Focus on the formula for success rather than predictions

Be careful of January New Year predictions about which media launches and applications are going to succeed and fail in 2009. Let's face it, most are as likely to be completely wrong as completely right.

Focus on the formula for success rather than predictions
Focus on the formula for success rather than predictions

For example, one media prediction recently proved wrong is about the "death of the TV schedule" as a result of the broad availability of on-demand viewing.

In fact, audiences of Saturday prime-time TV were higher last year than for ages. Commenting on this, earlier this month Michael Grade pointed to the creativity of programme-makers and the importance of event viewing.

In the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, the authors Chip and Dan Heath give a formula for how to make a success of new concepts.

Based on Chip and Dan's six-point formula - Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions and Stories, which they give the acronym SUCCESs - I have devised another interpretation.

Here is how it goes:
Simple - The best of Saturday night TV is very simple to understand. The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and Strictly Come Dancing all have a clear formula that anybody from a six-year-old to an 80-year-old can follow instantly.

Unexpected - The joy of the shows is the surprise element. We knew John Sergeant was going to win Strictly, despite having no ability to dance, and we were all shocked by his resignation. The best bits of these shows are the wonderful twists.

Concrete - And, of course, the shows are accessible to all. I can apply to next year's The X Factor if I want to and so can you and your next-door neighbour.

Credible - The narrative of the shows has to be credible to a potentially sceptical audience. For example, Carphone Warehouse manager Paul Potts was propelled to national stardom on Britain's Got Talent and receptionist Leona Lewis turned into an international singing star on The X Factor.

Emotional - One of the editorial objectives of Saturday night TV must be to make people both cry and laugh. People vote because they care and they care because they're drawn into the lives of real individuals.

Stories - When children ask for a story, they're begging for entertainment not instruction and one of the key things that ensures the success of ideas is when we can empathise instinctively with the narrative. Saturday night TV must be inspirational to work really well.

So, rather than taking a punt on January predictions, why not run ideas through the formula for SUCCESs and see how they measure up.

Sue Unerman is chief strategy officer at MediaCom

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