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Marketing Matters: Takeaways from NBC’s ‘The Voice’

NBC’s The Voice is well into its eighth season with live playoff performances having kicked off this week.  Reality shows have been facing a ratings slump and news broke this week about Viacom (which heavily relied on these types of programs), suffering from serious financial shortfalls. The Voice, however, continues to bring in strong ratings and its viewership grows each season, despite competing against other networks’ hit shows like Dancing with the Stars, Grey’s Anatomy, The Blacklist and Big Bang Theory.

What’s made The Voice such a hit? 

Smart marketing has definitely helped the show fight the tide of reality TV’s decline. Not only does the show promote itself actively through traditional marketing (like promo spots on NBC), it weaves marketing principles into the show itself.

In a recent blog post, we discussed the concept of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing strategically pulls customers in through the use of engaging, intriguing and relevant content. Customers come to you rather than pushing your messaging out and risk getting lost in the noise or being blocked out by customers.

Can a broadcast TV show really be considered inbound marketing? We can definitely see some of these strategies at work within the fabric of The Voice. Key components of inbound marketing are strong content that draws people in, a strong social media plan, and networking.

While networking in inbound marketing terms often refers to a strong link-building program as part of a robust SEO strategy, The Voice integrates partnerships with other brands – including personal brands – to create relationships and help draw in viewers. The producers are also savvy about tapping into trends and using social media very effectively to build excitement about the show.

If you’ve surfed the web lately, or visit Facebook, you’re sure to be inundated with blogs, lists, quizzes and open letters on nostalgia – particularly about growing up in the 80s and 90s. Who doesn’t love a good flashback to our youth?

Remember running home from the bus stop to catch Total Request Live with Carson Daly on MTV or driving all the way to the mall to get the newest Christina Aguilera CD? Almost all of the personalities that have starred on The Voice have had, and still do have, very successful careers in the entertainment industry. These relationships with popular personal brands help enrich the show’s content.

Watching these celebrities on the show brings back good memories. We feel all warm and fuzzy inside, therefore making the show more appealing to us as an audience.

The Coaches:

While we’re on the topic of the personalities who appear on The Voice, let’s take a moment to talk about the coaches. Notice they’re called “coaches” and not “judges.” 

And you can’t deny that after watching just five minutes, you want to jump through your TV screen and be friends with Christina, Pharrell and Adam… and sometimes Blake.

The playful banter, joking and secret pacts they make with each other during the blind auditions and battle rounds are a nice change from the rude, negative and discouraging feedback that contestants routinely receive on other competition shows. 

You know that all of the judges are at the top of the game. They’re the best at what they do and for that reason alone, they are relevant and gain the respect of viewers. But at the same time – they’re relatable and viewers feel a connection to them.

Next Level Social:

Sure, there’s social engagement during some shows and maybe even a featured tweet every now and then, but The Voice goes all out. They don’t limit their social media engagement to just a semi-translucent hashtag displayed in the bottom corner of the screen during the show.

Did you ever notice that The Voice changes hashtags to correspond with the team that’s currently singing? And their hashtags only pop up for a limited time – when they are relevant.

Coaches tweet at each other, competitors tweet at the coaches, fans tweet at the coaches and they feature these tweets throughout the show. But, they don’t stop there. They’ve brought social engagement to another dimension with the ‘Instant Save.’ 

What’s Instant Save? Basically, you have five minutes to tweet and save your favorite in-jeopardy contestant. 

After just four episodes in from the launch of Instant Save in 2013, The Voice generated 3.5 million tweets and nearly doubled their Twitter followers throughout the season. (That’s about 1.25 million followers gained!) Talk about engagement. No wonder Instant Save won Shorty Awards for Best Integration of Social Media with Live Television and Best Use of a Hashtag on Twitter. 

Product Placement:

Product placement has been a mainstay of TV and film. While some have predicted the demise of product placement, and it does seem to be experiencing some growing pains, it is still very much alive and ubiquitous.

And it would be hard not to notice it on The Voice. From the Starbucks Green Room to multi-angle pans over the 2015 lineup of Nissan vehicles during pre-performance packages, it’s clear there are some very powerful brand relationships in place.

While we confess that sometimes those product placement moments could use a bit more finesse (some of those Nissan pans, for example, are a bit slow in our opinion), not only is this a great opportunity for brands to get visibility on the show, it creates connections with viewers who experience these brands in their daily lives.

The Voice is a great example of how effective and versatile marketing can be.