Yes, yes, I admit it. I’m a fan of Strictly Come Dancing.
(Even if I don’t have the shoes or talent to be on it).
I’ve watched part or all of every series since it began in 2004.
What has it got to do with copywriting and business?
Let’s take a closer look.
Here are some of the qualities and factors at work with this hit BBC programme (which draws to a 2018 close tomorrow, Saturday).
BRAND – Strictly Come Dancing – or ‘Strictly’ as its known by fans – has a strong, distinctive brand.
People instinctively remember and react to the opening bars of the theme tune. You only have to say ‘Strictly’ and most people know what you are talking about… whether they watch it or not.
POSITIONING – The programme goes out on a Saturday evening. Prime time for television. It is entertainment combined with celebrities and reality TV.
It has such a hold on the country (the Final is typically watched by up to 13 million viewers – a HUGE ratings hit considering the competition from other entertainment sources.
Even the Prime Minister and senior politicians took the programme into account when considering whether and when to have a live TV debate about Brexit.
FORMULA – You know what you are getting in Strictly – each series and each week.
That clarity and consistency reassures the audience.
The essence is the same: celebrities are matched with a professional dancer, learn a new dance each week and perform. They’re judged by a professional panel – and the viewers back home.
One couple is eliminated each week, and from those who make the final one couple ends up the winner.
ADAPTS TO CHANGE – Though the essential formula remains the same, the show does make changes.
The first series had just 8 celebrities, the latest 15. The results show was originally shown on a Saturday, it’s now on a Sunday (adding to the tension and helping to strengthen Sunday scheduling). There used to be an elimination process in the final, now there is not.
These are not the only tweaks made… ad die-hard fans will tell you.
CONTROVERSY – Strictly is rarely dull and has sometimes made the news for reasons beyond its success.
When judge Arlene Phillips was dropped for Alesha Dixon, it sparked an ageism row. Pro dancer Anton made an unfortunate comment which fuelled a racism flare-up. Some say same-sex dance partners should be allowed, Strictly has stuck to traditional couplings.
And, of course, there’s the infamous ‘Curse of Strictly’ – where relationships have been very publicly strained or ended because of competition couples (allegedly or actually) getting too close.
All talking points for the public. All GREAT publicity for the show.
VARIETY – The couples dance ballroom and latin. They do a Show Dance in the final and (introduced this year) a ‘couple’s choice’ dance). It makes it more interesting to watch.
CONSISTENCY AND CONTINUITY – The quality of the celebrity dancers on Strictly may vary but the quality of the pro dancers is consistently very high. Absolute experts in theory, technique and practice.
The line-up of pro dancers may change from season to season but there is never a dip in quality. (In fact, some have won the title in their first appearance on the show).
This also helps to keep the show fresh.
Likewise, Strictly lost two of its stalwarts, host Sir Bruce Forsyth and judge Len Goodman. But the show goes on. And the ratings seem to get better and better. That’s strong continuity.
GOOD vs EVIL – Okay, maybe I exaggerate. But with the Judges they have a balance of nice judge, nasty judge (that’s Craig, by the way).
It creates pantomime-style reactions from the audience. (Oh, yes, it does!)
The judges opinions are often strong. They focus on different aspects of each couple’s performance and give the audience/viewers something to agree with or disagree with.
JOURNEY – It’s a bit of cliché now but Strictly is very much about the ‘journey’ of each celebrity.
Who will be a natural star? Who will start well but fade later? Who will start slow but blossom into a worthy finalist?
This is all part of storytelling.
CONNECTION and EMOTION – Sometimes the best (technical or performing) celebrity dance couple wins.
Sometimes they do not (in tomorrow’s final the money is probably on Stacey or Joe to win – even though Ashley and Faye are more accomplished dancers).
Why is that?
Well, during the series, each week the celebs are scored by the judges and the public gets to vote for their favourite. It’s 50:50.
When it gets to the final, the judges still give scores but they count nothing towards the decision. It is the public alone who decide the winner.
And this year, what has caught the public’s imagination this year is the journey of the complete dance novices.
Double World Chamption paratriathlete Laura Steadma showed disability need not be a barrier. And was close to reaching the final.
Social Media star Joe Sugg captured people’s hearts with his polite, gentle manner and constantly improving performances.
But probably the most emotion has been saved for investigative journalist Stacey Dooley and her pro partner Kevin. She has not been the best dancer but she experienced the most powerful journey.
Plus there was the ‘Kevin’ factor… Stacey’s pro partner and Strictly regular has reached the Final FOUR times before but never won. That may sway the balance tomorrow, certainly if the bookies are anything to go by.
Never underestimate the value of connection or the power of emotion (in marketing, in business and life).
SPIN OFFS (upsells) – Strictly Come Dancing has an annual Christmas Special. It also runs Stricly charity specials.
Strictly has been exported to 40 other countries. It sparked a spin-off, Strictly Dance Fever.
This all helps to bring in revenue and build the brand.
SPREADING THE WORD (SOCIAL MEDIA, EDUCATION & GOSSIP) – For those who cannot get enough of Strictly, there’s a programme during the week called ‘It Takes Two’ with presenter Zoe Ball.
Here, viewers get to hear the latest news; see interviews with the dance couples; get insights from the judges; get dance tips from professionals; be the first to find out about dance, song and costume choices, and more.
Plus there’s a TON on social media about the show.
It all helps to get people talking about the show… which averages 11 million viewers (and sees around 13m for the Final).
HOW ABOUT YOU? – How can you take some of the factors used by Strictly Come Dancing in your own marketing, business and copywriting?