Branding lessons from High School Musical

Disney’s mega-hit, made-for-TV movie  High School Musical (HSM) is so big in the USA that it has become a cultural phenomenon, with interesting lessons on branding, especially for brand with a "tween" target. I’m sure its going the same way in the UK. For those of you stil enjoying your life BC (before children), its about a couple of clean-cut teenagers (sporty-boy and brainy girl) who try to get into the high school musical, and in doing so "turn the school upside down". It has been seen by 37 million people in the USA, and has been the top-selling US CD since January! Hsm

A great view on "what this means" for marketing and brands is given on the New Persuasion blog (thanks to Jon at Living Brands for highlighting this in his October posts of the month feature). Some of the key points:

1.The Tween Market (ages 8-14) is influential and sophisticated. In the USA this group are credited with adding $3 billion of new money to the
marketplace (NPDFunworld). 

2. Conservative values/good guys don’t always come last. At a time when many brands seem to be in search of edginess and rebeliousness, HSM shows that there is a big audience for more positive, safe values; a sort of "safe haven" in a dangerous world? Some people have likened the movie to Grease, but as Nellie on New Persuasion says, this is not really true: 

"The students of Grease smoked, drank, had
sex, got pregnant, and the ultimate message was you can’t be yourself
to get the guy. In HSM everyone is good-looking, well-dressed and talented. In the end, the home team wins, all
conflicts are resolved and everybody dances together in the gym."

3. Think "episodic marketing" from the start: Disney had a multi-phase innovation plan in place to exploit the HSM concept. In addition to the DVD and CD, there is a sing-a-long version, you can download the lyrics (500 000 people did so in 24 hours) and in the pipeline are High School Musical: The Musical and High School Musical 2.

4. The power of music: HSM has shown just how powerful music still is. Its one of those "more things change, more they stay the same things." The songs in the movie are infectious, and you can’t help but sing along. In today’s over-crowded brandscape, getting a distinctive bit of "sonic branding" can be a great way of creating impact and recall. Think British Airways, M&S, Stella Artois etc.

5-minute workout: it may be a strange question, but can you learn something from High School Musical for your brand? Do you have an episodic, multi-phase marketing plan designed for your next launch? Could you also provide a "safe haven" for consumers? And are you using the power of music?

And if you have kids, the DVD could be the Xmas present.