What I’ve Learned from ‘Dancing With the Stars…’

21 Nov

… And how I think it’s applicable to advertising.

Love her or hate her, Bristol Palin is a force to be reckoned with on Dancing With the Stars.  She’s managed to stay on the show while much better dancers have been sent home, and the tabloids/entertainment tv only seem to be able to talk about her and Jennifer Grey.  She’s become the ‘face’ of Dancing With the Stars.

Why? Don’t a lot of people hate her/her association with extreme tea-party politics/her family?

Yes, but for as many people who dislike her/her family’s politics, that many people also love her.  She’s a polarizing figure, and that polarization has created an extremely loyal fan base.   And the fan base, not the dancing, is the most important aspect to the show- because its the votes that will get you through to the next round.   The strongest evidence to this fact?  Brandy, arguably one of the best dancers on the show, was sent home last week.  Brandy may have been the better dancer, but there was no real reason to love or hate her- so no real reason to become emotionally connected to her and vote for her.

Lesson learned: Extremity and polarization aren’t necessarily bad things.  True, you may not please the masses, but the people you do please sure do love you. They’re emotionally connected to you or your brand and become your biggest advocates.   (Bristol’s voters)

How does this apply to advertising?  I think extremity in advertising is the future of advertising- focus messaging on the people most likely to buy your product, and forget about reaching the masses.   The traditional thought with advertising is that the more people you’re able to reach, the better.  But to reach this  wide audience, you often have to dilute your message so it appeals to the majority/doesn’t offend anyone… and you end up with some pretty ‘vanilla’ messaging.   And ‘vanilla’ messaging doesn’t really create brand advocates.

What if advertisers instead chose to hyper-target and go after the people most likely to purchase their product?  You’ll lose some reach, but then again, you’ll lose some waste, too.   Research is improving every day and we’re getting better and better at being able to define an exact target consumer- we have a pretty good idea of how old consumers are, what their income levels are, what their beliefs are, where they live, and even where they shop.  If advertisers took the time to really research their consumers and find out who their biggest fans were and the people most likely to buy the bulk of their product, they could laser focus their messaging on this ‘extreme’ niche audience rather than the ‘vanilla’ masses.

Sure, this could lead to a little controversy and polarization.  But controversy makes headlines and makes people talk- my thought is, if you’re not doing something unethical, morally reprehensible, or against the law, controversy isn’t a bad thing.  Going back to the Bristol Palin analogy– controversy and polarization has only equaled success for her so far and further grown her ‘star’ status.

So my thought is this- with the constantly increasing clutter in the marketplace, advertisers need to start focusing more on their loyal customer base rather than on the masses.  If sales of a product is a measure of advertising success, and if these loyal customers are the ones actually buying the product anyway (hello 80/20 rule), then sales shouldn’t be affected terribly by decreasing reach.  Another benefit of a loyal customer base- they’re also your brand advocates- and are more likely to tell their friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. how great your product is and why they should buy it, too.  And it’s word of mouth, not advertising, that is considered one of the most influential/important  sources of information for someone considering making any type of purchase.

Now just to reverse decades worth of traditional thinking…  perhaps start by tuning in to Dancing With the Stars tomorrow night to see if Bristol Palin can actually win without an ounce of talent.  I’m willing to bet her extremely loyal fans (or brand advocates) could pull her through to a win…


3 Responses to “What I’ve Learned from ‘Dancing With the Stars…’”

  1. n November 21, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    you may be on to something. i can see the pros and cons of uber-targeted advertising. but, as you point out, great research has the potential to make such advertising especially effective.


  1. Let’s get digital, digital « justallie - December 1, 2010

    […] It’s OK to take risks and break boundaries.  Controversy and backlash can be a good thing and can create buzz.  And it’s about being transparent so consumers can trust your brand. The […]

  2. Blurring the Lines « justallie - December 5, 2010

    […] (nothing left on the table).  If research shows you can reach that same desired consumer (remember hyper-targeting) across all platforms, why would an advertiser not want to hit its target across all possible […]

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