Strictly Come Dancing’s combination of sequins, spray tans, bare torsos and Latin moves seems irresistible to British TV audiences on dark winter Saturday nights. The show recently captured 40pc of all viewers , some 8.65 million people, beating the first X Factor live show.
So does the attraction come down to pure escapism, wishing an extremely fit professional dancer would come and whirl you round the sitting room? Or is it the “reality” element, which has the true appeal? The success of older women like Pamela Stephenson, 61 when she got to the final in 2010, the transformation of flat-footed cricketers into elegant waltzers, and the incredible weight loss of celebrities like Lisa Riley and Russell Grant – the feeling that any ugly duckling can become a swan with the right teacher and a lot of hard work.
The third element of Strictly’s success must be the British love of a faintly ridiculous underdog – journalist John Sargeant dragging his dance partner across the floor like a sulky child with a teddy during the Paso Doble, and the sight of former Conservative MP Ann Widdicombe descending onto the dance floor by trapeze.
As a business, how can you harness the enthusiasm of the British public for people who are willing to have a go, whatever the results? As a fashion or sports equipment retailer, a hotel chain, holiday company, gym owner or financial services company providing pensions and investments, you have the ability to offer people the opportunity to try something new, possibly to excel at it, but definitely to have fun trying.
You can use your own website and social media platforms to flag up these opportunities to your potential customers directly, perhaps taking inspiration from weekly episodes of Strictly or ignoring the actual programme completely, to highlight new experiences and products. You can bring people who may never have heard of your business or thought of visiting your website directly to it.
One huge advantage of social media is that customers who take you up on the offer can then film or photograph themselves tightrope-walking, eating snails, stroking a lion cub or whatever the experience may be, and post it on your website. This gives you a treasure trove of authentic content to share, encouraging more and more people to do the same.
The appetite for this subject is huge – the TED talk given by Google engineer Matt Cutts on the subject ‘Try something new for 30 days’ has amassed an incredible 5.3 million views online.
A look at the most common online searches around Strictly Come Dancing and fitness, for example, shows people feel inspired to learn the moves themselves, searching for + classes, + DVD and + box set. The Strictly effect also lasts – the most common searches on Strictly Come Dancing + celebrities show people still looking for contestants back to 2009.
AARP, the interest group for retired people in the US and one of the most powerful lobbying organisations in that country, highlights the physical and mental benefits of dancing and where to do it to its members, in a website entry which ranks in the top five on Google.
Using your own website and social media channels gives your business the chance to harness the attraction of shows like Strictly, by offering existing and potential customers experiences and products which give them the chance to escape the mundane and have a go at something new – with or without sequins.