Saturday, November 21, 2009

American Idol, the Marketing Juggernaut?

One of my favorite topics from January through May is American Idol.  Of course, it is only November, so what is up with this?  I've been thinking about the marketing juggernaut that AI is.  While it advertises itself as a television show, it is really a huge conglomerate of marketing tactics rolled into one nice strategic package.

I've only been watching AI since Season 7 (for you non-watchers that is the 2008 season that started in January.)  That nasty writers strike got me started.  One of the things that is so amazing is how they do such a great job continually creating PR (some good, some bad.)  Even the most jaded AI critic has seen Paula Abdul's gaffs on national television or in the supermarket tabloids.  While you might not be able to name the winners (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or David Cook sound familiar?), most people will at least recognize the names when they hear them.

A research study was done this past year for the four primary sponsors of AI, Coke, Ford, ATT and iTunes.  It found that the company viewers thought fit in the least with the AI brand was Ford.  (Guess the Coke cups sitting on the judges table was a fit.)  Who would want to miss out on those Ford videos?  Anyone remember seeing David Cook in those spandex mariachi pants?  How funny was that?

iTunes also performed their own survey after last season.  A fairly lengthy one that I participated in.  Since I am an iTunes user and they obviously noticed that I purchased songs form AI participants, they asked me to answer a few questions.  For purely research purposes, I chose to give them my personal opinion of their relationship with AI.  It wasn't a short survey either.  They asked a lot of questions relating to AI and whether it made sense for them to be involved with the #1 rated television show (huh?) to whether I thought it was a good idea for them to offer a Kris Allen (season 8 winner) iTunes Pass.  They were very thorough.  Very.

Even though iTunes probably noticed that the were selling a ton of downloads for AI singers, they still asked the questions.  Good for them.  Most businesses think they know their customers, so they don't bother to ask.  It will be interesting to see if in this next AI season, anything offered from iTunes is different.  If so, it may be because yours truly took the time to take their survey.

A few notes about AI.  Paula leaving- we'll see what that does for the show.  At least now we won't have someone announcing the first night of Top 13 that Adam would be the winner.  Elimination rounds for the Top 36-please, no repeat of last year's format.  It was ghastly and painful.  Judges-don't let someone like Megan Joy make it into the Top 36.  What were you thinking?  She made Nick Mitchell/Norman Gentle seem like the next American Idol.  AI-keep up the good work marketing the heck out of your show.  It is a marketing case study to be scrutinized for years to come.

Cindy Neky
Marketing Pathways
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