Ever wondered how those Stranger Things sweatshirts landed on the Topshop rails, how many Game of Thrones fandom gifts are circulating, or why the printed Love Island water bottles were always pitched to be personalised? Of course, this is no casual coincidence.
The transition from traditional TV show to powerhouse brand, is a commercial dream. Blend this showstopping conversion with brand loyalty, and the victory emerges. Let’s unravel the force of merchandise… It’s always amazing to see a TV show being recognised as more of a brand, via the implementation of additional, well-considered merchandise. So, what exactly does that extra, targeted marketing value bring to the table? The golden goal, also known as, mighty progression and heightened viewer attachment.
Much of the industry would consider it a mark of success for a TV show to move away from the traditional labelling of ‘TV show’ or ‘content series’ and would favour the transition into what viewers and consumers consider – a brand. This new-found attachment to a show, newly thought of as a brand, has endless opportunities for success. The ‘brand’ mindset has two key focuses. First comes brand awareness, which has its foundations within the distribution markets. Then the brand loyalty follows, with the focus on the viewer. Brand loyalty is considered the ultimate intention for producers, distributors and broadcasters, alike. In the current hustle of a TV distribution market, it’s always imperative to stand out to a mass of international broadcasters, with a range of relevant merchandise, usually coupled with an activation.
Enter the hugely popular, Love Island phenomenon and the art of collaboration. The initial partnership between ITV and Ministry of Sound was based around a ‘Marbella Collection 2017’ album being promoted on the show, which cleverly, also created an ideal opportunity for a MOS DJ to play at the MIPCOM distribution market in Cannes, ultimately boosting the awareness of the show even further. With dual-branded beach merchandise, premium heart-shaped champagne tokens (wonder which talented, London entertainment agency could create such good-looking merch?) and some incredible set design, alongside a selection of Love Island winners, immersed in the experience with potential broadcasters, the outcome was considered a huge success, with movement into another four territories.
ITV’s Love Island commercial team went one step further and began to offer the opportunity for viewers to have their very own personalised, Love Island water bottle. In a year that also saw global sustainability take to the stage, the timing of introducing a bottle to reuse, couldn’t have been better, and was rumoured to have made over £250,000 for ITV, that year. Cue the confetti cannons. In addition to the income value, the water bottle concept firmly secured Love Island’s place within the brand loyalty side of commercial value, with viewers happily waiting for their bottle to hit the doorstep, and proudly showing them off, after much anticipation, on all social media platforms.
The consumer cycle
The result? A clean consumer cycle, with added social pollination, that was flawlessly met with financial success. Of course, branded sunglasses were a natural, custom merchandise choice for fans of the villa, too. The Love Island case study is the perfect example of exploring the balance between distribution success, brand awareness and brand loyalty, which has contributed to the announcement of an additional winter series of the show, broadcasting in an ever-growing list of markets. When producers, distributors or broadcasters treat a show as a brand, it also opens up the commercial opportunities to licensing. Netflix’s Stranger Things is a great example of this.
Equally, it can also help to breathe life back into an older show, such as Only Fools and Horses, leading to a West End live theatre production. Merchandise at a consumer level, not only means finding that perfect BBC Top Gear tee for your dad, before Father’s Day, or a questionable Breaking Bad chemistry set for your younger sibling, at Christmas, ultimately it allows for a deeper infusion of brand loyalty with the viewer.
This increase in brand loyalty boosts anticipation and the demand by the viewer for the next season, which allows producers to charge more for the show to the distributors. The knock-on effect? Selling to broadcasters at a higher value and allowing broadcasters to boost their advertising sales, during key promotional periods when the show is aired. The broadcaster wins, the viewer wins, everyone wins, because that’s the real power of merchandise.
Martin Dunn, operations director, Paradise