Top 10 Lessons Brands Can Learn From Eurovision

Blair Cowan

Saturday marks the 63rd annual Eurovision Song Contest, this year to be held in Lisbon, Portugal with a whopping 43 countries competing. Eurovision entries have taken many forms over the years, from the silly to the ironic to the spooky to the very, very excited. It’s always fun to see which country will win (and, let’s be honest, which ones will flop) each year, and watching the competition through a marketer’s eyes can give a very different outlook. Take a look below at the top 10 lessons we’ve taken away from the last sixty-plus years of Eurovision:

  •  Let’s talk about Ireland’s 2008 performance, when they sent an actual puppet to compete. The turkey puppet moved around the stage behind a DJ booth and while the stunt didn’t earn them the win, it did generate a load of publicity.
    The Lesson: Don’t be afraid to go big. Do you have a big idea you’re scared to tackle? Don’t be! It might flop, but you’ll learn something in the failure.

  • Finnish band Lordi had been performing for FOURTEEN YEARS before they took the stage at Eurovision in 2006 and became the first hard rock act AND first Finnish act to win the contest, all while dressed like monsters.
    The Lesson: Keep trying. Your plan for massive growth has stalled out? Keep testing, trying and working to find what resonates with your customer base until you find success!

  • No one ever would have remembered 2010’s act from Moldova, Sunstroke Project, if it weren’t for the over-the-top antics of their saxophonist. But his dance moves and catchy solos turned him into a meme overnight, and eight years later, people all over the world still use gifs of his performance in online conversation every day.
    The Lesson: Present yourself with confidence. Be proud of your product and your messaging, because if you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect your customers to believe in you?

  • Copenhagen hosted Eurovision for the first time in 1964 and subsequently lost all copies of the recording. Because television stations didn’t automatically record and preserve all of their footage back then, no one else has footage either. A recording of the winner’s encore was recently found and can be viewed on Youtube, but none of the original recording remains.
    The Lesson: Someone has definitely done something stupider than you before, so don’t sweat your embarrassing missteps. A new product flopped? A campaign didn’t give the results you wanted? Take it in stride and move on.
  • Sweden’s 2017 Eurovision song was performed by Channing Tatum-lookalike Robin Bengtsson on a treadmill with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a pop sensation- and none of the cheesiness we’ve all come to expect from Eurovision. But Sweden placed a distant fifth in the voting and Portugal’s soft, mellow act with none of Sweden’s fanfare was able to beat Bengtsson. That hasn’t stopped Bengtsson from building an impressive social media following… and nearly twice as many digital downloads as Portugal’s winning act!
    The Lesson: Not everyone is going to love you, and that’s ok. You can still be successful by converting your fans into advocates and your advocates into evangelists.

  • In 1990 (a true golden age for fans of Eurovision- acts were still required to be accompanied by a live band, costumes were big, and hair was bigger), the backing track for the first act of the night didn’t play correctly, and Spain’s act had to leave the stage after missing their cue. They came back once the track was cued correctly, put on a killer performance and never lost their cool… at least not on camera.
    The Lesson: Sometimes things are just outside your control. Take it in stride and don’t let your customers know you’re panicking behind-the-scenes- even if you are.

  • Take (another) cue from Ireland: they may have hosted- and won- Eurovision in 1994, but the thing everyone remembers from the contest that year isn’t the winner, the venue or even the hosts- but the interval act: Riverdance. The Riverdance dancers weren’t Eurovision contestants- they were just there to kill time while the votes were tallied. But people fell so much in love with the brand-new style of dance, that the show was developed into a full-length dance programme and has played over 450 venues to date and been seen live by over 25 million people.
    The Lesson: Turn every opportunity into a success. Embrace the opportunities in front of you- even if they’re not at the scale you want to be at. Work to succeed at the small things, so you’re ready when the big opportunities appear.

  • So you can’t play an instrument and you’re rubbish at dancing, but you’ve been chosen to represent your country at Eurovision? That’s fine: follow West Germany’s example from 1977 and get yourself a telegram machine. They may not have won the contest that year, but they did bring their retro, already-outdated technology to a world stage in a new and unique way.
    The Lesson: Make the most of what you’ve got. Use the successes you’ve had to learn what works for your brand and translate that into future campaigns. And if the thing that works for you seems weird to everyone else, shrug it off. They probably wouldn’t look as great as you in a pink sequinned romper with tuxedo tails anyway.

  • West Germany, having learned that obsolete technologies weren’t the way to win Eurovision, returned two years later hoping that this time they could snatch the title with Dschinghis Khan, the lead singer of which dressed as Genghis Khan, if Genghis Khan was really into gold lamé.
    The Lesson: Mistakes don’t last forever. Had a bad week of sales? Fix it next week. Invested too much in a set of adverts that didn’t convert anyone? Learn from your mistake and do better next time. On the bright side, at least there’s (probably) not an online record of you doing Genghis Khan-style dance moves for posterity.

  • One last note: Sincerity will often take you farther than sarcasm. This could really apply to any Eurovision act, so I’ll specifically cite Latvia’s 2008 entry, sung by pirates about wolves, Cyprus’s 2016 entry with the most dramatic zoom ever seen at Eurovision and Bosnia & Herzegovina’s 2004 entry involving the single most earnest dancing possibly ever done to a disco tune, all done with complete sincerity.
    The Lesson: Make sure your customers know that you’ll be there for them, sincerely.

And a bonus performance too good not to include in this list: here’s Peter, Sue & Marc, performing for Switzerland at Eurovision in 1976- the second out of a total of four times they would perform… in four different languages. That’s gotta be some kind of record, right?

Looking for some advice on your next marketing campaign and Eurovision isn’t cutting it? Contact us today to discuss how to take your brand to the next level with creative design, effective campaigns and more.

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