Lessons From The Dowager On 'Downton Abbey'

Hands up! Who is addicted to “Downton Abbey”? This colorful drama filled with priceless characters has taken the nation captive via PBS’s Masterpiece franchise. I’m hooked. And like most viewers, I find Maggie Smith’s portrayal of Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham (a.k.a. Lady Grantham) simply delightful and unforgettable.

As a marketer, I can’t help but equate her with a successful brand. She is consistent in her acidic one-liners and distaste for Americans, and — above all — makes no apologies for who she is. We should all make note of her ability to continually deliver and never disappoint.

One of my favorite zingers of hers ended this fabulous exchange:

Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”



Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”

Lady Grantham: “I must have said it wrong.”

Oh, Violet. You are a gem. So, besides being amused by her persistent quips, we can view her with a marketer’s lens and try to emulate these qualities:

  • Consistency: Lady Grantham never wavers in appearance, speech, attitude and opinion; your marketing campaigns and key messaging efforts should have such solid uniformity. Absolut vodka ran one of the most consistent, successful and creative campaigns of all time — be inspired by such stringent dedication. Don’t change for change’s sake.

  • Humor: Violet is funny. Laughter is good medicine (even if it’s fake), helping to improve productivity and relieve stress. So when volunteers and staff have fun while working to promote your organization’s mission, the overall results will be better. And sometimes humor helps promote a cause or charity event — if appropriate.

  • Tone: The Dowager’s one-of-a-kind personality is felt with every word, glance and movement. The content you create should have a tone that reflects your organization’s personality and mission. Good storytelling inspires donors to give and volunteers to serve: Here are some tips from the experts.

  • Leadership: Lady Grantham is as sturdy as a stone wall in the castle; a true matriarch in the best sense. She is always available, ready to provide (sometimes unsolicited) advice or solutions to her pack of aristocrats. People respond favorably to strong leadership and solid decision-making. Here is some good advice for would-be cause marketing leaders: How to Develop Yourself as a Nonprofit Leader.

For those of you already engrossed in “Downton Abbey” Season 3, the Dowager continues to please. Let’s hope we, as marketers, can do the same in 2013 and beyond.

1 comment about "Lessons From The Dowager On 'Downton Abbey'".
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  1. Erika Kotite from Kotite Media Group LLC, January 24, 2013 at 12:38 p.m.

    Wow--great analogy. I love Downton Abbey and Maggie Smith/Lady Grantham is a huge part of that love. What would she say to being cast as the representative of a good marketing campaign? ha ha You've made some excellent points especially about keeping things consistent, humorous and always, always interesting.

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