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Say What? There is a New American Idol in Town?

I was always an avid viewer of American Idol ' I watched every season from Kelly Clarkson to Lee DeWyze. But with each passing season, I felt American Idol lost some its charm; while the performance themes and contestants were always different, the show's format had become so predictable. It seemed as if the rest of America had a similar outlook, as the show experienced a steady decline in viewership starting in Season 6 through Season 9. When Season 10 debuted in January, I had no interest in tuning in and I didn't. But recently, my interest in American Idol peaked. So, I started thinking about why. There has been a lot of buzz on the web through social media communities about American Idol's reinvention ' starting with fresh program content to a new judging panel. In addition to all the positive commentary on blog sites, my friends and family have been preaching how the show is much better than previous seasons. Based on everything I have been reading and hearing, I decided that this week, I will be giving American Idol another chance to reel me back in. We hear all the time how powerful social media and word of mouth marketing are. As marketers, we know this is no joke. The impact of today's empowered social media consumer is game-changing. Consumer opinion is in demand, and we listen, trust, and value other consumers' feedback more than ever. Consumer conversation has the power to influence the success of a brand, as well as the failure of one. In addition, recommendations from our most trusted sources of information, friends and family, carry incredible weight. It is important that brands are visible on social media communities and leverage word of mouth marketing, as consumers have the power to evolve brands. While American Idol is a TV show, it is a brand. If I had not read other consumer's opinions about this season or heard such positive feedback from my friends and family, I would not be tuning in this week. But now, because of everything I did hear, I will be. With that said, AI, let's see what you got.

You're Invited

The Oscars is a night for glitz and glam. Celebrities grace the red carpet in their most exquisite outfits and the iconic statues are presented to the most deserving actors. While the Academy Awards is the second most-watched TV event after the Super Bowl, the broadcast's median age is 50 years old ' much older than television's coveted 18-34 year old target. In an effort to capture a younger audience, this year's Oscars is getting a makeover. The 2011 Oscars will be all about accessibility. The goal is to make viewers feel like they are a part of the action. The Oscar's 'You're Invited'? campaign involves new print, digital, and outdoor marketing efforts. The strategy will allow viewers to experience the red carpet, virtually, through interactive storefront installations in New York City and for the first time, will offer behind-the-scenes footage with live streaming of all-access coverage on Oscar.com. That's right, you (yeah, YOU), will be able to follow your favorite actor or actress from the red carpet, to the stage, to the control room, and finally, to the press room where they will get more time for additional thank-yous.  Move over Access Hollywood, there's a new dog in town that can give viewers even more behind the scenes footage. In other efforts to make the award show more appealing to a younger demographic, the show will have new co-hosts, Anne Hathaway (28 years old) and James Franco (32 years old), both being more relevant to the target than past hosts, like Billy Crystal or Steve Martin. While the 'You're Invited'? campaign is a new approach for the Oscars, it is an example of how a brand will evolve to cater to a specific target. I think this new strategy will be instrumental in helping boost the Oscars' appeal among the 18-34 year old target for several reasons. 'You're Invited'? gives the Millennial target more of what they want. Let's be honest, Millennials are drawn to celebrities like bees are to honey. They read US Weekly and they visit Perez Hilton and TMZ for their daily dose of gossip - some more openly than others (you know who you are). Millennials CRAVE personal and intimate details about celebrities and tend to gravitate towards those channels that will give them a further glimpse of celebrity life. The Oscars' new live streaming strategy will require some multi-tasking on the viewers' part, which fits perfectly with the Millennial generation. Interacting with multiple forms of media is a piece of cake to this generation. For them, watching TV isn't complete without a laptop and cell phone in hand. Having co-hosts that are more target-relevant will be a draw to this younger audience. Don't get me wrong, Billy Crystal and Steve Martin are iconic figures in Hollywood, but they are no James Franco. Millennials have seen the new co-hosting pair in more movies than the former pair. Spiderman or City Slickers anyone? I can let you all know now that come February 27th at 8:00pm, I will be sitting in front of my TV, with my laptop by my side, watching my favorite celebrities grace both screens. All I have to say is Oscar winners, try to avoid doing anything embarrassing, because I'll be watching.

Branching Out to Cereal Boxes

As I was reading my daily dose of Ad Week, I came across an article titled 'Kellogg, 'Lucky' Try On-Box Video Codes.'? The headline immediately caught my attention, mostly because Lucky is my all-time favorite fashion magazine. Lucky teamed up with Kellogg's to put a QR code on Special K cereal boxes. Consumers can take a photo of the code with their smartphone and then launch a video that shows Lucky editors revealing tips on how to find the most figure-flattering jeans. In my opinion, the partnership with Lucky and Special K is a seamless fit (no pun intended). Based on statistics from 2009 Doublebase Media Research Intelligence, the Special K consumer is more likely than other women her age to consider herself fashion-forward and rely on magazines to keep her up-to-date on trends and styles. Special K consumers are likely to be interested in Lucky Magazine, especially if they are not already aware of the publication. This partnership should increase awareness of Lucky Magazine among the magazine's target consumer as well as drive magazine subscriptions. It seems like a no-brainer, but when two brands partner, there should be a common thread: the target consumer. This isn't always the case though, and it is those instances where partnerships fail. Brands should choose partners that can help leverage their key brand equities and strengths. Only time will tell whether this Lucky/Special K partnership will increase magazine subscriptions, but Lucky is definitely on the right track.

I Gotta Feeling

The Black Eyed Peas are in the midst of their World Tour 2010 and they are really bringing the crowd to its feet. While the group is singing favorites, like 'I Gotta Feeling,'? 'Imme Be,'? and 'Boom Boom Pow,'? the show includes a solo performance from each of the group members. So far, Will.i.am's act is generating a lot of buzz on blogs as well as with radio show hosts. At the show, Will.i.am is asking the crowd to send text messages to a short code, and as they come through on a big screen he freestyle raps, using the messages from the crowd as an inspiration. This is a great tactic to encourage audience participation and make it a memorable and personal experience for them. It is also a great strategy to leave them talking about the show long after it was over. Even though the Black Eyed Peas is not what you would typically consider a 'brand'? per se, Will.i.am's unique and relevant act is an engaging way to involve his fans - the 'consumers.'? In order for a brand to be successful and remain top of mind, they need to create personal experiences for their target audience. If done correctly, your brand might very well be the talk of the town.

Asking that Simple Question

Little kids have it down pat ' they are the ones that constantly ask the one question that carries so much weight and can shed light to the answers that we seek. I'll give you a hint; it's only one word. No, its not 'how,'? although that's a close second. If you guessed 'why?'? then you are right on point. In my line of work, that question is key to uncovering findings that are instrumental to business and to success. For me, 'why'? is that one question that ultimately gets you the answers you are looking for. I have always been interested in and curious about human nature 'what really makes people tick, what influences people to make certain decisions, what makes them choose one brand over another. The questions are endless for me. It is the 'whys'? in life that inspired me to pursue my career. You are probably wondering what it is that I do. I am a detective. Well not literally, but my job revolves around getting to the bottom of things and really understanding people. As a Planner with the Consumer Insights team here at AMP, we are constantly trying to understand people's behaviors, feelings and actions. These insights are the key to the effective brand strategies from which winning campaigns are built upon. We talk to the consumers ' that's right, we go straight up to the source and ask them 'why'?. We listen to what the consumers want, how they feel, and what speaks to them, to get the answers our clients are looking for. This knowledge can go a long way and is extremely beneficial. When a campaign talks to the consumer, instead of 'at'? them, an emotional connection is created. Consumers feel valued, appreciated and understood. With this connection, your brand will build loyalty and more than likely, consumers will spread the word about your product. I truly believe that consumers are your best advertisers. As many would expect, human nature is not always easily readable, unless you dig deeper and ask questions. So next time, you stumble across something interesting or compelling, make sure you ask 'why'? cause you never know what you'll find out. It could be so inspirational that it might very well land you that next big break.

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