In case you haven’t heard, royalty attended the recent state dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron. The Earl of Grantham and his wife joined President Obama.

Before you strain reviewing the royal bloodlines, let me assure you of the imaginary nature of this technically extinct title and reveal that the diners were actually actors Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern of the PBS series Downton Abbey. However fictional the characters and titles may be, their effect remains quite real to global television audiences.

The second-season premiere of Downton Abbey this year attracted 4.2 million U.S. viewers –– and rose to 6.3 million in replays and online views. This bests regular viewing of the brand monster Mad Men, and remember, we’re talking about public television and the best numbers for Masterpiece (formerly Masterpiece Theatre) in 17 years. Fashion lines, fan pages and countless search engine hits later, brand phenomenon is an understatement.

But from the marketing perspective, this cultural wildfire attracts more attention for what it accomplishes off the air. Here’s a few ways you can incorporate some royally respected marketing into your brand.

Mind the Gap

In the sometimes damning time between television seasons, this series kept the social media airwaves solidly filled by trickling out behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, updates and even aired the first 10 minutes of the second-season premiere on Facebook a month prior to the series return. In two weeks, the preview received 100,000 views. You may face distinct sales cycles, but using 24/7/365 media correctly helps reduce dips in your momentum.

Take Advantage of Unexpected Audiences

When you think Masterpiece fans, Katy Perry, Reba McEntire and Seth Myers probably don’t jump to mind … and that’s a good thing for Downton Abbey. These beyond-the-usual-suspect fans took to social media to share their appreciation, and the series was all too eager to pass along the praise. While your external efforts often focus on your defined market, jump on opportunities to broaden exposure of diverse followers — as long as they don’t dilute your core brand properties.

Treat Loyalty Like Royalty

This show brought 500 devoted (and tweeting and posting) fans to a season premiere in December with the actors. Sure, fan events and loyalty programs occur all the time. However, can you say your brand feeds the desires of your loyal subjects, or do you simply toss them a coupon from time to time? Not sure what they really want? Then it’s time to re-explore your target’s core motivations.

Even if historical dramas make you snooze, you can’t overlook the success of this trendy gem. Unlikely brands become popular for a reason. If you ignore their finest strategies, you could doom your marketing to repeat itself.



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