What Can We Learn From the Success of ABC TV’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette?
Monday night was the season finale of ABC TV's reality show, The Bachelorette. Twitter was ablaze that night and #TheBacheloretteFinale was trending. This season I definitely got sucked into watching bachelorette Rachel Lindsay’s quest to find true love.
Actually, I have been a fan of the show since the very beginning. I remember watching the first episode of The Bachelorette in 2003. I don’t religiously watch every single season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, but when I do, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure.
The Bachelorette is a spin-off of The Bachelor, which first aired in 2002. The first bachelorette was Trista Renh, who was one of the women who didn’t manage to win the heart of the first bachelor. After The Bachelor, Trista was invited to star as The Bachelorette in a role reversal of The Bachelor. I remember watching Trista go through a pool of 25 men and finally choosing firefighter Ryan Sutter to be her husband. The two are still married.
Here’s an interesting tidbit about The Bachelor franchise, only four marriages have resulted from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette shows, and only one of the bachelors from The Bachelor has actually married the woman that he choose to be with at the end of the show.
Now, the shows' devoted fans across the country, known collectively as Bachelor Nation, organize viewing parties to watch each season of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. Celebrities also love watching The Bachelor and Bachelorette shows; some of the Bachelor's celebrity fans include: Kaley Cuoco, Jennifer Aniston, Kris Jenner, John Mayer, Jason Biggs and Jenny Mollen, Aston Kutcher and Mila Kunis, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen Degeneres, and Amy Schumer- just to name a few.
There have been several other spin-off shows: The Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise. And there are 10 and 20 international versions of The Bachelorette and The Bachelor respectively.
Recently I have been thinking about how The Bachelor and The Bachelorette TV shows have endured for over a decade. What makes them so successful? And what can we learn from their success?
As a long time viewer I do have some thoughts on this of course. And there are certainly some good takeaways from a branding and marketing standpoint. I’ve identified six things that I believe make the show so popular and successful:
1. A Relatable Human Experience
The show centers around the bachelor or bachelorette’s quest to find true love. Most people can identify with the desire to find love, and to be loved. So it’s easy to root for someone looking for love, and to want a happy ending for them.
Love and relationships are something that all people can relate to, and anyone and everyone has an opinion on the topic of love and relationships regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or identification, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, ideologies, and so on.
The universal appeal and relatability of the Bachelor shows make them great fodder for “water cooler talk” in the office or on social media at large, which has helped interest in the show spread.
2. A Winning Formula
The rules and protocol of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are pretty simple and haven’t changed much in its ten-year-plus run. The bachelor or bachelorette starts off with a pool of 25-30 prospects to choose from. At the end of the season the bachelor or the bachelorette is supposed to pick one person that they will get involved with and presumably marry. Usually there is a proposal on the last episode of the season, but there have been a couple of instances in which there wasn’t.
It’s easy to follow and the show even has its own set of jargon. Dedicated fans will be familiar with these “bachelor terms”: the first impression rose, the rose ceremony, one-on-one dates, group dates, two-on-one dates, the hometown date and fantasy suite. In case you’re wondering, it’s all explained here on Wikipedia.
The viewers love it. It works, and if you have a winning formula there’s no need to change it.
3. Repurpose Your Best Assets
The first bachelorette of The Bachelorette was a contestant on the first The Bachelor show. The opposite has also happened, with The Bachelor being someone who was previously a contestant on The Bachelorette. And most of the cast/contestants for The Bachelor Pad and Bachelor in Paradise shows are individuals who have appeared on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette shows.
Personally, I think that it is a brilliant and winning strategy to have these shows feed into each other. Viewers are already familiar with many of the individuals who have appeared on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette shows. And it’s likely that many of them were rooting for runner up candidates that didn’t win the heart of the bachelor or bachelorette.
Bringing back runners up for another chance at love on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette is a great way to get viewers to tune in. And with Bachelor in Paradise, the “cast” consists of male and female contestants from past seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. That means that there will be someone that viewers already know- from the fan favorites to the villainous- which makes for great TV. It’s like tuning in each week to watch the characters on your favorite soap opera or sitcom to see what they are up to.
And then there’s Bachelor Live, which is an after show dedicated to discussion of The Bachelor and hosted by Chris Harrison. On the show, Harrison shares deleted scenes, outtakes and exclusive content pertaining to the show.
Sometimes while watching The Bachelor, viewers are left wondering, whatever happened to so and so after she broke down under the pressure and left the show, or how is so and so doing after being sent home?
So past contestants have been asked to appear on Bachelor Live, and to talk about what they personally went through being on The Bachelor and how they have been since leaving the show. All of this plays into the relatability factor of the show.
Getting viewers to care about the contestants is definitely key to boosting The Bachelor’s ratings and popularity.
4. Build a Community and Harness the Power of Social Media
As mentioned before, there’s already Bachelor Nation for the fans. For contestants, once they have appeared on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, they are part of the “Bachelor family,” which means that they might have future opportunities to appear on a spin-off show or invited to the televised wedding of other “Bachelor contestants.”
Contestants who are social media savvy and well liked by fans and the media will probably be able to attain and maintain some level of minor celebrity status by remaining active and visible on social media platforms like Instagram, or Twitter. This is great for diehard fans who want to know how some of their favorite bachelors and bachelorettes are doing after the end of the show.
The power of social media played out live on Monday nights, when The Bachelorette episodes air. When Twitter went abuzz over something that happened in an episode of the recent Bachelorette season, bachelorette Rachel Lindsay tweeted to clarify what actually happened.
Bachelor Nation, the "Bachelor family" and social media are all part of the community that builds on the Bachelor brand.
5. The Focus on the Fans
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette shows are exceptionally good about this. The fact that the name Bachelor Nation was coined for the fans of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette shows, speaks volumes. With #BachelorNation it’s easy to follow the conversation of fans on social media.
Give your fans what they want and something to be excited about.
The Bachelor host Chris Harrison and bachelor, Ben Higgins actually dropped in on fan viewing parties (for Ben’s season) completely unannounced, surprising fans of the show, and fanning the flames of enthusiasm and anticipation for the show. Viewers love the bachelors or bachelorettes, after watching them for an entire season, viewers feel as though they know the bachelors and bachelorettes personally.
Immediately following the airing of The Bachelor, there’s an after show called Bachelor Live, which is really for the super fans of the show. During the show, host Chris Harrison discusses the most recent episodes of The Bachelor, invites viewers to interact via social media and shares viewer questions and comments from #BachelorNation.
When it’s time to select a new bachelor or bachelorette for the next season, fans are quite vocal about it. And their opinions do matter to ABC TV. The network cares about how likable candidates are, and will look to Bachelor Nation’s reaction to a candidate's television appearances and what’s being said on social media. In fact, the network has infamously changed who they had selected to be the bachelor or bachelorette at the last minute. In one case, instead of selecting a runner up from The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, as has been the case traditionally, the network selected someone who had just made an appearance on Bachelor in Paradise.
Give your fans what they want but make an informed decision and do test marketing if possible to see what will work best.
6. Leverage Your Celebrity Fans
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have invited celebrity fans like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, and Amy Schumer to appear on the show. It’s a great way to entice your viewers to watch, and what better spokesperson is there for your show or brand than a celebrity? Celebrity guests who have their own shows and dedicated fanbase, like Ellen Degeneres and Jimmy Kimmel- that’s who.
When the contestants from Bachelor/Bachelorette appear on the shows of celebrity guests that means additional exposure for the show. The bachelorette Rachel Lindsay and several of her suitors appeared on Ellen Degeneres’ hugely popular daytime talk show.
Late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel is also a fan of The Bachelor shows. He regularly predicts who the bachelor or bachelorette will select at the end of the season. And after the final episode has aired, the bachelor or bachelorette is invited to appear on the Jimmy Kimmel Show with their chosen significant other.
Celebrity fans of The Bachelor and Bachelorette have also been invited onto Bachelor Live, where they will chat with Chris Harrison about the pool of candidates, pick their favorites and make predictions about who will win the heart of the bachelor.
The Bachelor franchise definitely knows how to leverage its celebrity fans to get the show more exposure, and interest.
If you think about it, these 6 things could easily be applied to branding or marketing any business or product. Who knew that watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette on and off for the past decade would have yielded any business insights?