30 October 2010
For a third of the year, The X Factor grips British television. From bitchy backstage tabloid tales to the domination of the music chart, love it or loathe it, X Factor has an undeniably strong hold on the nation.
Hosting an average 10 million viewers on Saturday and Sunday nights, we’re clearly obsessed by the pomp and puffery of the shows, from Gamu-gate to the quest for best dressed with Dannii vs. Cheryl in the style stakes and of course, the hilarious, sorry, beleaguered stories of how poor / lonely / awful / single mum the contestants lives were before being ‘discovered’ by Simon Cowell and his army of merry men.
But, once you quickly overcome that this television show has never been about music or talent in the traditional sense, everything seems a lot clearer. This is pure entertainment marketing; these contestants aren’t artists or musicians but brands. They are here to be packaged and delivered with aplomb in the marketplace. Mass-market appeal and a clear target market creates an instant fanbase.
With the X Factor franchise set to launch in the United States next year, its presence is only set to grow and your tolerance with it. Embrace it, take it with a pinch, or rather, a ton of salt and you might just enjoy it, but judging by the number of viewers, you probably already are.
20 October 2010
A unique brand positioning simply isn’t enough anymore.
Brands of every calibre, and in every marketplace, are desperately searching for the point of differentiation from their competitors. So many brands claim to have a unique point-of-view, their ‘own way of doing things’, thinking that they have developed a product that changes the game or that they have infiltrated a previously unexplored market.
But, it’s no longer just about the positioning and the product, true differentiation comes from engagement and experience too. How you engage consumers is just as important as how you engage employees at the core of the brand as this influences the whole brand experience.
Delivering a unique positioning, a consistent brand experience and genuine customer and employee engagement, time and time again, is what sets the great from the good.
19 October 2010
Brands and entertainment
If it means bigger budgets and better quality, shouldn’t we welcome product placement with open arms?
The rise of the home TV recorder from providers such as Sky and Virgin in the UK and Dish, HBO and TimeWarner in the US has, for many brands, signalled the death of primetime advertising.
According to Mintel, ‘84% of Americans fast forward through the commercials when they’re watching TV on a digital video recorder.’
This makes advertisers reluctant to pay over the odds for primetime slots, particularly when exposure can no longer be guaranteed when with just one click of the fast forward button all is lost.
This leaves brands with fewer channels of guaranteed exposure making product placement an increasingly more attractive and effective option.
I have been an advocate of product placement for years. I believe if it is carried out thoughtfully, brands can be carefully embedded into a production without sacrificing production value. In fact, product placement doesn’t just help big companies sell more stuff, it has the ability to enhance our viewing experience.
Brands make it real
The cars on our drives, the clothes on our backs and the food in our fridge is all branded. Brands are part of our lives, so why wouldn’t they be part of the characters’ lives we watch in movies and on TV? ABC’s Desperate Housewives has been one of the best examples of product placement in recent years and, to their credit, the writers and advertisers have made it work with the packaging of the show.
The middle class, suburban environment has made for a highly popular television series (now in its seventh season) providing countless opportunities for brands. With families and couples of every age (a street full of almost exclusively ABC1 households) providing a seemingly endless array of marketing possibilities from furniture, automotive, fashion, FMCG right through to wallpaper and paint brands.
The producers and product placers on programmes such as Desperate Housewives have gone to the effort of placing ‘the right car’ with ‘the right character’ and by doing so, have added a sense of realism to the show. Eerily perfect housewife Brie Van De Kamp drives a Lexus Hybrid, Edie Britt (character now deceased) fornicated over many sporty 2 seater convertibles whilst soccer mom Lynette Scavo drives a seven seater Ford Flex, and high-flying businessman Carlos Solis, the new Mercedes E.
In fact, the producers have even picked up elements of brand loyalty. Teri Hatcher’s character, Susan Myer, is on her third Volvo in the show, having driven two previous generation Volvos, and with Volvo North America using the show as the ultimate platform to launch the XC60 crossover SUV with Susan driving up and down Wisteria Lane in a fetching red model before it was even on sale in the US.
In fact, Ford Motor Company has been one of the largest sponsors of the show and has used the Desperate Housewives franchise to flog many of its brands, from Volvo, Aston Martin, Mazda and Ford. Nissan, Toyota and Lexus have been in on the action too.
We mentioned successful (and frighteningly perfect) businesswoman,Brie van de Kamp driving the seemingly perfect (if a little insipid) Lexus LS400 Hybrid. In fact, in Season 5, there was a thorough 38 seconds of footage with Brie regaling to her neighbours the merits of the automatic tailgate.
Bigger budgets, better quality
As studios face ever more limited budgets, the extra investment brought in from brands isn’t just a fleeting temptation, but a real and prevalent requirement. Brands will pay big bucks for exposure and the extra income means producers have increased budgets to play with. In return, we get more ‘real’ and believable characters and increased production value.
Get used to it
Whether you like it or not, brands are going to play a greater role in the interests of entertaining us, whether its traditional product placement or even the shift to total advertiser-funded programming. Provided they know how to enhance our experience rather than detract, it’s time to get on board.