6 Storytelling and Content Marketing Lessons from the Porn Industry (Mostly Safe For Work)

It won’t come as a surprise that porn itself is not big on story(-telling). What may surprise some is that the porn industries marketing departments are! Let’s examine what the marketers of Pornhub, one of the biggest porn streaming sites on the web have come up with.

Porn sites have a big problem: They are running video sites, but can’t share their video through social media. Why? Simply because social media companies wouldn’t let them.

Imagine a Facebook feed that would consist of 30% porn (that’s almost 1 in 3 posts). Don’t believe that it would be like that? Well, according to this article on ExtremeTech, 30% is the percentage of worldwide web traffic caused by porn sites. (That article is from 2012 and I don’t see any reason to believe that this number has decreased… quite the contrary!)

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SEO is also hard to do – who wants to link to pornographic sites?

There are 2 conclusions to be drawn from this number:

  1. Porn sites have a problem: They are content sites that cannot rely on modern marketing strategies like social media marketing to distribute their content directly and are therefore at a disadvantage in the modern age.
  2. Given the extreme traffic numbers, the above doesn’t seem to matter.

How the f… do they do that?

One obvious answer is: They provide a product that people want, maybe even need. That answer is taking the easy way out: It does come into play – but porn sites managed to be recognized by everyone on the web without having direct access to social media or search engine traffic. Do you believe that Buzzfeed, Upworthy or the Huffington Post could have achieved the same feat?

Probably not.

Sidenote: The point of this article is to analyze the marketing strategies by one of the most popular porn sites out there: Pornhub. If you expect pictures: Yes, there will be some graphs, but no pornographic content will be shown. No dick-pics and no bare tits. I’ll even try to keep the pun density low. Sorry guys – it’s not that kind of blog here.

What’s Pornhub?

So, this article will take one particular site, and it’s marketing strategy as an example: Pornhub (Absolutely NSFW).

Do I really need to answer the question what Pornhub is? Ok, so in case you’ve been living under a rock…

Pornhub was founded in Canada during the first boom of free porn sites that started with the rise of YouPorn in 2006. Pornhub itself was founded in early 2007. It was in the top 3 porn sites by 2009 (today it probably holds the top spot) and by 2010, it was bought by mindgeek. (Read more on Wikipedia)

With the amount of competition in the online porn space, holding a top spot in popularity is no small feat – especially with the marketing limitations in their space.

This means they must have found a way to get around those limitations. And they heavily rely on advanced storytelling for achieving this.

Here are 6 storytelling lessons from Pornhub:

1. Everything Can Be A Story

Pornhub HourlyWhile Pornhub cannot push their main content directly onto social sites or create referral traffic via having it linked in popular posts on media outlets, they are masters in creating stories that can and will be published by major outlets.

For Pornhub, everything is a possible story – for instance, their “Year in Review 2015” is a collection of totally safe for work stats and infographics around porn consumption on their site. Like the one on the right. So now we know at which time of day people around the world watch the most porn.

Why is that important?

Because Pornhub doesn’t talk about it’s product directly. There is no point in promising the best porn – too many porn sites are already doing that (and I am unclear about the meaning of “best” porn anyway, too many different preferences within the target audience). Pornhub talks about stats here, and stats tell the story of Pornhub, and it’s users. And last but not least: Media loves stats.

Pornhub publishes statistics like these on their insights section. That section is their entirely safe for work blog. Stories include everything from searches for “Redheads” – to very… specific coverage of the republican and democratic party conventions in the US. It’s a magnificent source for great storytelling, and I will reference it in this post more below.

What you should learn:

The takeaway here is: Learn to create stories around your product. What’s your product, how are people using it. Discover new angles: If you invented a new toilet – hell, even people literally flushing their crap can be a story. Learn to see those stories around your business – and tell them to the people.

2. Have a Deeper Meaning in Your Story

When I say deeper meaning, then I don’t mean that it needs to have sophisticated or philosophical elements.

(I also don’t mean it in the way you hear women moan “deeper” in certain clips… you perv.)

I mean that you need an overall story arc. Something you want your overall story to represent.

In the case of Pornhub, the overall storyline that I see is: “Porn is becoming mainstream – and we are the mainstream site for your needs.”

Pornhub’s marketing works on many different levels, and this underlying message shows through in every single one of them: From amazing PR work that gets them regular mentions on high profile blogs and magazines like Mashable or the Huffington Post, to regular television commercials like the following two, which are totally safe for work (and showcase old people):

What you should learn:

Great storytelling is not just made out of loads of great stories. You are not trying to create a collection of short stories. You are trying to create a novel – and you want every chapter to catch and keep the attention of your readers.

Figure out where your story is going – figure out your overall storyarc.

3. Hypejacking Is the new Newsjacking

You’ve seen newsjacking, right? If not, Newsjacking is when you hijack current news for your own marketing purposes, gaining you instant exposure.

A great example of this is Oreo’s tweet about a power outage during the Super Bowl 2013:

 

Needless to say: That tweet went viral.

Also needless to say: A lot of things had to fall into place so this marketing stunt was possible for Oreo. You cannot plan a power outage at the super bowl. When it comes you need to react quickly. The tweet text has to be right. The image has to fit.

And in the end it has to go viral – which isn’t at all certain when you hit “Publish.”

While it is possible to turn Newsjacking into a strategy – it will always be an uncertain strategy. You can only make assumption about news,

Pornhub has upped the ante for Newsjacking and turned it into… Hypejacking (for lack of a different word). Pornhub tracks current ongoing hypes and produces marketable content around that. Here are a few examples:

Whatever you think about Donald Trump’s campaign, you cannot deny he is all over the news. And has been for months. Pornhub can make use of that. Again, the original source for this marketing genius is Pornhub’s blog.

There are more stats about this, released by Pornhub in an “Insights” post. This lead to several high-profile write-ups in the media, like this one on Mashable.

If you believe this is a chance hit, here are some more Hypejacking examples, let’s start with the fitness app hype. Did you know Pornhub has it’s own fitness app? Well, then you should visit http://bang.fit, which allows you to train and get fit through… well, sexual activity.

Or, if renewable energies are your thing, have a look at the wankband – which allows you to generate and save electricity while… masturbating.

Ok, maybe those last two aren’t actual products yet – at least not anything you’d use on a daily basis. But they are stories based on current hypes. And they sell well to the media.

One more – because I just couldn’t resist: Into Pokemon? Here are some stats on searches for “Pokemon Porn” (don’t ask me what that even means…).

Learn how to use social media to drive traffic, leads and customers – without a marketing budget: “The Social Traffic Code!”

traffic-code

What you should learn

Can you do this too? Sure you can. Learn to see the trends, the hypes that are currently gripping the world. Here are a few examples I could do on this blog:

  • I could analyze Donald Trumps and Hillary Clintons social media strategies
  • I could use one of Apple’s upcoming events to write an article about their marketing strategies – or compare it to one of their competitor’s strategies like I did in this post.

But keep one thing in mind: It’s about the trends that your audience is interested in – or at least aware of. Pornhub has an easier time here, as they have a target audience that consists of almost everyone.

4. Make Story Creation it’s Own Story

Back in 2014, Pornhub created a competition for an SFW ad campaign. Not just that – the winner would become Pornhub’s new creative director. And everyone could participate. What an amazing story.

Not only were the results amazing, but so was the media coverage and the public interest.

Advertising contests are nothing new – but when a huge community that used to believe that hiding their common interest suddenly is allowed to vote on how it will be represented in the public, you’ve got a hit.

Here are some of the finalists of said competition:

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And here you can find the rest of the finalist.

What to learn

Sure, you won’t have the same resources as Pornhub to run competitions like these. And no one will care. But there are things you could do or try. Collaborate with a competitor on a campaign for instance – and tell that story. Invite someone to tell his story on your blog.

There are always opportunities.

5. Do Some Good! (And make sure people notice…)

If your company is in the porn industry, you probably don’t have the best reputation. Sure, it seems everybody is … using your product these days, but, at the same time, a lot of bad traits are associated with your company.

So if you want to get a more positive public perception of your company, you have to do some good.

But doing good is something that is easier said than done, because it also needs to show that you are doing good because you want to – not because your PR department said you have to.

Pornhub understands this – and does a great job: Like everything else, they do good while still telling a great story. They used the slogans “Pornhub cares” and “Save the Boobs” to create awareness for breast cancer while donating money to charities active in that field.

That some of the charities didn’t want their money just added to their storytelling.

What you should learn

Sure – you won’t be able to give 1000s or more to charities – but doing good isn’t always related to money. Run a local cafe? Give some free coffee to homeless people for instance – or even better, run a program that allows your customers to do it for you.

Make it your story.

6. Let Others Tell Your Story

Content Marketing: Click the pin to find out why porn sites are absolute geniuses when it comes to marketing. | Content Marketing | Storytelling Marketing | Porn Industry Marketing Pornhub has a way of telling stories that get picked up by major online outlets, whether they go viral on 9Gag or have their Bang.Fit App promoted on Mashable.

I mean that the overall strategy is connected through one key element:

Having the media tell your story instead of having to tell your story to the media.

By coming up with a lot of small pieces of the puzzle all the time, small pieces of the overall story arc that media sites love to suck up and publish (because: hey – it’s porn and it drives clicks), Pornhub achieves something extraordinary: The media will tell their story for them – and they don’t even have to put in a lot of work other than what they are already doing. They publish their creative stories, and the media will pick them up and spread them.

What you should learn

Good storytelling that is promoted in the right way will get picked up by the media. Bringing porn to the eyes and ears of sexually frustrated teenagers is not Pornhub’s story and it wouldn’t be a great story. So Pornhub found stories that sell well to the media.

And most likely, you and your business can too!

Final Words

There is a lot of storytelling wisdom coming from companies like Pornhub. Not just porn companies – companies that need to get creative with their marketing because they are not allowed or able to talk about their product directly.

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Don’t be quick to dismiss their strategies because they are active in a segment that is perceived as shady. Instead, analyze and learn – they might just have discovered the key element that can take your marketing to new heights.

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