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The Man in the High Castle and Catering to Your Audience

The Man in the High Castle has been a smash hit for Amazon Studios, and some of us at SLS Consulting really enjoyed the online series in our off hours. For SLS Book Club, what could have been a better choice than the 1962 novel the show is based on? It satisfied the purists who insist “the book is always better!”

Turns out, the show doesn’t have that much in common with the original book. But…we don’t think the show was worse.

That brings us to lesson three of Marketing Lessons from Book Club: sometimes, you have to edit the “original” to reach a wider audience.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick is a dystopian re-imagining of what would have happened if Germany and Japan had won WWII and carved up the globe for themselves. In the U.S., slavery is still legal, Chinese and Jewish people are second-class citizens, and the ancient fortune-telling text of the I Ching is consulted for the simplest questions. (Why? This strange device is introduced without disclaimer in the novel, but a little research reveals that the author himself was a fanatical user.)

The book is meandering, philosophical, and contains only one or two action scenes. Multiple third-person characters spend most of their “screen time” questioning the state of how things are, and wondering how things might have been different in another reality…

In other words, if Amazon’s producers had followed the original novel exactly, they would have had a slow, ponderous story that asked watchers almost unanswerable questions while offering little entertainment in return. Now, that would have been fine if they were marketing it as an esoteric art film for well-read sci-fi/history buffs. But they wanted anyone (over a certain age) to be able to enjoy this classic story. So Amazon kept the original premise—that Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won the war—and remixed elements to give the characters more backstory, clear motivations, and a compelling mystery to solve in the midst of spy-action danger.

Sometimes, the show is “better” than the book!

To put it in legal marketing terms, if you want to reach a wider audience, you have to cut down on the legalese and just talk to people visiting your website as if they’re sitting in a chair across from you. At SLS, we always stress the importance of this conversational tone—it’s warm, reassuring, brings you down to clients’ level, and convinces them you can be trusted.

While we do want our law-firm clients to be authentic and find their unique voice, we don’t want them to lose sight of who they’re talking to. The people who visit your firm’s website aren’t lawyers, for the most part. They aren’t interested in the exact statutes you’ve researched. They aren’t impressed by technical legal phrasing. The firm’s every award doesn’t matter to them. They won’t applaud your subtle yet exacting word choices.

They just want to hear that a real person can help them; that you’ve done this before; that you can do it again.

Sharing your firm’s case results is a great way to do this. The SLS Consulting team has found that users click on “results” more than almost any other page on a legal website. The more personal you can make these case results, the better. Listing “$1 million settlement – car accident” is fine—but you could make it so much more enticing and relatable for your audience. Here’s an example:

“Dan G. was driving home after work when he was T-boned by a drunk driver going nearly 70 mph. Dan’s leg was broken in three places, and he suffered a serious concussion. After weeks in the hospital, he called after realizing that his insurance company wouldn’t fight for better coverage for his injuries. We hustled over to the hospital that very night, and took Dan’s case from there. In the end, we negotiated a $1 million settlement that covered all his injuries.”

Throughout The Man in the High Castle, several characters read a “fictional” book proposing an alternate reality in which the U.S. actually won WWII. In the end, one character actually gets to meet the author of this book: the long-awaited man in the High Castle, his fortress home. Does he have all the answers? No. But he’s a real person, and he’s there to be found.

You are the author of your marketing campaign. Make sure you’re communicating with a wider audience while staying true to your firm’s unique voice!

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