American Idol Auditions for Brand Reinvention

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Think the hubbub made over Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler joining the cast of American Idol is just ridiculous hooey? You’re probably right”¦ but we can’t help but wonder if the newfangled version of the show, which premieres tomorrow night, signals more than just personality changes. Sure, Simon Cowell and his faux-meanie act were part of the series’ success. But the other changes made to the show could be efforts to keep up with the ever-evolving world of network television while clinging onto those beloved endorsement deals.

If the new Idol belly flops, all fingers will point at J-Lo and Steven Tyler – but the right direction for the blame game will be returning producer Nigel Lythgoe. Lythgoe, who helms the tween sensation So You Think You Can Dance, has returned to Idol to infuse the show with the much-coveted youth demographic. Lythgoe has said he wants AI to get back to work on focusing on the talent of signers instead of back and forth between the judges, a formula which has worked wonders with SYTYCD. The show is pushing a huge social media campaign using Twitter and Facebook to ignite voters and to start the conversation about contestants.

Staying on the youth tip, The Hollywood Reporter recently said Idol is toying with the idea of moving the finalists into a mansion together a la The Real World or Jersey Shore (an idea the program already tried back in season one). Also, the show is moving nights from Tuesday-Wednesday to Wednesday-Thursday, taking it out of the competitive line of fire faced by the older-skewed Dancing with the Stars. But will these changes even matter?

Sixty-seven percent of television aficionados asked in a nationwide survey said they believed American Idol had seen better days, while entertainment writers are already lining up to be the first to announce the death of the series. Pfft. The fact is, Idol remains a ratings powerhouse and a titan of a brand. If, by some chance, this is the series’ last year on American television, producers won’t end up on welfare; the show continues to make billions of dollars around the globe in international versions. The Carrie Underwood era is long gone, granted”¦ but we don’t think Idol is any immediate danger of becoming extinct.

5 Things You Might Have Missed

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Just like a beloved old friend or a rash you can’t get rid of, Brandsplat’s weekly list of five things you might have missed is back! Here now are a quintet of items, videos and articles from this week that may have passed you by.

  1. Corporate-sponsored Creativity: This excellent post at Gods of Advertising turned the spotlight on Google Labs. Google Labs is the given name for when the creative staff at Google gets together one day a week to create whatever they want. That’s right – the big time search engine knows what most companies fail to understand: If you give employees the chance to actually be creative instead of just talking about it, new innovations are bound to reveal themselves.
  2. The Most Amazing Press Release Ever: In a week packed with stressful moments, this press release via Tech Crunch is a ray of sunshine. It intentionally mocks the silliness of PR and unintentionally made us realize how dated traditional press releases have become.
  3. The Big News That Wasn’t: Everybody yammered on and on about how Verizon carrying the iPhone was going to change everything. But in actuality, as pointed out by Andy Pilgrim’s Marketing Blog, the iPhone shuffle will barely affect marketers. Sure, more people not wanting to enter an abusive relationship with AT&T will jump at the chance for a Verizon iPhone. But in the end, the “story” was just a giant, overhyped non-story – as well as a public relations homerun for Apple.
  4. And Speaking of Creativity: We thoroughly enjoyed this spot for the Art Institutes which hit the web this week. By making creative parts of the world a blank canvas, the ad encourages aspiring artists to fill in the empty spaces around them.
  5. Sensitivity Makes a Comeback: After last weekend’s horrible events in Tucson, we think it’s time for online journalists and marketers to elevate their content and act respectful. This horrible billboard from (surprise!) Rush Limbaugh is exactly the kind of garbage marketers and writers need to wash their hands of. Sure, we’re here to sell stuff and have a laugh”¦ but we think we can all do that without adding fuel to the fire.

Do-overs: Giving Facebook Marketing Another Try

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Recently we were chatting with a colleague who has had a horrible time getting her company’s Facebook page to catch fire. She bemoaned the fact that she couldn’t stir up followers. She was exhausted and uninspired by the look and feel of her page. She was lost at sea when it came to cooking up clever status updates and Facebook-based promotions. We were sympathetic as we listened to her debate whether she should ditch the whole social media marketing thing altogether. We feel her pain, but we think it’s too early to throw in the towel just yet.

We looked and we couldn’t find a rule that states that you have to be stuck with your sub-par Twitter account or lackluster Facebook page. When working on Facebook marketing for a client recently, we and the client discovered the freeing act of scrapping a previous Facebook page. We simply hopped over to options and deleted the page”¦ and before we knew it, the Facebook crimes of the past vanished like a bad memory. With a fresh page (and fresh start), we were able to steer the project in the right direction.

Elsewhere, for a different client, we ditched the fan page idea altogether and started a regular account using the name of the business. This way we were free to collect friends and recommend friends to those who knew the client personally. In one week’s time we gathered more than 200 hundred friends on the regular account. Moreover, the client was able to immediately start communicating with its audience instead of waiting for the elusive and inaccurate likes.

Cleaner pages with less clutter and more campaign-specific content are 2011’s hottest Facebook look. Big brands are dumping the scattered and jam-packed pages in favor of pages that serve as a channel to communicate with their client base regarding only the most recent corporate goings-on.

Like many things, Facebook needs a fresh set of eyes. Returning to the blue and white pages with a relaxed perspective can help us develop marketing strategies that catch on instead of frustrate.