American Idol, someone at Coke is a frickin genius

American_idolI am at Marketing Science Institute meetings on ethnography in Toronto.  If the wireless connections here at the 4 Seasons weren’t almost completely random, I might have posted something on the conference by this time.

Arg!  There is lots going on here and I look forward to sharing it with you when time and connections allow.  In the meantime, some thoughts on the TV show that holds viewers, most of them, in the palm of its hand.  American Idol, what an enterprise!

But from a marketing point of view, we need to break it down.  (I think that’s a James Brown phrase, but let us appropriate it for our marketing purposes.  From a branding point of view, it is clear that Coca-Cola is riding a rocket. They signed up early and someone at TCCC (the Coca-Cola Company) now looks like a frickin genius.  (And if someone saw what was going to happen here before it happened here, they are a frickin genius.)

So what does Coke have?  If we think about this from a celebrity endorsement point of view, it gets interesting.  On the one hand, we could say that …

I interrupt this blog to report that at 8:57 in the Studio Cafe here in the 4 Season’s hotel in Toronto, a group of very large people passed my table and one of them was Al Gore.  Al Gore!  This is celebrity sighting and a small indication of the lengths to which This Blog Sits At will go to serve the interests of its constituency.  Everywhere you want to be.  Or wouldn’t mind being.  Or wouldn’t mind being as long as someone else was picking up the tab.  Or wouldn’t mind being as long as someone else was picking up the tag, AND House  or Bones or… for that matter, American Idol, wasn’t on.  Hey, don’t be like that.  This is a great man.  Or at least a really large one.  Hey!

Sorry, on the one hand, we could say that American Idol is the ultimate just-in-time experiment.  Coke gets to make a connection with celebrities at the very moment of their minting, just as they are "coming to market."  No brand can hope to be more current than this.  On the other hand, Coke must make itself a party to a brutal winnowing process as a result of which some of the nation’s sweethearts are eliminated.  This can’t be good.

I think the branding sweet spot for Coke should be that moment when there are, say, 8 contestants in place.  Coke has helped mint the latest celebrities, present, as it were, at the moment of creation.  As the number dwindle however, Coke is actually party to the elimination of favorites and the destruction of dreams.  This is not the place any brand every wants to be.

This is a tractable marketing problem.  Coke can grow and shrink its presense on screen, according to the moment.  There is meaning management to be undertaken here.  Is TCCC thinking this way.  Or are they just hoping for a maximum of exposure whatever the context/contest in question.  I fear the latter.  Hey, maybe they should be running for office. 

7 thoughts on “American Idol, someone at Coke is a frickin genius

  1. molly

    Is it safe to say Ford has done something similar to Coke? Every week they create a faux car/truck ad featuring the contestants which is integrated into the results show, they advertise through the program, and this week, on the news, first Idol winner Kelly Clarkson introduced a new Ford automobile… If only they could rival those iconic Coke glasses the judges drink from all the time…

  2. molly

    Is it safe to say Ford has done something similar to Coke? Every week they create a faux car/truck ad featuring the contestants which is integrated into the results show, they advertise through the program, and this week, on the news, first Idol winner Kelly Clarkson introduced a new Ford automobile… If only they could devise something to rival those iconic Coke glasses the judges drink from all the time…

  3. Joe Grossberg

    Grant:

    Believe it or not, there are people who don’t watch that overhyped karaoke. (OK, I watch the first round, to see all the freaks who think they are on the cusp of stardom.)

    For the less pop-culture-addicted members of your readership, can you elaborate on Coke’s connection, and how is it any different from other advertising?

  4. Candy Minx

    Molly,those glasses drive me crazy. I bet I would like them in real life, but on tv they bug me because they look lightweight, like plastic. I am guessing they are cast glass, that might make them more digestable to me.

    I don’t know, I can’t help think that even when someone loses and Coke is associated there is still an emotional involvement so Coke is still okay. For example…I think that Coke products with contestants images are semi-collectable no? Win lose? This is a funny topic for me because I just used a cover from an old magazine (Finacial World 1997) in a painting I am in the middle of making….the cover says “Why Coke Could Gets Crushed(and take the market with it)” I didn’t read the article but they sure must have been wrong, heh heh. I think the Coke in general is just enmeshed with A.I. and it’s all emotional and therefore all good. I think if Coke had anything to worry about, they should be making an organic non sugar, non sweetener product. I don’t buy Dasani, but they are onto something with the water.

    I am really interested in hearing about the conference. In the mean time, I’ve got my hands full with Guy Kawasaki.
    Cheers,
    Candy

  5. stev

    I wouldn’t say that Coke is party to the destruction of dreams. That seems a tad harsh. You have to understand that, as eliminations go, American Idol has some of the most saccharine castings-off of any reality show. No flame extinguishing. No backtalk to a camera about how they “were played”. No catty reunion special where half the telecast is bleeped out. Just a tearful song, a slo-motion montage, and then – somehow – a party seems to break out as Fox moves onto House.

    No, Coke wins all around here. They’re there at the good times, and they’re there at the bittersweet times, to cheer you up.

    If anything, Coke should bow out of the (albiet more entertaining) early rounds. What, with the cruel jokes about weight, sexuality, and personal attractivness. Talk about a message Coke doesn’t want to be around…

    And I think those glasses are plastic. They seem like a souvenir from a theme park.

  6. Auto

    I’ve been watching AI but tivo-ing through the ads. i see lots of glasses with the coke logo and that coke watermark or whatever they call it, in the corner of the screen.

    but i’m still a little in the dark as to how coke benefits from its association with AI, beyond the obvious hope-for increased sales.

    i think coke’s recent effort to introduce a new flavor, seemingly a new one every week and then quickly culling the losers, represents a far more profound shift in culture for the company. it used to be they had a stable of brands backed by the fearsome firepower of one of the most amazing marketing machines on the planet. now they’re throwing out new flavors willy-nilly and seeing which ones survive without the company investing all that many resources.

    it seems to me this is a far more profound shift for coke than associating itself with AI.

  7. Ed Batista

    “Coke must make itself a party to a brutal winnowing process as a result of which some of the nation’s sweethearts are eliminated. This can’t be good.”

    Great post, Grant, but I disagree with the above. Losers’ fans will remember Coke as a part of the apparatus that gave their favorite a shot and brought them to semi-prominence in the first place. They place the blame on the all the knuckleheads in the audience who voted for someone else or failed to vote at all. (Curse them!). Coke’s in a can’t-lose position on AI.

    Ed

Comments are closed.