Lessons from The Wiggles' Big Branding Mistake

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on February 2, 2012
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As the mother of a 2-year-old, The Wiggles are a familiar presence on my TV. So, I winced at the recent news that the jolly entertainers had ousted lead singer Sam Moran in favor of founding member Greg Page, who left the group six years ago due to chronic illness.

You see, my daughter adores Sam. But that’s not the point here. From a business perspective, The Wiggles made some big mistakes in handling the situation — decisions that have hurt the brand.

“The return of Greg Page as the yellow Wiggle and removal of Sam Moran has put another color on the week for the band at the center of the world’s biggest, and perhaps the richest, children’s entertainment empire,” notes the Sydney Morning Herald. “The group — for so long regarded as untouchable with its bright smiling faces and colors — has faced its toughest scrutiny yet.

With the ongoing public relations disaster still unfolding, here are a few tips for small-business owners who are looking to avoid similar branding missteps:

  • Think about your demographics. Sure, fans celebrated when Van Halen brought back original frontman David Lee Roth for its most recent tour and a new album. But supporters of The Wiggles aren’t nearly as loyal. Most kids outgrow the band around the time they start primary school, and even the group’s oldest supporters are probably unfamiliar with Page, who left the group six years ago. Nostalgic teens may welcome the news, but they’re probably not going to buy any more albums. If The Wiggles had been more thoughtful toward their existing fan base, they might have picked a different strategy.
  • Create a business transition plan. Sam was kicked out of the band without any advance notice, the Herald Sun of Melbourne reports. When supporters have been happy with a business’s performance for years, replacing an iconic figurehead without warning can throw everything off course. (The TV show Scrubs, for instance, was canceled one season after replacing most of its cast.) To ease the transition, The Wiggles could have planned a farewell concert, filmed a video, or even let Sam continue in a supporting role.
  • Don’t botch the delivery. Apparently, the other Wiggles were so excited about Greg coming back that they forgot to consider how people would receive the news of Sam’s departure. In an uncomfortable TV interview, Anthony Field (the blue Wiggle) coldly remarked that Sam was “just doing a job” and that he hadn’t spoken to him since he’d received his pink slip. Some pre-camera time with a publicist to discuss how to respond diplomatically to such questions could have done a world of good.

Young fans of The Wiggles will probably never see or read about Field’s callous comments, but their parents already have. Thousands have expressed their disappointment on The Wiggles Facebook page, many stating that they’ll no longer purchase merchandise or concert tickets for their children.

Chances are, however, that The Wiggles will keep raking in the dough. But for a band that’s built a brand focused on friendship and wholesome entertainment, this business misstep has done some serious damage to their image.

kathryn

Kathryn Hawkins is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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