PR people often talk about “packaging” a client’s story, or framing it in a way that’s current, visual, or relevant.
But, every once in a while, something comes along that defies the rules…or rewrites them. Right now, that something is a someone – Susan Boyle. Boyle is the decidely unglamorous 48-year-old who wowed a panel of jaded judges to win an international following last week on the televised auditon for “Britain’s Got Talent,” the British “American Idol.”
The story of her unlikely breakthrough is so arresting, and so emotional, that already it’s bled outside pop culture, making headlines and generating nearly 6 million YouTube views. It’s also being touted as an example for marketers. But, to talk about marketing doesn’t feel quite right, or at least, it’s not everything when you consider Boyle. At a time when authenticity is routinely offered as a brand attribute, here is the real deal. At first blush, what her story says is simply that talent will out. The woman can sing.
But, it wasn’t just her striking vocal ability, or even her soaring song choice (the quixotic “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Miserables) that moved so many. It was the set-up. The contrast between the audience’s patronizing smiles and eye rolls and the shocked expressions and emotional outpouring when she nailed the song. Andrew Eklund of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune calls her “the most important marketer of the 21st century.”
Hyberbolic? Maybe, but timing is everything. As our most purely authentic new star, Boyle is also the perfect symbol for a culture that’s newly in love with simple pleasures and basic values.
Where will she go from here? I’m curious to see how she handles being an international icon, not to mention a marketing case study. And since half the fascination of Idol-type shows is watching the contestants morph into more polished and sophisticated performers, part of me wants to see her spiffed up and given different material.
But, a better instinct says Boyle’s essence will stay as is. As for the show, it matters not a bit if she wins, because she already has a recording contract, and in any event, she’s made her mark.
Susan Boyle is a Rocky for the post-recession age. When everything else seems to be failing, she’s someone we can believe in.