I can’t escape them. In my car, on my computer, sucking up valuable storage space on my TiVo and plastered all over my 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom walls: the boys of UK pop sensation One Direction.
Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. No, I didn’t have to Google their names — that’s how much they’ve invaded my life. Zayne’s real name is “Zain,” he smokes and he can’t swim. I didn’t have to look that up either. And it’s not the first time I’ve repeated it. All five of these guys auditioned for the UK X Factor in 2010 as solo artists. At the suggestion of Simon Cowell, they joined forces as a group and found an increasingly growing following in the UK.
What strikes me as utterly amazing is that my daughter didn’t care about this group until they made an April 7, 2012 appearance on Nickelodeon’s iCarly performing their hit single “What Makes You Beautiful.” The very same night, they intruded on my ritual viewing of Saturday Night Live as the musical guests.
By the time my daughter and I were ordering everything bagels with scallion cream cheese the next morning, the frenzy had begun. Her entire grade was calling, texting, tweeting, pinning, Facebook-ing, YouTube-ing and Instagram-ing their undying love for all things “1D” and vying to be the local authority/ultimate “One Directioner.”
Unfortunately for my wallet, the next two weeks happened to coincide with the gift-begging season that precedes any child’s birthday. Facing a Stub Hub-induced reality of $300 nosebleed seats for ANY of their sold-out-in-14-seconds shows happening in May and June, I was forced to consider purchasing tickets for July 6, 2013. That’s not a typo. 2013. As the Ticketmaster clock counted down, I racked my brain trying to recall how long the New Kids on the Block or ‘N Sync eras lasted (too long) to determine if she’d even like 1D next year, before I reluctantly clicked “purchase.”
As a PR person, I can’t help but look back on the past few weeks in shock, wondering how it got to this point. What drives such brand awareness and stakeholder devotion? How has 1D been so successful in making these fans feel they are part of something big and generating a groundswell of excitement. And why was it happening right now?
From what I can gather, these are the PR moves 1D nailed:
WELL-TIMED LAUNCH STRATEGY – Only 24 hours after their US debut, my daughter was asking to download their album from iTunes, purchase a $9.99 1D glossy magazine in CVS and asking for concert tickets to their conveniently just-announced tour.
And we did all of the above.
There is no point generating excitement over a product if there is no call to action. If you are going out to promote something, whether it’s a product or innovation, you have to have product or be willing to share enough information about your ideas to satiate the public’s need. If you’ve got something good to announce, like a tour, strategically timed partnerships and media appearances will help you bolster excitement.
TARGETED DECISION MAKERS – 1D didn’t make an appearance on the “Today Show” just to get more tween fans. They know you must appeal to decision makers (aka suckers who make the purchasing decisions and pay for all the tickets, merchandise and downloads). Having people believe in your brand can be powerful… only if they have leverage with the ultimate decision makers.
I wouldn’t be inclined to dole out any cash on such 1D paraphernalia if I had no idea who these chumps were. Plus, every parent wants their kid to think they are cool enough to know a band before they are told about it.
Well played, 1D, well played.
LEVERAGED POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA – 1D made that “Today Show “appearance in mid-March and had previously toured the U.S. with another annoying teen band, Big Time Rush. So why was my daughter having a complete 1D meltdown on April 8? Because her social media network was, as she said, “BLOWING UP with all things 1D!”
A radio station was cashing in on the PR value of being associated with the band by auctioning off 1D’s couch. The band’s wardrobe had become visual fodder for Pinterest thanks to clothing retailers. And media outlets were clamoring for social media click-throughs of their latest 1D articles. (My favorite headline? Koala Chlamydia: One Direction Boy Band Members Fear Infection). 1D is currently in the No. 2 spot this week on the Billboard Social 50 chart behind only Justin Bieber. Social media has no value as a one-way communication channel. Giving your audience tons of shareable content is the best way to empower word-of-mouth marketing.
Of course, it helps that the band is quasi-adorable and a tad talented. All the PR in the world is useless unless you have a good product, solid innovation and/or well-executed business model.
Being the PR skeptic, I do have a subversive theory that the entire band is a just a brilliant PR maneuver by Jack Wills to get their fashions into the global tween wardrobe, but my daughter assures me its all about the talented “cuties.”
For the record, Louis is my favorite. And yes, it annoys me when people pronounce the “S” in his name. Stella is mad about Liam. And you’ll be glad to know she will be rocking out to 1D at the IZOD center on May 25, 2012 thanks to some high-level ticket begging/finagling. I also have tickets to July 6, 2013 at Hershey Park I’m willing to sell! No official word on if she’ll choose me or her father as her concert escort. Don’t tell her, but I kinda want to go…