Lying! Backstabbing! Crunch votes that leave everyone with an overwhelming sense of despair! No, it’s not a cheap political gag – it’s The Traitors, silly. Watercooler manufacturers everywhere are rejoicing, as the dictionary definition of ‘must-watch TV’ returns to our screens.

But are there any lessons that brands can learn from the highly edited highlights of a bunch of strangers having it out in a totally contrived environment? That’s debatable, but this bandwagon won’t jump on itself.

So throw on a cloak, light a torch, and fire up your favourite playlist of moody, slowed down covers of songs you vaguely remember, and let’s do this.

*Spoiler alert: all of this in-depth analysis is based on the first nine episodes. So consider yourself warned if you haven’t seen them yet.*

First impressions count

The initial couple of days is the bit of the show where the passive-aggressive protestations of “I’m just looking at the facts, mate” ring especially hollow. At this point in proceedings, everyone’s going Full Salem, throwing around accusations with absolutely nothing to back them up.

It’s here that how you first come across plays the biggest role. Warm and friendly does wonders, whereas appearing cold or aloof risks you getting voted out for being sus. (This, despite the fact that the showrunners aren’t going to pick people who are obviously shady.)

So, as you might have guessed from the sub-header: first impressions make a big difference. Let’s semi-awkwardly lift up our cultural hood to reveal our business face – what’s the lesson here?

Well, you may have the world’s best product or service, but if your branding is any variety of off-putting, people probably won’t even give you a chance. From a visual identity that pops, to a tone of voice that literally speaks their language, you want to be noticed right away, in a good way.

Be consistently consistent

Right, you’ve made it through the heady early days of the programme. You’ve banked plenty of cash, but also lost several of your fellow faithfuls to midnight murders and some hilariously overconfident votes. How do you go about turning the tables on those traitors?

The trick (apparently) is to spot any inconsistencies. This is what did it for Anthony, who went from smiley and enthusiastic on the train ride into Scotland, to looking like he was permanently scowling (according to the footage we were shown, anyway).

The same thing can worry your customers. Let’s take tone of voice again. Maybe your homepage is full of sparkling copy and witty wordplay. But dig a little deeper, and suddenly you’re buried knee-deep in stodgy jargon and deathless blocks of text. Call this the ‘two-click test’ – how many clicks would it take for this to happen on your website?

Serious doesn’t have to mean formal

Of course, it’s not always easy to maintain a distinct style – especially when you’re under pressure. A perfect example of this is when the contestants find themselves sitting around the best round table since King Arthur.

When it’s voting time, everyone ramps up the formality. Nowhere is this more evident than with Harry, the happy-go-lucky monster who normally gives off nineties boyband vibes. At the round table though, it’s suddenly all “yourself” this and “myself” that – the kind of language you might expect to hear if he was on trial in an actual court. It’s almost as if he’s trying to cover up his crimes by appearing more serious than he normally is.

Companies do this too. We see this a lot when it comes to customer complaints. When something goes wrong, people often write using really formal terms so you know they’re not messing about. And because complaints teams are sometimes told to “mirror” customers, they end up switching to super formal too.

The problem is that both parties now feel the need to keep matching – if not ramping up – that formality. It’s like an arms race, and the result of this conversational Cuban Missile Crisis is that it’s now incredibly difficult to sound honest or empathetic. Remember: customers only write that way because they want you to take them seriously. But you can do that without reaching for the thesaurus.

100% faithful (to defining and aligning your brand)

Want to make sure your brand gives a great first impression? Need it to be consistent across every single customer touchpoint? Convinced the American version of The Traitors is better than the UK one?

Let’s talk about it (apart from that third point obviously, let’s not waste each other’s time).


Written by Chris Lawes, senior writer at Definition