On May 27, HBO Max released the long-awaited Friends Reunion episode (or shall we call it ‘The 237th episode’) globally. Without giving away ‘too much' about the episode, here are four key learnings that brand marketers can take away from the Reunion and ‘Friends’ as a well-loved, successful and revenue-generating brand.
Build and nurture your brand on the fundamental core emotional and ‘physical’ elements
Every great brand has been built on a combination of a core target audience, a strong physical core (packaging, product, benefits, price, fragrance, etc.) and an eternally strong emotional core (feelings, memories, values, etc.). 'Friends Reunion' makes for compelling viewing for the core audience that grew up watching the show from 1994 to 2004 (younger Gen X men and women - under 35 years, no kids and preoccupied with work and leisure activities).
The Reunion episode has absolutely captured the hearts and minds of this audience and has packaged all the emotion, laughter, competitiveness, romance, friendly characters, famous scenes and more into one very watchable over 100-minute episode (Most of the episode takes place on the sets of the original show).
Result: The producers of this show have absolutely landed a brand relaunch that delivers strong emotional bonding with the Friends brand almost from the first minute.
Brand assets matter. Identify them, protect them and grow them over time
Just as good packaging, logo design and product characteristics matter for traditional brands - the Reunion episode brings some of the classic brand assets of the original show back to life.
For instance, Central Perk, the Smelly Cat song by Phoebe (a duet with Lady Gaga), Monica's apartment, the music, Gunther ‘the coffee shop bald’ guy and Janice’s "OMG". These are combined with cutting-edge production values, wardrobe and lighting that viewers have come to expect from 'Friends'.
Create buzz around your brand by creating and sharing relevant ‘newsworthy’ stories
The episode itself is hosted by James Corden and has multiple celebrities that show up. Many global media outlets covered the launch with extremely interesting titbits about the episode.
For instance, the Washington Post actually features spoilers from the show. News leaks of how much money each star has made from this episode have also piqued viewers' interest (Short answer - anywhere from $1 million to $5 million per star). And not to forget the posts by the stars on their widely followed social media handles.
Refresh the brand for younger and global audiences
The Reunion episode has very smartly plugged in global youth icons like BTS, David Beckham, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Malala Yousafzai to keep the brand relevant for the Gen Y and Gen Z crowd.
The learning for brands is simple - while it is important to build on your history, brands need to constantly acquire new streams of business by targeting younger consumers who will eventually become the core of the brand. Brands that fail to do so die slowly by steady declines in revenues and equity.
—Neil George is the Managing Director of a leading MNC in India. He is also the author of the brand management comic ‘Building the Perfect Beast – What Really Happens in Brand Management', published by Harper Collins. The views expressed are personal.