What SMEs can learn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

By The LDN Team | 15 August 2017
What SMEs can learn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy The Vampire Slayer turns 20 years old this year. Aside from killing vampires with the sticks from your walker, what can you learn from the cult show’s success?

More than you might think. The cast and producers of Buffy recently reunited for an anniversary photo shoot with Entertainment Weekly. But the idea didn’t come from Sarah Michelle Gellar’s agent, it came from their loyal fans who, according to director Joss Whedon’s tweet, “asked for this enough times that it actually happened.” 

So why did fans beg for a reunion? Because they have an emotional bond with the show. Buffy defined a generation. That’s not something people forget in a hurry. In fact, since leaving our screens in 2003, this cultural landmark has enjoyed an afterlife through fan fiction, graphic novels, conventions, merchandise, and, naturally, rumours of a Hollywood adaptation. 

So, while it might seem like the unlikeliest place for business inspiration, there are three very important lessons every SME can learn from Buffy:   

Stay true to your core business strategy

For those who were hiding under a rock in the nineties, the series followed vampire-hunter Buffy Summers as she navigated the horrors of Sunnydale High – both real (being the new kid, dating) and not-so-real (half-demons, root monsters). Along with one of the most unique heroines ever seen on screen, Buffy’s success comes down to its unlikely but captivating blend of genres: horror, comedy, teen soap and tragedy. The producers wisely never deviated from this blend – with the exception, perhaps, of the beloved musical episode

Business takeaway: Never underestimate the power of consistency in business. You might have heard the mantra “surprise and delight your customers”, but there are rewards for staying true to core elements, such as your customer service levels, branding, and customer communications. 

Don’t forget your loyal customer base

Over the course of its seven-season run, Buffy garnered one of the most loyal fandoms in television history. And even though the show is long gone, the fans have remained loyal – there’s a massive 1.8 million fans on the official Buffy Facebook page

The show’s cast has rewarded their loyalty – Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played the title role, tweeted a tribute on the show’s anniversary, thanking fans for the continued support. She and the cast regularly attend Comic-Con events, too. The 2017 San Diego Comic-Con even hosted a special “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20 Years of Slaying” fan event with an evening of Buffy-themed giveaways, trivia, and contests.

Business takeaway: It might be tempting to always chase new customers, but it’s important to remember your loyal customers. Retaining loyal customers is not only less expensive than acquiring new ones; they also tend to be brand advocates or “volunteer marketers” who actively share good word of mouth for you. Look at ways to nurture and reward your loyal customer community, such as loyalty cards, VIP programs and events. Focus on building an emotional bond with your customers, so they will cherish your product or service long after its use.


Look around you

When Buffy went off the air (R.I.P), the show became the subject of critical inquiry from a more unlikely fan base: academics. One thing the Buffy studies have focused on is how the show became social commentary. Professor Douglas Kellner from UCLA has written that popular television, like Buffy, does a good job of expressing the subconscious fears and fantasies of a society and provides “access to social problems and issues and hopes and anxieties that are often not articulated in more ‘realist’ cultural forms.”

In other words, the show was able to talk to and engage a whole generation through its wacky storylines. 

Business takeaway: No business exists in a bubble – it’s important to look around you at what your customers and competitors are doing. Is there a new type of drink that all the cafes are selling? Is there a new fitness trend everyone is following? You don’t have to jump on every trend, but keeping an ear to the ground will ensure you remain relevant to your audience. 

Leave your legacy

Buffy moved a whole generation to the extent that they begged for a reunion. How would it feel to have your customers feel like this about your brand? What would that do for your business? Your bottom line? While reaching Buffy status might be a stretch for most small and medium businesses, you should always be working towards your legacy. 

As a final thought, here’s what Gellar said at the photo shoot, “You ultimately hope to do something that resonates. Like what’s your legacy? And I think for all of us here, we have been a part of something that’s bigger than us, that still holds up. It’s all you can ever really hope for I think.” 

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