By Jeanie Hendrie
Despite what the Boomtown Rats might tell me, I look forward to Mondays. After all, they signify the beginning – the beginning of a new week, a new goal and…for some poor woman in America, the beginning of that loooong walk to the limo. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Bachelor season and Chris Harrison is armed with enough sport jackets, helicopter dates and teary-eyed models/actresses/bartenders to keep me occupied until spring thaw. In this – the most controversial season of The Bachelor yet – Brad Womack returns, after “months of intensive therapy”, to reclaim what he left behind on his last trip through sunny California: his reptuation…I mean, wife.
In Marketing 101, we’re told that a brand’s promise is the Holy Grail – it’s the soul of the brand, the values that it stands for, and the way it makes us feel when we think about it. And what happens when you break this promise? Well, that’s brand suicide. But wait a second…hasn’t the Bachelor done just that?
Before the vampire models and the wannabe actresses, The Bachelor was a show about falling in love. The premise was simple – the opportunity of a lifetime (meeting the man of your dreams) at the risk of getting rejected in front of the nation. But as the seasons passed, the girls got younger, the hemlines got shorter and ABC traded up southern belles in pastel-hues for drama queens with headshots and IMDB pages. Instead of focusing its advertising on romance, Team Bachelor began to promise us, week after week, the “most controversial moment in Bachelor history”.
As I realized this transformation, I was reminded of a book I read (ok, half-read) called The Hero and The Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes. In their book, Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson introduce us to 12 brand archetypes – people like The Hero (think Nike advertisements with star athletes achieving greatness), The Caregiver (think Johnson & Johnson commercials with proud mums and bathing babies), The Innocent (how about those Coke commercials and the cuddly polar bears). Not only is each brand epitomized by one of these twelve characters, but according to Mark and Pearson, brands perform best when their messaging reflects the archetype that consumers perceive them to be. So does that mean Chris Harrison’s “most controversial episode” voiceovers are not the product of lazy copywriters but, in fact, the strategic genius of an ABC marketing exec? Indeed, embracing their inner Outlaw was the best decision Team Bachelor ever made.
Back in 2009, when Jason Mesnick – the Bachelor now notorious for his bridal bait-and-switch – brought in the highest ratings the show had ever seen when he dumped then-fiancé Melissa Rycroft for 1st runner-up Molly Malaney. And how about the episode prior when he proposed to Melissa in beautiful New Zealand? Meh, we didn’t really care for that. Apparently Bachelor fans are only satisfied when we’re forced to watch something on TV that is so awkward and horrible it feels like we’re staring directly into the sun. While we might not like to admit it, it’s the moments we love to hate – those “most controversial” – that keep us coming back for more. Clearly, these copywriters have studied Pavlov.
So what’s the lesson here? Well folks, it looks like Luke and Amber have done the work for me. Be authentic – know what you’re best at and stay that way. Consumers aren’t so complicated after all – they want to be right just like the rest of us. If they say you’re an Outlaw then embrace it. And if that doesn’t work, try a black eye…it seems to do the trick for Brad.