’s slow, repetitive, and all those whimsical names start to grate after a while. When I tried watching on YouTube at twice the normal broadcast speed, it played a lot better.

But the producers know that the show isn’t for me; it’s for children. They made deliberate choices that make it more appealing to their target audience. These choices are worth making even if they alienate people who aren’t in the core demographic.

In this picture: Makka Pakka, Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, and the Tombliboos. Not pictured: The Tiddle and the Trubliphones. Definitely not named with grown-up sensibilities in mind.

Odds are your product or solution isn’t for everyone. That means your brand doesn’t need to be for everyone, either. Call out your most valuable audience. Let them know you’re talking specifically to them. Give your brand a personality and point of view without worrying that you’re alienating people who would never become customers.

4. Consistent Publication Is Key
When the programme launched, it aired on the CBeebies channel at 6:25 PM, the “Bedtime Hour” time slot. Even on the weekends, kids and parents knew exactly when to tune in. That consistency made it easy for families to get into the habit of watching each day. When the programmers changed the time slot, a petition from parents quickly reversed the decision.

Essentially, In the Night Garden nailed Joe Pulizzi’s best practices for content marketing. Joe says the best way to make your content habit-forming and build a following is to pick a single channel and deliver a steady stream of quality content on a regular basis. It’s not about quantity; it’s about consistency and quality.

5. Personalisation Makes Content More Compelling
In 2014, In the Night Garden introduced a new way for children to interact with the brand. And a new way for parents to empty their wallets—I mean, delight their children. Publishing company Penwizard offers personalised In the Night Garden books. Igglepiggle and the whole crew address your child by name and throw either a birthday or Christmas party in their honour. You can even create a customised avatar of your child in the book’s art style. Here I am, getting ready to rock out with the gang:

Marketers know that personalisation makes a message memorable. No one likes to get an email addressed to “IT Decision Maker,” or be bombarded with irrelevant content. Customisation makes it easier for the reader to connect with the brand.

Marketing automation makes it easier than ever to speak directly to your audience. On LinkedIn, you can address people by name with Dynamic Ads and Sponsored InMail. We make it easy to segment your audience to deliver the most relevant content to each viewer. You can even add targeting to the organic posts on your Company Page.

Who’s Not in Bed? Igglepiggle’s Not in Bed
In the Night Garden continues the fine tradition of BBC shows that delight children and baffle parents (at least Makka Pakka isn’t as terrifying as Mr. Blobby). But its extraordinary success can be a lesson for anyone producing content.

Marketers looking to follow In the Night Garden’s lead should pick strong visuals, use repetition to build awareness, cater to their target audience, publish consistently, and personalise whenever possible. And use repetition to build awareness. These crucial principles can help your content become a habit for your readers--no Wottingers or Tittifers required.

To learn how to achieve remarkable results with content on LinkedIn and beyond, read The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing.