How The Voice Killed American Idol — and What Marketers Can Learn From It

American Idol is gone. Long live The Voice.

Courtesy NBC

While AI floundered in the ratings and struggled to retain the attention of its audience, The Voice flourished, eclipsing AI in the ratings… and ultimately, some would say, putting the final nails in its coffin.

What’s The Voice doing right that AI didn’t?

And what can digital marketers learn from them?

1: Authority matters.

American Idol’s judge’s panel wasn’t really high profile or relevant to start with.

Simon Cowell was a producer best known for a Teletubbies album. Paula and Randy had been successful in the 80’s and chances are the teens that the show targeted had never heard of them. Ellen DeGeneres was a talk show host. The show was already waning when they finally added charting artists to the judge’s table.

Right from the start, The Voice focused on currently working and recognizable talent… contemporary performers with active fan bases in a variety of genres, from Blake Shelton to Shakira to CeeLo. Having coaches that were in the trenches and on the charts right now gave the panel — and the show — timely legitimate authority from the get-go.

What’s that mean to a marketer?

That kind of timely high profile authority can only add to the legitimacy of your brand.

Is your influence high profile and current? When people need guidance and insight, are you the mentor they seek out?

Whatever your genre, stay current on the latest changes and trends that matter to your audience, and strive to provide unique insight about those trends that can’t be found elsewhere. Whether you’re publishing articles, speaking at industry gatherings, hosting webinars, or building the go-to community on social, find ways to let people know that you’re a relevant thought leader.

Raise your profile by providing meaningful, original, actionable value and your audience will come to regard you as a trusted resource.

And when it’s time to buy you’ll be at the top of the list.

2: Offer your audience all the variety you can.

American Idol had an age limit… originally, 24 years old, later 28. The Voice has no such limit… anyone with a desire to sing has a shot at fame and fortune.

Expanding the age range of the contestants on The Voice may have expanded their audience reach by expanding the variety of contestants, skills, and styles, and therefore the variety of content. As the audience aged up, The Voice contestants’ wider range of experience might have captured those wandering eyeballs. In fact, AI ultimately lost its hold on the 18–49 demographic when The Voice hit the air.

What’s that mean to a marketer?

You’ve probably got a pretty solid sense of who your customer is. Chances are you’ve got a thoroughly defined customer persona in place, and design your initiatives to connect with them.

But a persona is not a monolith; within that avatar, you’ll have a range of ages and motivations, all along the sales funnel, and your industry will shift and evolve under your feet. And over time, the makeup of your audience will change.

Building variety into your marketing gives you lots of options for reaching a more diverse audience with a wider range of messages. And experimenting with new campaigns and initiatives will position you to respond with agility to changes in your audience, and pivot when something new gains traction.

When your marketing includes video content, ebooks, paid search, live events, mobile, and community building with messaging that speaks to different kinds of customers at all levels of the funnel, you’re casting a wider net and creating conversation and trust from one end of the buying cycle to the other. Your marketing should be as diverse as your audience.

3: Focus on positivity.

American Idol gained a reputation early on for having a cruel streak, shaming and degrading its lesser-talented contestants. This changed over time but it’s a reputation for bullying that the show never managed to outgrow.

The Voice built its brand around mentorship and healthy competition, without wallowing in the muck of degradation. The judges love their teams, and they try to give everyone everything they need to succeed.

What’s that mean to a marketer?

That kind of positive energy and optimism is far more attractive and fun to be around.

In marketing, there’s a lot of psychology around “Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)” and other similar tactics designed to push the buttons of people’s fears and frighten or shock them into action. And it works. But a lot can be gained by focusing on positivism, and nurturing, and providing helpful support and guidance.

Try re-framing the urgency of your message into a positive, and imagine how that will make customers feel about your product… because how they “feel” about you can be more important than how they “think” about you. Remember, they’re already concerned, or frightened, or threatened by the challenges their lives and careers present.

If you’re presenting a solution, and your message leads with “You have a dream — here’s how we can help,” you may just reap greater benefits than competitors who lead with negativity.

4: Bring on the mentors.

Both shows brought in guest mentors to bring value and guidance to the contestants. After all, working with Blake Shelton might be awesome… but when Blake introduces you to Cher, you’ve suddenly got twice the wisdom and star power to draw on, and Blake’s just made himself that much more valuable in your journey to stardom.

What’s that mean to a marketer?

Developing relationships with other experts and thought leaders in your industry, and bringing their expertise under your brand to your audience, goes a long way toward solidifying your reputation as a trusted authority. It shows that your focus is on finding solutions for your audience, and not just on hoarding them for yourself. And of course you’ll benefit from the borrowed authority and endorsement that comes from those experts lending their expertise — and their audience — to your brand.

That’s what content curation is all about; finding those trusted sources whom you have vetted, that you’d trust enough to recommend to your audience. Whether they’re writing articles for your publications, guesting on your webinars and podcasts, or just posting awesome stuff on their social streams that you like, repost, and share, curating quality content for your followers enhances the breadth of your value offering. It shows that you’ve got your audience’s best interests at heart, and that you’ve got your ear to the ground of your industry.

Plus you may be able to put your message in front of their audience as well. It’s a win-win!

Evolve Or Don’t

Both American Idol and The Voice found success with their audiences… they both did a lot right in their time, and we’d all be happy to emulate either one.

But in the end, The Voice seems to have offered something that AI didn’t, and evolved with the audience to remain successful.

What’s that mean to a marketer?

Take your inspiration where you can find it… build your authority, offer value to audiences all up and down your funnel, provide a positive message people want to hear, embrace the community and curate great content.

Know your audience, and meet them with what they’re looking for.

And you’re sure to survive the knock-out round.

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