3 Key Marketing Lessons from Successful Reality Stars
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” This popular quote from artist from Andy Warhol has never been more relevant than today, when people find themselves becoming famous almost seemingly overnight, whether it’s by creating a YouTube channel, portraying an enviable lifestyle through Instagram photos, or by letting the world into their life 24/7 through reality television, which can be found on basically every network and streaming service available.
The public has an insatiable thirst for reality programming, and there’s no set formula for what makes one reality star become more successful than another, but for those who have found a way to extend their fame and business offscreen, they’ve made smart career choices that stay true to who they are and why fans fell in love with them in the first place.
But you don’t need to be a reality star to find success on your own terms. Here are how some popular reality stars are cashing in checks beyond the reach of their shows. From each you can learn some key takeaways on how you can play up your strengths and weaknesses to differentiate yourself in your market.
Lauren Conrad first found herself on TV screens as a California high schooler on the popular series “Laguna Beach,” but it was when she got her own MTV spin-off “The Hills” that launched her into another stratosphere. On the popular show, fans saw Lauren interview for her first internship (which she landed at Teen Vogue), felt the sting when she was scolded by a supervisor for arriving late to a work meeting, and commiserated with her when she regretted passing up a summer opportunity in Paris. Lauren really was the every girl – she made mistakes and quickly learned from them, she was a loyal friend, and a hard worker. Fans not only saw themselves in Lauren – living out their daily joys, pains and fears – but they also saw someone they genuinely wanted to befriend. Lauren left the show before its official finale, and parlayed her platform into a bestselling series of fiction and lifestyle books, fashion lines, and her namesake site LaurenConrad.com, where her and her team dispense daily advice on beauty, fashion, career, entertaining and more.
KEY TAKEAWAY: When it comes to business contacts, dealings and contracts, honesty and loyalty go a long way. People want to know they can trust your messaging, your brand, and most importantly, you. During her career, Lauren hasn’t wavered away from her girl-next-door persona or desire to make the people in her life (first her family and friends, and now her fans) feel special. You can easily lose credibility when your messaging and brand don’t align (Honest Company, anyone?). Today, customers appreciate and expect transparency, which ultimately leads to a loyal customer base that money just can’t buy.
CHIP AND JOANNA GAINES
When it comes to couple Halloween costumes, you can expect the usual fare: vampires, ghosts, and comic book characters. But there was one unlikely costume last year that was extremely popular: Chip and Joanna Gaines, the home renovation duo from HGTV’s highly-rated series “Fixer Upper.” The Texas-based couple are parents to four children and before the launch of their show, they had been running a thriving business that already included real estate, home construction, decor and retail. “Fixer Upper” premiered in 2013 and has led to even several more successful business deals, such as the opening of a destination market and event space, a bestselling book, a magazine, and a 2018 spin-off series focusing on Joanna’s design process.
KEY TAKEAWAY – When it comes to starting a new venture, many people take the route of getting a business partner involved. It can be beneficial to have a co-founder on your team as you can each focus on your strengths which tend to be a weakness in the other. Chip and Joanna regularly talk about how they’re a great entrepreneurial match since they each bring a unique skillset to their business that the other doesn’t have. You can also take advantage of a partnership without being actual partners. Many people will find someone they can cross-promote with, whether it’s doing social media takeovers, guest blogging on each others’ sites, or co-launching programs and campaigns to get on the radar of an audience that you may not have reached otherwise.
Say the name Andy Cohen, and people automatically associate him as the face of Bravo. When its series “The Real Housewives of Orange County” premiered and started to gain traction, Andy began making regular appearances on-screen as the reunion host for the mega-smash franchise (which now includes New York, Beverly Hills, Atlanta, New Jersey, Potomac). This lead to him launching an online late night unscripted talk show called “Watch What Happens Live” in 2009, whose early guests mostly included cast members from the network’s reality shows. Now WWHL is one of Bravo’s most popular shows, and guests regularly include A-list celebs like Oprah, Cher, Meryl Streep, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez. Andy continues to host the show, and occupies his time with his production company and book imprint, touring the country with Anderson Cooper, and hosting shows on his own Sirius Radio channel.
KEY TAKEAWAY: It can be tough not to compare yourself to others, but it’s best not to do it with those who have been established for some time. They’ve put in the work, their site has gone through several iterations and they now have more money to put back into their business. Andy and his WWHL team embraced the show’s shortcomings and got creative – their small set made it more intimate, they served cocktails, and developed quirky games that grew in popularity (like Plead the Fifth and Teach Me Your Talent). Every one has to start from scratch, and by putting your own unique spin on your business and platform, you can find ways to distinguish yourself to reach the level of success that you desire.
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