This weekend a group of 17 of us, adults and kids, went to see the pantomime* Cinderella in a local theatre in Wimbledon. And it got me thinking about staying relevant by refreshing what made you famous. Not only is Cinderella an old story I've seen many times as a film and read as a book to my kids, its one of only a handful of pantos that are performed each year. The first time I saw Cinderella as a panto was 40 odd years ago as a kid!
So, how on earth do the panto producers keep the punters coming back year after year?
* For non-UK readers, pantomime, or panto for short, is a traditional Xmas show aimed at dual audience of adults and kids. It is packed full of 1-line jokes and typically features men playing female roles, such as the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, and vice versa.
1. Stick to what made you famous
Panto is a great example of how people don't get bored with consistency. Panto producers stick to a small number of well know stories, with Snow White, Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk and Dick Whittington being other favourites in addition to Cinderella. And within each of these stories, the plotline and key characters are respected (Cinderella meets the Prince; she wants to go to the ball but can't; the Fairy Godmother turns mice into horses etc.). In the same way, ad campaigns can use the same characters and narrative structures, such as the Fosters Good Call campaign I posted on here.
What's more, within any panto there are a number of lines that are always get used. For example, an actor shouts "Oh yes he did!" with audience replying "Oh no he didn't!". And when the evil villain appears behind the hero or heroine, the audience scream "Behind you!". These lines are a bit like the slogans of successful ad campaigns. People know them, but don't get bored with them, as long as you refresh them, which brings us to the next point.
"Oh no it doesn't!"
"Oh yes IT does!"
2. Refresh to stay up to date
The producers of the Cinderella panto we saw had cleverly updated the show to make it relevant for today. The opening song was Happy, by Pharell Williams, and other contemporary hits appeared throughout. In addition, many of the jokes in the show made reference to popular culture from 2014.
3. Harness the power of celebrity
In addition to updating contemporary music and jokes, panto producers make clever use of celebrities to add some newness and appeal to their shows. In this way, they are using the "borrowed memory structure" associated with these stars to add value to their productions. In the case of the show we saw, there was Linda Gray, who achieved fame playing the alcoholic wife of JR, Sue Ellen.
In conclusion, panto is a great and entertaining example of how to rememeber and refresh what made your brand famous. If panto producers can keep putting on the same shows for decade after decade, surely you and your agencies can create 5, 10 or more years of consistency in your marketing campaigns.
Oh yes you ...