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Messing with the brand – X Factor

Is the X Factor in danger of losing what it seeks to uncover? Well, the ratings are holding up and Simon Cowell is a bona fide broadcasting genius in my book, but could this year's contest be messing with the brand a little too much with the new audition format in front of a live audience?

The X Factor brand is simple — it's a singing competition. In the past, the auditions have been bald and simple: contestants enter a big room, empty but for a mark on the floor and four judges at a desk. They stand on the mark and sing a song, with no accompaniment, to the judges, who can then assess their raw singing ability.

This year, with the success of the Britain's Got Talent ringing in the production company's ears, they've decided that the auditions should follow the same format — contestants now sing in an arena with a couple of thousand in the audience, a backing track on the PA and the room to roam around stage doing whatever takes their fancy. The great thing about the old format for auditions was the intensity, claustrophobia and intimacy of the relationship between the judges and the hopefuls. Their families and friends had to wait outside without knowing how it went, we had to wait until the live shows to see whether the singers would thrive or crumble in front of a live audience — and people could throw water over Louis Walsh.

With the new format, I keep waiting for the Britain's Got Talent buzzers to go half way through someone's audition. Having two winning brands, it's easy to see why you would be tempted to take the most successful elements of one brand and transplant them into the other. That way, the thinking goes, you make your brands stronger. But what if, by mixing and matching to excess, you end up not with two distinct brands, but with one confused audience? As Roberto Goizueta, the former chairman of Coca-Cola, once famously said, "There are three rules of branding: differentiate, differentiate, differentiate."

Article by Derek Harbinson


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