Tuesday, January 12

Can American Idol Sustain Its Brand?

Last night was the season premiere of American Idol. It's become a January tradition!

I'm not embarrassed (ok, maybe a little embarrassed) to admit that I have been behind American Idol since the first season. Actually since the first episode of the first season. I loved it from the start, and bought into every aspect of the brand including the website content, new singles (you just gotta love "A Moment Like This" from Kelly Clarkson), Christmas albums, logo wear ... I even bought the Playstation game for my kids.

The show almost instantly became a brand, and it helped to market a lot of other brands as well. Ford Focus attributes much of its success to its incredible product placements and video segments with the cast. And who could forget the Coca-Cola room and the shots of Simon downing a drink from a Coke cup at the beginning of every show. It's product placement heaven!

But as the new season begins, I have a nagging thought. Can American Idol sustain its brand?

Even as a die hard fan, I've gotten bit bored. I don't watch every single episode anymore. I'm still engaged, but just not at the same level of intensity. It's hard for an entertainment brand to stay hot for so long. The show itself hasn't changed that much since day one, so it's tricky to keep a brand alive when it doesn't grow and evolve. Although there certainly has been enough talent and drama each season to draw attention.

And then Paula leaves, who was a big part of the brand. We'll see if Ellen can keep it alive. I'm a big fan.

But now Simon? He IS the American Idol brand. I'm not sure that the show can survive without him. I'm not a fan of Simon, but I do admit that he is a HUGE draw for the show and a reason to tune in.

Will this be the end of the run for one of the greatest television entertainment brands in history? My bet is that for next season, they'll need to do some major re-invention to evolve the brand without Simon and still keep it alive and thriving. I'll bet super-hero Ryan Seacrest will figure something out.

What's your experience? Jim.


  1. A good story always benefits from a good villain, and for Idol that is Simon. The tension/banter between Simon and Paula and Ryan in particular add an ongoing story line and help stoke interest. Plus, because it’s his show, he is afforded a lot more latitude and his opinion has more gravitas than just any contrarian judge they bring in to replace him. His departure signals the beginning of the end.

  2. I am curious to see what is going to happen. I believe it can do either way. I do agree that AI is a brand with the video games, new talent, and just helped sales for Coca-Cola and the Focus to attract another generation.

    Re-invention of game shows, in my opinion, do not do well (Can you imagine a new Wheel of Fortune without Pat Sajak and/or Vanna White or Jeapordy! without Alex Tribek?) since The New Family Feud and the Price is Right is not fairing as well.

    However, without Simon, they still have Ryan Seacrest, who has completely made a name for himself. It sucks for his co-host in the first season (I can't remember him name) since Ryan has become a multi-millionaire in both TV and Radio. He even made Dick Clark's Rockin New Years special more popular than it already was (and I believe that was the top NYE's show)! He can grab the attention of both young and old generations. Now with Ellen as a judge (she did beat out Oprah for her talk-show)...A.I can do the unexpected (if they wanted to). So we'll see... Dina