HGB’s not so guilty pleasure – marketing lessons from The Bachelor

By HGB , Apr 21 2018
We all have our guilty pleasures. Whether it’s listening to power ballad playlists on Spotify, binge-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, or heating and eating the frozen chicken nuggets we’ve ‘bought for the kids.’ Guilty pleasures are part of being human and make for some great dinner party banter.

New Zealand reality TV series The Bachelor finished screening recently, and for the eight weeks it played, it created hilarious, sometimes polarising chit-chat at HGB.

For those of us that loved it (myself included), there was nothing ‘guilty’ about our interest in the show.

There are so many things about the show I disagree with, for example, the episode where the women submerge themselves in hypothermia-inducing water, all to win coveted ‘alone time’ with ‘the bach’.

But for some reason, the show hooks me every time. I thought about why, and realised underneath all that glitz, glamour and Lindauer Fraise, the show had some powerful marketing lessons.

The power of symbolism

“Symbols help to make tangible that which is intangible. The only reason symbols have meaning is because we infuse them with meaning.” – Simon Sinek

The red rose, long the universal symbol for romance and love, takes on a whole new meaning in The Bachelor. The presence of a rose could hold excitement, hope, anticipation, confidence… whereas the absence of one could spur jealousy, heartbreak, fear, and distrust.

The disappointment was clear on the face of any woman who returned from a single date without a rose. “You didn’t get a rose??” the other women would ask, while trying to conceal their relief and satisfaction. Yip, the bloody things didn’t even need to be in the frame and everyone would still be talking about them.

Not all brands can successfully take a symbol and infuse it with so many layers of meaning that it becomes synonymous with the brand. Or better yet, have a symbol that represents the brand itself without the presence of any other branded elements.

We are drawn to people being themselves

Yes, I’m aware The Bachelor is edited and choreographed to the nth degree. But it still captures and shares some normal, real and totally awkward human interactions.

The contestants copped a lot of social media flak for overusing the word “like”, as well as for telling too many cat stories, reciting bad raps, being ‘stage-five’ clingers, and for having entire conversations that consisted of “wow”, “beautiful”, “oh my god this is amazing,” “yea”, “wow…”

I admit, I spent the first few episodes cringing at the blatant awkwardness of the first encounters and dates.

But you know what, dates are awkward – let alone dates surrounded by cameras and crew. And sometimes people say stupid stuff, and sometimes Kiwis use pretty plain English. And sometimes when people feel uncomfortable they hide behind bad cat stories.

People don’t talk and write like polished robots, and that’s okay. We want to see other people being real and being themselves. The Bachelor gets this, and shows us the good and not-so-good moments.

Your people are your brand. Embrace and celebrate their individual styles, backgrounds, and quirky traits.

Businesses can do this by handing the social media reins over to frontline staff, capturing and telling stories from across the organisation, allowing individual voices to be heard, and sharing unpolished videos and images that capture real moments. And by making sure that brand guidelines and staff policies create space for individual expression.

We love hearing and sharing stories

People always remember a good story, and The Bachelor packs a whole lot of storytelling into each episode. The first episode starts with the bach’s story of why he’s on the show; each contestant has a story behind their trials and tribulations in their quest for love, and every date has a story. Even the host had a story of his own which became a hot topic in one episode!

Great brands tell good stories. Stories connect people’s hearts and minds to shared values and beliefs, and help us connect with brands. Find the stories your buyers love, and focus on telling these stories rather than selling your products. Brand awareness and brand loyalty will follow.

People want to feel connected

One of the highlights of watching The Bachelor is tuning into Twitter for the 90 minutes the show airs. The observations, banter, jokes, GIFs and memes shared by other bachelor fans is hilarious, and adds to my enjoyment of the show. For 90 minutes, twice a week, I got to connect with people all over the country, united by our common affection for the show.

Great brands bring people together, whether it’s through social media, online communities, brand-sponsored events, shared excitement over a new product or expected release date, or shared offline experiences.

For example, Air BNB recently launched experiences to bring the users of their digital platform together in more meaningful, memorable ways.

So, my hats off to The Bachelor cast and crew. You’ve created a powerful marketing machine that captures even the most unlikely fans, some of which can be found in the HGB office.

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