American Idol Marketing Strategy

Today’s post was inspired by Ed Dale… I first heard Ed talk about ‘the american idol’ approach to marketing during last years Thirty Day Challenge and just love the concept… I am actually working on a series of posts around the topic of ‘What Britney, 50 Cent and Neil Diamond Can Teach Us About Marketing’, so keep your eyes peeled for that… Todays post is simply a teaser – Consider it a single released prior to the album.

When people think of the entertainment industry, and in particular the music industry, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the glitz and glamour, pop stars with unheard of fame and more money than they know what to do with. Yet, in spite of that reputation, the entertainment industry for the most part has always used marketing strategies that were just simply the worst to be found in any industry.

It usually worked by having a scout in the employ of the record label go out and frequent clubs where popular local acts would be performing, in the hopes that they would catch sight of up and coming talent that had yet to be discovered by anyone else.

Once an artist was discovered in this manner, the record label would offer them a contract and then work with them, trying to tweak their sound and image to fit what they saw as the current market trends. Once a corporate identity of sorts was established for the artist, the label would then spend outrageous amounts of money on marketing and promoting their album, in the hopes that it would appeal to the public and become a hit.

Of course, many great acts and performers have gotten their big break this way over the years. The system certainly works at least some of the time, and the fact that the record industry is still going strong is proof that when it does work, it tends to work rather well.

Still, with such an approach, it’s just as likely that the label’s investments would be sunk into an act that just never goes anywhere and doesn’t generate a profit. In other words, there was vast room for improvement.

Enter the reality television boom of the late 1990s, and its most identifiable breakout success: American Idol.

American Idol is not just a successful television show (although it is that), it’s a total revolution in the way that entertainment marketing is done. You see, like all smart entrepreneurs, the folks behind American Idol have done a complete 180 and made their market research an integral part of their product. Using a wildly popular television show that offers the promise of fame and riches, they bring potential acts to them instead of seeking them out, and then weed through them until a batch of qualified performers are selected for a final showdown.

Each week, one person is eliminated on the television broadcast, based on the number of votes that they receive from the viewers who call in to show their support. This approach is genius in two ways: first, it gives the record labels the opportunity to test the waters with an artist to see if they have the public appeal it takes to succeed without the need to invest much of their own capital upfront, and secondly, they actually make money by doing this, because they charge people to cast their votes and also profit from sponsorship of the television broadcast.

Rarely has there been a more innovative and redefining marketing move than the one put forth by American Idol. There’s no reason to let them reap all the rewards, though. Their success can be yours as well, if you’re willing to use a little creativity to apply the ‘market-first’ concept of product development to your own business.

[tags] american, idol, american idol, marketing, pete williams, pete, williams, preneur, marketing [/tags]

  • Ayana Mckissic

    I really loved the top 5 Idol group song last night. It was moving to see Aaron Kelly got rid of however I do think the other contestants were better singers so he needed to go!

  • Edwina Merling

    I see American Idol winner Lee has just signed up to RCA records. I cannot wait to hear his new album.

  • Deane Figurelli

    I really think Donald Trump would be a much better American Idol judge than Harry Connick Jr. – Trump is not afraid to voice what he thinks and can be as controversial as Simon Cowell.

  • Susan

    Have a great marketing idea. Is there a process to submit?

Pete Williams is an entrepreneur, author, and marketer from Melbourne, Australia.

Before being honored “Australia’s Richard Branson” in media publications all over the continent, Pete was just 21 years old when he sold Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground For Under $500! Don’t believe it? You will! Check out the story in the FAQ section (it really is our most asked question).

Since then, he’s done some cool stuff like write the international smash hit ‘How to Turn Your Million-Dollar Idea Into a Reality’ (+ the upcoming ‘It’s Not About the Product‘) and he’s created a bunch of companies including Infiniti Telecommunications, On Hold Advertising, Simply Headsets and Preneur Group.

Lots of other people think he’s pretty good too! He’s been announced as the Global Runner-Up in the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Awards for 2009, the Southern Region Finalist in the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year, and a member of SmartCompany’s Top 30 Under 30.

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