Change. Nothing that a Sonic Screwdriver cannot fix!
One of the most popular television properties in the British market, Doctor Who, defies all marketing odds. Well-loved characters come and go. Monsters often come back in strikingly similar reinterpretations. And there was even a substantial sixteen year gap in the middle. Yet, it is only getting more popular! I wonder why . . .
To satisfy my inner Whovian (For those not in the exclusive club . . . it is the collective term for lovers of Doctor Who), I watched the 50 years of Doctor Who celebration last night on ABC2. Aren’t I cool!
Despite reliving some of my favourite Doctor Who moments, this programme showed the huge number of much loved stars that have come and gone from the show over the years. Each time they arrive audiences fall in love with them and when they leave the audiences are equally as devastated. Marketing theory would tell us that this would severely damage the brand.
The complete opposite happens with the monsters. These scary creatures are recycled over the years in new incarnations that are brought up to date with the current technology. Except the ever famous Daleks who constantly come back in their bulky body armour no matter how many times they are wiped out. Equally, this repetition should hurt the brand dramatically. But it doesn’t.
Do audiences reserve developing a strong connection with the current Doctor due to the knowledge that he will be replaced eventually? Not at all. In fact they are constantly thrown in the deep end as the two major characters are replaced almost every season.
But despite all these potential issues, there is actually one overriding phenomenon with which the audiences build relationships. Change. That is the one constant throughout the entire series. The audience is guaranteed change. And it is this changing component which has allowed the long-term survival of this iconic British brand.
Swapping the lead characters always creates an element of heartbreak in the hard core fans. But due to a number of consistencies including the TARDIS, the same ‘fighting monsters’ overarching plot, and often one of the lead characters, we manage to move on and forget the past leads ever existed allowing new perspectives on characters. It also allows the brand to maintain its novelty as audiences never get tired of staid characters.
But this is not limited to the main characters. The branding changes significantly from season to season. The opening titles change. The music makes great jumps to reflect the new characters. At first there are doubts, but the audience’s acceptance of inevitable change allows the brand to persevere and stay at the forefront of the industry.
There has to be at least one constant in every brand that maintains the consumer relationship. But it is never ‘change’. At least, it never was before Doctor Who and I doubt it will be executed as deftly for some time after!