OMG! This coming Wednesday, the wildly successful CW export, Gossip Girl, returns to the UK on ITV2 for its second season. On a personal level, I am beyond excited, but the show is also an excellent example of youth marketing at its best.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Gossip Girl is a kind of Cruel-Intentions-meets-SATC for 16-24 year olds. And, for that specific and increasingly hard to reach demographic, it delivers hourly portions of marketing heaven every week for all the brands involved.
Firstly, wrapped around each 15 minute slice of the action sits the show’s sponsorship deal. The pairing of Guerlain’s Insolence fragrance with GG was well-conceived, by both the show’s producers and the brand’s marketeers. Insolence is a brand that defines its identity as ’free, daring, unpredicatable, radiant’ and whose target female consumer embodies the ‘Insolent woman: audacious, makes her own choices and dances to a different tune…truly herself and utterly irresistable’. Values which, in turn, embed the fragrance with the sultry, aspirational qualities that fans see in the show’s female stars, and which they will no doubt seek to emulate.
As an enthused loyal fan of the first season I was a strong case study for the Guerlain sponsorship, with pretty successful results. I went from relative stranger to the brand, to sampling the product when it next caught my eye, right through to purchase. And all irrefutably due to Gossip Girl‘s powers of pursuasion.
Secondly, within the show itself, each scene becomes a catwalk opportunity for every major fashion label wanting to capture the GG market. The show’s producers, savvy from the beginning to their fans’ copy-cat desires, flood the blogosphere and website forums with insider information on the designers and outlets for each of the characters’ ensembles in key scenes. Thus, GG has done for designers like Abigail Lorick (the real life fashionista behind Eleanor Waldorf’s designs in the show) what The O.C. did for a raft of indie bands from 2003 onwards: through realistic contextual integration into the narrative fabric of the show, these guys get unparalleled exposure to a whole new audience.
Thirdly, evidence of the wider cultural influence of the show seems fairly wide reaching. Knowing that probably 95% of GG‘s weekly audience could only dream of browsing Henri Bendel for the back-to-school gear and party dresses sported by their counterparts on the show, UK high street brands have started to capitalize on the show’s stars’ distinctive styles. Miss Selfridge’s marked upturn in stocking preppy, WASP-ish styles (think ruffles, pearls, blazers) - that could have all been taken straight out of Blair Waldorf’s walk-in closet - is a case in point. And if their visual merchandisers are on the ball, you can bet that their Oxford Street window display will be reflecting this for the next couple of weeks.
Leighton Meester as Blair Waldorf in a design from Abigail Lorick / Navy blazer with white trim from Miss Selfridge's latest range
And finally, there is the cast – a select group of impossibly beautiful, precociously talented, walking, talking brand ambassadors for the show . The line between their real lives and the characters that they play is so imperceptible to the show’s legion of followers (even the show’s main romantic union has made the transition off screen), that all awards show appearances, publicity interviews and paparazzi shots become potential outings for the brands in the show. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the designers and brands who stock the wardrobes and dress the set allow, encourage, even pay their starlet darlings to take home their wares and showcase them off camera too.
So, if youngsters of the Z generation are all programmed to be (in the recent words of Lily Allen) ‘weapons of massive consumption’, Gossip Girl and shows like it provide all the amunition required for brands to hit their targets dead on.