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Current Marketing Trend: Reality TV [CASE STUDY]

“Here comes the bride,
The make-up cannot hide,
Her ultra-stressed out manner,
She should have hired a wedding planner.” 😉

Twenty years ago, no one but the super-rich and famous had wedding planners. Today (and I speak from experience) people think you’re nuts if you don’t have one.

What changed?

Well it could be “Say Yes to the Dress”. Or “Rich Bride Poor Bride”. Or “4 Weddings”. Or “For Better or For Worse”. Or “Wedding SOS”. Or “Whose Wedding is it Anyway?”

The current marketing trend of reality TV shows.

There’s even an entire channel: WE, wedding television. And don’t get me started on the magazines. Or the internet. I’m just scratching the surface here.

They all involve wedding planners. And an entire industry is overjoyed.

Service businesses in the luxury or special event space know that when times get tough, it gets a lot harder to find new clients. But wedding planning has taken off in the last ten years, and after a brief dip during the recession, has seen renewed growth.

Now let me tell you how your business can see a piece of that current marketing trend…

Something Old, Something New: There Haven’t Always Been Wedding Planners…

There was a time when weddings and the planning thereof were strictly the purview of brides, their families and friends and the communities they were a part of.

Professional wedding planners were a rarity, so in the early days, they weren’t competing with each other – they were competing with centuries of tradition. Only the fabulously wealthy or famous had outside help planning the big day; everyone else was just fine going the DIY route.

Wedding planning as a career or a retail service just wasn’t something that people even really knew about. For Joe and Jane Lovebird, the expenditure was seen as unnecessary at best, and an indulgent extravagance at worst.

This isn’t unique to wedding planning, and is in fact true of many industries that we now take for granted – like fast food, for instance. Restaurants only made a real appearance in North America in the late 1800s, and it wasn’t until the ‘20s and ‘30s that regular families started going out for meals – once in a while. Mostly, restaurant clientele was made up of single men and teenagers.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, however, fast food restaurants exploded into the North American psyche and became an integral part of daily life, with most families going at least once a week.

This couldn’t have happened without print, television and radio ads normalizing the idea – making it seem like it was just “something that everybody did, and so should you”.

As a whole, society can change its mind about what is important, or necessary, but it doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time, strong marketing and lots and lots of social proof.

So… what convinced people that spending money on a wedding planner was normal?

It was Jennifer Lopez. Really.

Jennifer Lopez became an actress and starred in The Wedding Planner.

Of course, that was just the beginning. The film was quickly followed by TV show after TV show chronicling the trials and tribulations of brides, grooms, mothers-in-law… and their wedding planners (Father of the Bride comes to mind). There’s even an entire television channel devoted to the subject!

These (carefully and thoroughly sponsored) documentary style programs have, over the past 5 years or so, normalized the idea of the wedding planner as essential – to such an extent that 30% of couples married in the last year used one!

That may not sound like a big deal, but it’s up from about 2% only a few years ago. And they’re making pretty good money!

Why? A big part of it is due to the strong, unmistakable benefits that these famous wedding planners illustrate:

  1. Wedding planners have the best connections and get the best deals.
  2. They understand the needs of the day better than anyone else.
  3. They end up saving couples tons of money.
  4. They give the bride a chance to sit back and enjoy her wedding instead of stressing over the details.

Now, it’s totally subjective whether or not any of these things are actually true, but many believe they are, and wedding planners are taking that belief straight to the bank.

The huge amount a mindshare that wedding planning occupies in the minds of the engaged, thanks to the recent outbreak of media attention, allows them to charge premium rates for what is now considered a necessary luxury service.

A Question of Time vs. Money

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the question: “are you getting a planner?” is, these days, if not expected, at least on the list of the first few that the newly affianced can expect to field.

It’s not just the media attention on the industry that’s changed, either; our culture’s way of prioritizing time and money, and the importance of the wedding have changed, too.

But what really came first – reality TV, or the wedding planner?

We may never know for sure, but the wedding planning industry took wonderful advantage of the fact that a couple’s time is now just as precious (if not more so) then their money.

This trend isn’t just important to wedding planners; professionals like life coaches, organization experts and many others are all able to charge premium prices – not just for their services, but because they bring peace of mind, a more enjoyable life, and membership to a club of successful, busy people.

Wedding planning now adds up to an average of 10-15% of a couple’s wedding budget, and the average American wedding (not expensive, mind you, just average) costs $27,000. So do the math; that’s an average of $3,300 per wedding, with some getting an awful lot higher!

Some planners do offer lower rates, hourly work or discounted services, but the vast majority of them are firm in their belief that the high price tag is essential.

And brides and grooms seem to agree.

Dance All Night: How to Charge What You’re Worth

Times change, and with them, people’s priorities.

Your ideal customer is constantly evolving, and you must be sensitive to that evolution if you want to remain competitive, and even capitalize on new opportunities by jumping in with a newly tailored offer that will make their lives better and easier.

People are more willing than ever to pay for convenience and peace of mind. If you can take their worries away, even for a short time, they’ll hand over their credit cards and praise you along the way.

The key is to pay attention, and know when the changes are coming.

You don’t have to obsessively keep up with the latest movies or reality TV shows to know what’s going on with your customers. You can keep tabs on these changes (and avoid rotting your brain!) just by being involved in their communities, both online and offline.

By being an active member of the groups that your customers are a part of, you’ll be first to learn when new trends start to take hold.

Keep track of the television shows that your market watches, the books that they read, the blogs that they follow, and the Twitter feeds that they monitor (trends are very visible when you know where to look!).

Being “of the moment”, and speaking to the problems and values your target audience holds most dear, means you can charge the premium rates that you’re worth, and that your customers will be happy to pay!


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