5 Things Brands Can Learn From Willing WillieApril 2011 1
‘Willing Willie’ is a variety game show on TV5 that is one of the Philippines’ most popular and most viewed programs. Hosted by controversial personality Willie Revillame, Willing Willie’s massive following amongst the Filipino masses has made the show a hot property for advertisers and Revillame the country’s highest paid television personality.
On March 12, 2011, the show was once again thrust into controversy because of a boy named Jan-Jan
The Jan-Jan video quickly spread online and triggered a ﬂurry of criticism, debate and protest. The online reaction to the video inﬂuenced many advertisers to pull out the show, and ultimately led to a TV5 decision to suspend the show for two weeks starting April 11.
Much has already been said about the controversy. Many critiques on its ethical andmoral implications have beenput forth. And in some cases, judgments have been made. On the other hand, the marketing implications of the controversy have beenunderexplored. Less time hasbeen spent thinking about the lessons that marketers and brands could take away from the Willing Willie experience. So what could brands learn from Willing Willie?
1. What happens on TV,doesn’t necessarily stay on TV
The controversy was fueled in large part by repeat viewing and sharing of the video online. In the pre-digital era, the Jan Jan footage would likely have been forgotten. But in the digital world, what brandsdo is not as easily erased or forgotten. The Willing Willie experience highlights the always-presentpossibility that what we put on TV can easily escape the boundaries of the medium – a reality thatbrands should consider in the development of marketing communications.THOUGHT STARTERS• If something in our TV advertising catches on, do we have ideas on how to make this even more infectious and shareable, beyond simply posting the TV ad on YouTube or Facebook?• In the event of a controversy surrounding our marketing communications, do we have contingency measures in place? Are we prepared to deal with criticism or strong negative feedback about our advertising should it arise?
If we think of Willie Revillame as a brand, he has a clear mission – Giving joy to the Filipino masses.Generosity is a core value of this mission and one that Willie has successfully used in building hisbrand. His perceived generosity has endeared Willie to people and helped him maintain a strongfollowing even amidst controversy. More importantly, Willie’s generosity is manifested through actionsin the show, not just through messages. As Willie personally gives away P10,000 to a contestant orhappily sings along with the studio audience, he is making his brand more vivid than any words orcatchphrases could. THOUGHT STARTERS• When was the last time our brand did something generous for people?• Instead of telling people about our brand positioning, what actions could our brand do to bring to life its positioning?
3. Helpfulness is a compellingbrand role for a mass market brand
In promo plugs and in spiels during the show, the Willie Revillame brand has often beencommunicated as helping the masses overcome their poverty and their misery. While the actualsubstance of that claim can be debated, there is no debate that help is a meaningful promise in apredominantly poor economy like the Philippines, and that the vast majority of Filipinos will benaturally attracted to brands that can help them with their daily challenges.THOUGHT STARTERS• Think marketing solutions not just campaigns or ads; What consumer problems can we create solutions for?• Is there an opportunity for our brand to provide added utility or service to consumers?
SOME EXAMPLES OF BRANDS PROVIDING HELPFUL UTILITY OR SERVICE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srY7Wkl2IbI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K-yjsRFW9Y http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_mbNCuWJbU
Even as he sells numerous brands within his show, Willie does not forget to do it with highentertainment value. In doing so, he does not come across as a cutthroat salesman. Instead, hecomes across as very likeable to his audience. It’s a valuable reminder for all of to us to never forgetthat the work we create should not only sells the virtues of a brand, but also makes it likeable topeople. THOUGHT STARTERS• Does our marketing communications have elements that can entertain or delight people? Or does it bore them into buying the product?• Are the brand’s efforts making it more likeable? Or is it making the brand more annoying?
Willie does not ﬁt the classical mold of the perfect, ﬂawless superstar. However, his imperfections (andthe fact that he is unapologetic about them) are precisely what make him connect deeply with hisaudience. The rise of ‘imperfect stars’ is something we are starting to see more and more of inPhilippine TV, thanks to reality shows and game shows. Many brands however are reluctant to showeven the slightest bit of imperfection in their marketing communications, believing that showing aﬂawless, glossy world full of perfect people is the only way to connect with consumers. As Willie isdemonstrating, perhaps imperfection can also be a way to endear a brand to people.