Bit of a strange title for a blog perhaps. But I’ve been giving X Factor some thought recently. Haven’t we all? Much maligned these days, our family still watches the show. Well, at least my wife, daughter, and I tune in each week. My son is far too cool and irritated by anything ‘reality TV’ to watch. Then again, I still admit to being a bit of a Eurovision fan so what do I know?
So, how can X-Factor teach businesses something new about marketing? The show is certainly contrived and definitely cruel according to The Guardian (if you watched last Sunday’s Six Chair Challenge). But let’s look at X-Factor and its component parts and how it relates to business.
Clearly, X-Factor is a huge business in its own right and Simon Cowell is a boy done very well. But that’s not my point here. If we consider all of the components, we can see that:
- The competition attracts thousands of competitors from all over. How does one contestant stand out above another? There’s the talent of course and one hopes the best singers will go farthest in the competition. They’re hopefully the ones that make it to the six-chair challenge and judges houses before making the final cut. It’s no different in business in many cases. How does your business stand out? What sets you apart from your many competitors? How do you get your business on tenders? Do you get to pitch for the right kind of work and make it to the shortlist? What can you do to differentiate? This year on X Factor we have Seann Miley Moore from Australia whose voice is tremendous and he stands out due to his outrageous dress sense and his androgynous persona. No one knows whether he’ll win but chances are he will do well out of the show.
- Clearly, X Factor is a beauty parade of sorts. It is survival the fittest, sometimes the daftest (Jedward? Chico?), and hopefully the most talented (Leona Lewis). That’s very much like a business. You have to pitch against rivals in print, face to face, and even over the phone. What makes your proposal better than anyone else so you come out on top? In showbusiness
- You have to work out what the judges are looking for. Sometimes they can be harsh and hopefully, they are looking for real talent. Does cream rise to the top? One could argue that some X Factor winners have faded without trace. It’s also true that those that didn’t win (JLS, Ollie Murs, Ella Henderson) have done pretty well. Either way, those winners have probably made a much better life for themselves than they would otherwise have done. They’ve gained greater notoriety and success than they would otherwise have done. Has your business worked out what your prospective customers really want? Do you know what they’re looking for? Have you asked or done some customer research to find out?
- Social media is massive nowadays and the integration of social media into the X Factor has extended its exposure and reach manyfold. The show wouldn’t be the same now as viewers engage with the contestants and judges and go behind the scenes to find out more than was ever possible in the days before social media. How easy do you make it for customers to engage with you and your business? Do you use the various social media platforms to your benefit? If you don’t, there’s a risk that your competitors will!
- Sadly, the vast majority of contestants are destined to fail. Yet some put themselves through the pain again and again. This year Monica ‘Earrings’ Michael is back for the second year after failing at the six-chair challenge in 2014. The most famous returnee of course is Alexandra Burke who won in 2008 after failing two years previously. Life is full of ups and downs and in any field, you have to deal with rejection. You win some you lose some. In sales, you have to learn what works and what doesn’t and have to learn from mistakes to come back fighting. As Thomas Edison famously said ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’. So, dust yourself down and keep going if you want to achieve success.
- We just spoke about failure but what about dealing with success? Of course, most celebrities have managers, advisors, and confidants. But have we ever known a celebrity to go off the rails, sometimes with tragic consequences? It’s hard to deal with change and success. Growth for companies is also sometimes difficult to manage. The demands are very different in periods of fast growth especially when moving from a small to a larger more established business. What can you put in place for your business to help plan for future growth?
X Factor is perhaps justifiably maligned in many circles. It has become a victim of its own success and one could argue it’s super-contrived. But, take a back step and think about what marketers and business people can learn from X Factor and it’s perhaps more than you think.
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