Since 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest has celebrated the very best – and worst – of European pop music. After last year’s winners, Ukraine, were unable to host this year’s event because of the Russian invasion, the world’s biggest cultural event lands on British shores this year for the first time since 1998.
Last year’s contest was a return to form for the United Kingdom after years in the doldrums. Sam Ryder’s ‘Space Man’ won the jury vote and finished in second place – extending the UK’s record of being the runner-up at Eurovision more than any other nation.
Over the years the contest has launched the career of luminaries such as ABBA, Celine Dion, and Bucks Fizz. It’s also featured some terrible songs, madcap performances, and frankly bizarre stage antics.
But, there’s also lots Eurovision can teach you about successful marketing so, as the eyes of the world focus on Liverpool, here are some lessons to learn.
1. Don’t try and be what you’re not
This year’s Latvian entry, ‘Aija’ by the band Sudden Lights, was sung in English. It’s not unusual – over the last two decades countries as diverse as Azerbaijan, Russia, Sweden, and Austria have won the contest singing in English.
The problem with the song was that, as far as anyone could tell, the singer’s English wasn’t fantastic.
In recent years there has been a slight resurgence in Eurovision acts performing in their mother tongue. This year you’ll enjoy songs in languages as diverse as Slovene, Finnish, Romanian, Portuguese, and Albanian.
There’s no right or wrong way to approach Eurovision. In recent years songs in Portuguese, Ukrainian and Italian have all won – mainly because they were the standout tunes in the contest.
When it comes to marketing the point is “you do you”. Speak in a language that you’re comfortable with and, crucially, that your audience will understand.
2. Concentrate on what you’re good at
One of the things you’ll have heard us talk a lot about is establishing the types of client that you want to work with before devising a marketing strategy. Creating client personas, and carefully thinking about what sort of prospect you want to attract, is key to targeting your approach.
You might want to work with business owners, people approaching retirement, or younger clients in professional roles. Whatever your target audience, it’s important to concentrate on what you’re good at.
Sweden has a terrific recent record at Eurovision because they are great at choosing a proper pop banger. You don’t see them sending weird folk music, heavy metal, or jazz. They spend weeks using TV heats to choose a universally popular hit song. Their 2023 entry, Loreen’s ‘Tattoo’ is a flat-out high-energy floor filler.
If you start pretending to be something you’re not, people will see through you.
Getting American megastar Flo Rida to guest on little San Marino’s entry ‘Adrenalina’ in 2021 might have looked like a good idea in a meeting, but the audience didn’t buy it and it finished in 22nd place, 25 points behind a Norwegian man wearing enormous angel wings.
3. Make sure you stand out
Many people tune into Eurovision on a Saturday night without realising that the competition has been going on all week. This year, 37 countries turned up in Liverpool, with 11 of them eliminated before the main event on Saturday night even begins.
Excellent entries from Malta and the Netherlands fell at the first hurdle this year, and even seven-time winners Ireland failed to get past the semi-final stage.
In such a competitive event, you have to do something that gets you noticed. This year you’ll see men in their underpants standing by a fella with two giant missiles. You’ll see a man in a dayglo jacket smash his way out of a wooden crate. You’ll see six Czech singers look like they have stepped straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Pushing the boundaries, trying something new, and daring to be different can really help you to stand out. This is as true for your marketing as it is for the Eurovision stage.
Think back to the winners you can recall. Bucks Fizz and their famous “ripping off the skirt routine”. ABBA turning up in Brighton looking like they had beamed down from another planet. Conchita Wurst – Austria’s “bearded lady” – owning the stage as huge, fiery wings appeared.
Of course, there is a risk. Francesco Gabbani turned up on stage in 2017 and sang ‘Occidentali’s Karma’ while someone in a gorilla costume danced next to him. He came sixth.
4. Timing is crucial
There’s no point deploying your brand-new retirement guide on social media in the middle of the night. As well as speaking to your audience in terms they understand, you also have to communicate with your audience at the right time.
You have to go back to 1984 for the last time the song that went first at Eurovision won the event (it was The Herrey’s ridiculous ‘Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley’ if you’re interested). The song that goes second has never won.
Each of the last 19 Eurovision winners has appeared 10th or later in the running order of the show. That’s because having your song fresh in the audience’s mind is vital when it comes to the public vote.
One of 2022’s best songs, Czechia’s ‘Lights Off’ was by no means the fifth worst song in the contest but, as it opened the show, voters had largely forgotten it by the time the lines opened.
It’s the same for your marketing message. You must get the timing right to ensure it’s at the front of a prospect’s mind at the point they want to act.
5. Good content is king
If you’re not a Eurovision fan, the chances are you think it’s all a pile of ear-splitting rubbish. However, the truth is this: terrible songs do not generally win the Eurovision Song Contest.
While it may be true that the best song doesn’t always win – Cliff Richard was absolutely robbed when ‘Congratulations’ was beaten to the title by a Spanish song that included the word “la” 123 times in 1968 – it has to be good to win.
A good song can be elevated by spectacular staging, timing, or other events – you can argue that Ukraine’s win in 2016 or 2022 wasn’t entirely about the song – but there’s nothing you can do with an awful effort. Indeed, since the pre-qualification was introduced in 2004, many of the truly mediocre songs are eliminated at the semi-final stage.
In Eurovision terms, the cream generally rises to the top. So, if you want to succeed, you need to hire an expert. This is true both for your own marketing, and if you’re trying to win an international music contest.
If you’re looking for high-quality content that can really elevate your marketing, get in touch. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 8965 300.
(If you’re looking to win Eurovision, Johnny Logan is your man. So-called “Mr Eurovision” won the contest in 1980 (with ‘What’s Another Year?’) and in 1987 (with the magnificent ballad ‘Hold Me Now’) before returning in 1992 to write Linda Martin’s winner ‘Why Me?’ He’s the only person to win Eurovision three times, so he’d be the first call I’d make if I wanted to give my campaign the best chance of success.)