Marketing Idea No. 275: Elementary, like Sherlock Homes

It seems the whole world is going crazy with the question: How did Sherlock homes fake his own suicide in the popular BBC series “Sherlock”? Now, it seems is an appropriate time to learn from the super sleuth a thing or two about branding.

 

One of the tricky parts of building a powerful brand is creating a verbal and visual identity that is unique and compelling at the same time. In that measure, the creation of Sherlock Homes the brand excels in all levels. The “bowler hat wearing shadow with smoking pipe” and the “221 B Baker Street” address are some of the most recognizable visual icons in entertainment industry. Moreover, through words and catch phrases like “Deduction” and “Elementary, My Dear Watson”; it also created a unique verbal identity that can easily build on the lure of Sherlock brand.

 

However like every brand that has to go through a period of refreshing after existing for a 100 years, Sherlock Homes also transformed for the digital generation. And what a transformation that was!

 

First, the new Sherlock Homes is more contemporary and lives in modern day London and has more real life, mundane problems to deal with. The pace of the show is break neck, not the leisurely detective stories that we come to expect, which is partly because of refining this show more as an action thriller rather than the traditional “Whodunnit” and also because the attention-deficit Millennials are the target audience for this, not the nostalgia seeking oldies. The new Sherlock is dark, flawed and moody, a sort of Dark Knight-ish anti-hero. Nowadays, he fights terrorism, not hounds in a dark, foggy water body. And with Watson, he is defining the 21st century bromance, which is not only about binge drinking or trading midlife crisis secrets.

 

But the biggest trick that the creators used to make this show a global phenomenon is building hype at the same time limiting supply; a classic marketing trick. Every season has 3-4 episodes and even the seasons come after every alternate years. Compare that with the typical American series which runs every year and  has 12-23 episodes every year. By limiting the supply, they keep the fans craving for more. And then of course ending last season (Two years ago) with the mother of all cliff hangers where Sherlock committed suicide in broad daylight only the audience finding out in last frame that he is still alive and then creating a two years gap; you can imagine the buzz in the internet and forums; which only got bigger and louder with passing time. As of now, the unveiling of Sherlock Season 3 in BBC One on January 2, 2014 has truly become a global mega event.

 

But none of this of course would happen if you didn’t have an outstanding actor like Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead. This again stays true to the age-world marketing wisdom: you may have the best marketing trick in the world, but it always come down to how good your product actually is.

 

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