Can't donate to charity?
Volunteer computer time
or Support SETI!
R&D Sponsorship Center
May 2010

Home Page
Feature Archive
A&I Column Archive
Production Tools
State Marketing Data
US Marketing Data
World Marketing
Service Directory
Quality Assurance
3D Printing

Subscribe to Advertising & Marketing Review!
Contact Ken Custer at 303-277-9840.

What I've Learned About Business from American Idol

by Lisa Siracuse

I admit it, I'm a fan of American Idol and have been watching it faithfully since its inception. I have had many folks roll their eyes as I go on and on about the performers and what I think they have done right and wrong. I also realized that as complete packages or “brands,” these performers need to finesse their every move and come to understand that literally every breath they take, every move they make help to shape and create their identities in “America's” eyes.

As I look back on the past seasons and think about who stood out, they all have the same things in common. They were likable, genuinely talented, consistent, confident and yet humble, and were as grounded as grounded gets. They also opened themselves to the audience and let them in. They had an obvious love for performing and committed to each song they sang. The result was people wanting more. Recently, I watched one of the current contestants, Crystal Bowersox with awe and admiration. This is a woman who stands on the stage with her guitar in hand and with tremendous conviction, belts out the most beautiful tunes.

So, what does this have to do with marketing? EVERYTHING!! As an advocate of Integrated Marketing Communications, Crystal's style and performance are a blueprint for how to conduct business. Think about it…she knows who she is. She is quite confident and yet humble. She listens with great fervor to all of the judges' comments and takes in what she feels is relevant and throws out the rest. She is grounded and oh so talented (great product), she is seemingly “real” and truly passionate about her work. She is also aware that the competition is stiff but doesn't allow that to compromise her style and what she does best.

How would you like to have a company like Crystal? In an article about brand personality, I mention the concept of “mush marketing,” which is essentially trying to be everything to everyone thus becoming nothing to anyone! It's watering down the brand so much that people can't identify with it or get to know it well enough. This is bad business! I have seen so many companies function defensively rather than having proactive strategies -- they have kneejerk reactions the moment their balance sheets aren't measuring up and flail about laying people off right and left, fire their ad agencies and completely revamp their brand identities and messages. It's like getting an entire face lift the moment you see one wrinkle! Why do companies do the same thing? If indeed, profits are sinking, let's take a breath, and figure out some strategic solutions and realize that nothing changes overnight!

Brand Schizophrenia Leads to Lack of Longevity
Companies that bounce all over the place and have a lack of consistency in message along with a weakly defined brand become almost “schizophrenic” in their audiences' eyes. This literally repels people and stops them from being able to establish long lasting relationships with them. To truly “connect” with someone, you must have a strong sense of who you are. There are other contestants I've seen on the show who change with the tide depending on what the judges say and the result is always disastrous. No one “gets them” so it's impossible to root for them. Relationships are undeniably essential in today's business world. We must find ways to get loyal customers and stakeholders who will help propel our business forward. Crystal has already developed a loyal fan base. And you know what? If she had an “off night,” her audience would be extremely forgiving and continue to support her. A company can do the very same thing. If you establish genuine relationships with your customers and provide honest and consistent communication, you can easily recover from a mistake.

Legend or One Hit Wonder?
So, what's the secret to corporate longevity? We only have to look again at Crystal to give us the answer. This is a performer who knows her industry. She knows what she does well and is highly motivated to stay in the game. She also has a flare for creativity and one would guess that she'd be open to finding just the right amount of spin on songs to keep people interested. This is not a performer who must “force” uniqueness. The companies that will last on the charts are ones that don't have to force competitive advantage. That comes naturally if indeed they have something valuable and substantive to offer. They must also keep an eye on their fan base and make sure they keep those fans happy by tuning in to what they value and have the skills to “change it up” just the right amount without losing a sense of who they are.

Lounge Singer or True Artist?
Many people have pleasant singing voices and can sing a sweet melody at the top of their lungs without an ounce of humiliation. This person probably looks pretty good on the surface. If that were a company, it would rely heavily on a hungry sales team constantly prowling for new customers (rather than nurturing existing ones), along with a rather superficial image that screamed all looks and no substance - just not someone or something you could put your heart and soul into. That's the difference between Crystal and many other contestants. So the question is, do you want to sit Idol-ly by and be satisfied singing in dark, smoky lounges or do you want to hit the big time? Take a good look in the corporate mirror and commit to doing what you do best. Figure out your style and allow that style to dictate every decision made from here on out. And if you get tempted to stray with an opportunity for a quick buck that will compromise your brand, don't do it! Hey, don't take my word for it, let corporate America decide!

LISA SIRACUSE is a branding and marketing consultant and freelance writer. For many years now, she has focused her energies on education and teaches a variety of online business courses. Lisa is co-author of The ABC's of IMC, a compilation of articles published by the Advertising Research Foundation. She edited a manuscript entitled “The Customer Century,” and published articles for The Advertising Marketing & Review and Northwestern's Integrated Marketing Communications Journal. She graduated with top honors from the master's program in integrated marketing communications at the University of Colorado at Boulder and attained an MBA in management as well. She also holds a bachelor's degree in Theater Arts and Speech and taught a graduate presentations skills course called "To Speak or Not to Speak" at CU, Boulder. Contact Siracuse at 720-251-9924 or by email at

For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

Back to top

Economic Indicators
Census 2010
Census Bureau
Health   Labor
Commerce Dept.

It's Time to Let
A Robot
Make Your Sales Pitch!
Roy the Robot
Funded by Kickstarter