Hear, Hear: What Brand Marketers Can Learn from the Voice

I’m addicted to NBC’s“The Voice.” There, I said it. But I’m not alone–the blind-judging song-fest has launched ahead of CBS’s reigning line-up of comedies by a 64 percent margin, is currently the highest-rated network show of the season and enjoys an enviable level of social-media engagement. The show’s better-than-“Idol” talent pool, genre-spanning panel of celebrity songbird coaches, and talent-before-looks hook provide plenty of reasons to give The Voice a listen. Personally, I can’t help but see it as a modern metaphor for brand marketer/retailer dynamics and see several lessons to be learned from the show:

Consistency is King– The Voice’s judges can’t see contestants’ audition performances, and can only hear them. The second a false note, quake or disquieting quirk hits a judge’s ears, their hand retreats from the button that lets them vie for adding the performer to their team. Banal contestants who demonstrate consistency frequently win favor over those who deliver flashes of greatness.

The same holds true for brand marketers. In consumer and shopper marketing, “seamlessness” has become a big buzzword, but as a point of differentiation when working with retailers, it’s an oft-overlooked advantage. Retailers will take their hands off of the brand button if you or your licensing partners are inconsistent in messaging or execution, and particularly if your brand tactics compromise their vision for their brand. Retailers favor safety over sizzle for a reason.

Play the Field – Viewing a single episode of The Voice will make it clear that once one judge pushes a button, the other judges are far more likely to jump in to keep from missing out on grabbing a major talent for their team. From there, the show’s topsy-turvy dynamic has judges competing against one another to woo newly-anointed contestants over. Now, the contestant is in charge as they carefully weigh which judge will have the highest probability of coaching them to greatness.

As retailers move far beyond the core categories that used to define them, your distribution options expand as well. Your initial retail “button pusher” may be a fan but they may not be the best, or the only, choice for driving your rise to brand greatness, so choose carefully and evaluate expansion opportunities on a regular basis. If you don’t put your brands out there, you’ll never know who else might want to jump in.

Rock the Big Reveal– Once a Voice judge presses their button, their chair twists around, giving them a full view of the rest of the contestant’s performance. At this point, judges can either be seen beaming as a fully-packaged star-in-the-making greets their hungry eyes, or attempting to mask disappointment when they behold a fixer-upper. Similarly, once a retailer has made a decision in favor of your brand, it’s only the beginning. Think of your big reveal as when you and your brand partners execute programs under pressure.

Just as there is no shortage of aspiring stars-in-the-making, retailers have plenty of brands vying for their attention these days, including those created by their internal brand teams. Once a retailer puts you in their consideration set, you’ve crossed a major threshold, but your work doesn’t stop there. Will your performance have them congratulating themselves on their choice or going back on the hunt for a fresher face?

This article originally ran on the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA) site.