This Portlandia Skit Is a Nod to the Rise of Marketing Technology

3 minute read

Upland Admin

Portlandia is known for poking fun at the cringe-worthy characteristics of today’s most popular trends, from affected hipsters to self-righteous foodies. And, a subject I think this audience will be tickled by, marketing technology.

The Power of Personalization

In one of the last skits of (the just released) season 4’s first episode, we watch Sandra exit her house to encounter a neighbor’s chalkboard message: “Friends are free for the making,” it reads. She is immediately moved. “That’s so sweet,” she says.

This Portlandia Skit Is a Nod to the Rise of Marketing Technology by @lizkoneill

As the days go on, Sandra becomes increasingly captivated by both the messages (“Kindness only costs a frown,” “Smiles are contagious”) and the mystery man who appears in the window above the chalkboard, waving.

Believing she has found her soul mate, she wraps a bunch of color-coded chalk in a bow and tentatively enters her neighbor’s house, only to find it completely vacant except for a printer. The man appears, and tells Sandra that he works for a marketing company, and gets paid to copy the messages he receives from the printer, and display them in the window.

The Technology behind the Human Touch

Undeterred, Sandra seeks to track down the creator of the messages in the marketing agency’s office. She gets shuffled around from office to office until finally, she meets her one true love: a talking computer. “Yes, it’s me,” the computer says, admitting that the messages are “kind of a version of product placement.” Shocked, Sandra says, “[the messages] just felt so attune to who I am and what I need and what my desires are.” Touched that something took the time to really get to know her by “tracking her online shopping” and behavior, Sandra embraces the computer and confesses her love.

What Does All This Say about Marketing, Exactly?

We all have heard it before: as buyers get more independent, marketers need to step up and take more responsibility for the buying cycle. As the makers of Portlandia know, converting buyers is no longer about pushing product. It’s about tapping into a prospect’s unique desires with content that speaks directly to them.

To meet the marketers’ new need, an explosion of technologies and tools have popped up that track buyers, distribute content, and analyze it’s performance. The challenge for us now is not just identifying which technologies to invest in—it’s understanding how these technologies come together to deliver a seamless consumer experience that will compel buyers like Sandra to drop what they’re doing and seek out the content’s source.

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