Hold The Plastic Marketers, People Want Pure.
Susan Boyle’s debut performance on Britain’s Got Talent last year has done nothing short of surprise, bewilder, bewitch, amaze, inspire and transfix millions and millions of people. Not too bad for for a first-timer that the audience had scoffed and scowled over before she belted her first note, eh?
Many believe it’s because, at nearly 48, her middle age and matronly manner make her an unlikely star, and even a breath of fresh air. Many others call her 'hero', insisting she truly illuminates an object lesson, that talent knows no age and that stereotypes not only lead us to underestimate others, they undercut our options in general. Whatever the cause, the effect is that not even a week later she became a bonafide phenomenon.
Since she strutted onto a worldwide stage, Boyle’s fans have created scores of Web sites and Fan pages, catapulted her to a top trending topic on Twitter (a measure of the social network’s most popular subjects), viewed her YouTube videos millions of times, penned posts, articles and comments aplenty… and even published her page on Wikipedia. (And to think Boyle is tickled over neighbors asking for her autograph, oh the glory in store for her when next she logs onto the Web!)
If you have not yet seen the segment, I encourage you to watch this video so you’ll understand what everyone’s buzzing over.
To be sure, Boyle would not have won hearts and minds had it not been for the marketing *genius* and foresight of the show’s creators. Unlike their other property, American Idol, Simon Cowell and crew opted NOT to impose age or talent restrictions (contestants of any age can audition for this show and it’s open to dancers, singers, etc.). Thus, they deserve high praise for innovating and staying true to a truly groundbreaking premise.
While I’ve chatted up Boyle like crazy among my peers, it’s the broader marketing community that, I hope, will hear (and heed) this message: Companies cannot copy and bottle this degree of talent and authenticity. Is her accessible nature a model to aspire to with your audiences? Absolutely. But, try as companies might, they cannot fake, force or feign the quality and gumption that comes from this woman’s prowess and unique personality.
It’s natural not contrived--or, as I say, pure vs. plastic--and companies that concoct so-called authentic schemes don't go the distance. More times than not, they’re outed by audiences and ‘FAIL!’ is the story that lingers. We see it through social media all the time.
Worry not, image makers can produce as many Britneys, Hiltons, Jessicas, Lady GaGas and Lohans as they please. That’s a different formula that takes a big spend, a machine of stylists, spin-masters and, it seems, weekly scandals to sustain attention spans since the merit of their products will not. And that’s fine, there will always be an audience for plastic. Yet it's an expensive sandbox to play in.
A better, more bankable idea to consider is breaking new ground in your industry by removing past barriers. Why? Just look around at the overwhelming demand our markets are voicing for the refreshing range of talent and program format that is Britain's Got Talent. It’s irrefutable. And it’s a strong signal for marketers--whatever business sector you're in and whichever market you serve--to create platforms that don’t limit playing fields, but blow them wide open … as that’s how innovation, new products, services, markets and, yes, stars are discovered (or uncovered).
Once you've created that platform, then you can get out of the way and let your markets take the lead, because they do a bang-up job of finding and promoting the talent, offerings and experiences that are meaningful to them and, in turn, profitable to you.PS: A thoughtful article on “looking deeper” is here and a video interview where Boyle talks about how surreal the last been has been .