Friday, May 28, 2010

Has This Season of American Idol Hurt Their Brand?

Do you watch Reality television shows? Normally I'm not much of a fan. Somehow I can't get excited about watching someone sitting in a house with a bunch of other people doing nothing. It's also difficult for me to have any interest in those willing to eat some foreign object or insect that isn't supposed to be eaten, at least by normal people.

But I do have an interest in American Idol. OK, I know, what's the point? The process of picking a singer from over 100,000 to receive a million dollar music contract intrigues me. It's the American Dream to achieve success. Plus, it is one of the few shows that, most of the time, is suitable for an entire family to watch. (Even that is becoming questionable after seeing Lady Gaga's last visit.)

More than anything, I marvel at the American Idol Marketing Machine. Their brand is everywhere and singers from all walks of life want to be on their stage to promote themselves or their next single. Ford, ATT and Coke evidently have had success sponsoring the show because they come back every year.

This year, a paint salesman from Mt. Prospect, IL won the show. Whether you like him or not, or even know who he is, your chances of seeing him on one of the news channels (or daytime talk shows, if you are into that) is high.

This year's crop of singers is arguably the weakest bunch they have had in the 9 years the show has been on the air. The question is, how much will this hurt the American Idol brand? Will it diminish the value to its advertisers or will the brand itself be OK?

Your brand and your achievements are tied together. If your company provides lackluster service or a faulty product, no amount of advertising or publicity is going to overcome that problem. While there is some truth to the adage that "Any press is good press," that doesn't apply well to businesses that are selling a product or service. Bad press is bad for business.
Even with dwindling viewership, American Idol is a formidable foe for other TV shows. They still command attention and usually win their time slot and more.

What can we learn from American Idol? They not only see themselves as a business that supplies an interesting (at least to some of us) hour or so of entertainment, but also a marketing company. Each and every week their publicity and marketing staff is getting out the word about who is doing what on the show.

American Idol doesn't see itself as an entertainment show. It sees its purpose as marketing to create more interest and viewers, which in turn creates revenue. They do whatever it takes.
How will they handle this less-than-captivating season remains to be seen. If they don't address their problems, being a marketing company isn't going to make a difference. The brand will be harmed.

We can learn a lesson from American Idol, though. Remember that while our product or service may be widgets or repairs, in the end, we are all marketing companies. To forget that puts us in peril of an early demise. Or maybe even getting "voted off" the list of successful businesses.

Happy Marketing!


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