April 2, 2018
What Marketers Can Learn From The 'Roseanne' Reboot
James G. Brooks

There have been several reboots of old media properties, including Will & Grace, Full House, and The X-Files, but none have made as big a splash as Roseanne’s reboot.

The show’s premiere drew 17.7 million viewers and, although the new show’s laugh track and zingers may feel a bit out of sync with the times, the show is clearly connecting with the Zeitgeist in a way that the other reboots haven’t. In a time when shows have little hope of drawing the type of audiences that 1980s sitcoms did, Roseanne’s premiere got 10% more people to tune in than its finale 20 years ago.

Roseanne’s success is based on a message of inclusion and honesty that is being welcomed by viewers. Here are four lessons that marketers can learn from Roseanne:

  1. Engage the other side of the debate. Roseanne Barr famously voted for Trump and admitted it, which makes her a rarity in Hollywood. But the show doesn’t appear to be an attempt to win over viewers to one viewpoint or another. Instead, it merely depicts a point of view we don’t see much in media these days: A working class person in fly-over America. In the show, Roseanne Conner’s primary concern is keeping a roof over her head. Meanwhile, her Democratic-leaning sister, Jackie, isn’t presented as a foil but as someone who merely has different views.

  2. Be genuinely inclusive.A lot has changed in 30 years since the show debuted. One of Roseanne’s grandchildren is experimenting with wearing skirts and another is African-American. None of this is presented as shocking because it isn’t anymore.

  3. Feature real people with real struggles. Most brands strive to be aspirational, but for many consumers that just makes them unrealistic. It’s refreshing to see out-of-shape and imperfect-looking people on TV who are grappling with real-world issues. It would be nice to see more of them in ads.

  4. Pay attention to people over 35. The lead characters in Roseanne are both 65. People that age aren’t on TV much and aren’t in advertising much either, even though some 76 million people belong to the Boomer generation (aged 54 to 72).

What’s working about Roseanne is that it’s merely trying to depict real life in 2018. A surprising amount of TV shows and marketing messaging are not. That’s why by merely committing to a warts-and-all portrayal, Roseanne not only stands out, but connects to a cross-section of America in a way that nothing else does right now.

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