Orange is the New Black, a perfect brand for user generated images

It seems a long time ago that TV viewers simply watched their favorite shows. If they did talk about them it was around the water cooler the next day. Remember this? It was a mere seven years ago that HBO still marketed the talk value of its shows by suggesting it was a boon for the water cooler industry.

Now, of course, any conversation or debate about a hot show takes place online. In real time. And the networks know it.

They wisely invite, encourage and inspire not only the conversation, but deeper viewer involvement when it comes to creating content about the shows they watch. What’s interesting is how quickly this phenomenon and marketing tactic has emerged. In fact, unless you have a short memory you may recall that a few years ago the opposite was true.

In 2008 AMC went after both Twitter and the users who had hi-jacked the shows characters.  Fans had created profiles and personas for a number of the main characters and were attracting both followers and attention. AMC tried to shut the culprits down until its PR agency convinced the network to come to its senses and acknowledge that maybe it was a good thing to let enthusiastic supporters spread the word and build buzz for the new show.

Mad Men, Orange, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones are today’s passion brands.

Today networks launch hashtags,  feed content to consumer blogs, and assure that their sites and online presence contribute to making their shows full blown social and community experiences. So it’s no surprise that Orange is the New Black has invited fans to create art work for an upcoming campaign.What is surprising is how good and simple some of the entries have been.

A submission by Maria Giorgi to Netflix's user generated contest.

A submission by Maria Giorgi to Netflix’s user generated contest.

For instance, take Alex’s glasses. Black frames on the orange background is virtually all the branding you need. If you’re a viewer and you get it you smile. If you’re not, you wonder what it’s all about and that level of involvement leads you to believe you must be missing out on something.

It’s possible that when the art work becomes actual billboards that Netflix will add words, logo, etc. I hope they don’t. The fact is it’s not even necessary. This clean approach would create more of a buzz. And given that most of the other images are realistic interpretations of the characters, it’s enough to be interesting, which is first and foremost the ultimate objective for any ad campaign.

Could other TV shows generate such instantly recognized brand executions from amateurs and fans? Maybe. But with a name comprised of colors, Orange is the New Black jumpstarts the art direction for you.

Perhaps this is something all brands should keep in mind when it comes to their use of product names, design elements and color if they, too, plan on jumping on the user-generated bandwagon.

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