The Chucky Paradox: Why bands shouldn't fear overkill
Sometimes you see something weird or terrible and you just have to
share it with the people you love force other people to see it too.
I saw a terrible Chucky ad for the upcoming season of the TV series and I have questions.
How is Chucky content still being made?
Who is watching this?
3 seasons of a Chucky TV show, really?
Who's financing this madness?
Why is Chucky “invading children’s hospitals in America?” (Season 2 plot evidently)
Despite being the most unsettling toy ever, Chucky doesn’t get 8 movies and 3 seasons of a TV show without an audience. Our knife-wielding creepy toddler friend (and the USA Network) both know the golden rule of marketing: Repetition builds brand.
Before you kill me off in the next act, I promise I’m getting to a point.
[Chucky puns will continue until morale improves]
Growing up in the 80s, in addition to my inexplicable fear of dolls (thanks, Chucky, Gremlins, and Puppet Master), I'd see Coca-Cola splashed across screens and stadiums every Super Bowl and Summer Olympics.
Did you know Coca-Cola has been sponsoring the Olympics for 95 years? Almost a century of sticking to a message. Sports = fun = Coke. Now, I haven’t witnessed all 95 years, but the consistent branding sure made an impression.
Let’s unbox this terror-filled doll that is message repetition.
Repetition Is Hard
Sending the same brand message out into the world over and over is difficult for marketers. We get bored. We thrive on creativity. We see every one of these messages and lose faith in their effectiveness.
The most memorable brands have one thing in common: a consistent message.
The Michelin Man has been around for more than a century and, even though he’s a bubbly white giant, always represents tires to us. Mr. Clean's bald head and white tee? Iconic, clean. Mastercard’s sonic branding? A modern-day marvel that straddles Instagram and your grocery store checkout.
Consistency is more than repetition.
It's about crafting a message that resonates, sticks, and is worth repeating. A message that can be emphasized with directness and nuance.
“A Diamond Is Forever,” the famous De Beers tagline, has never changed. Wheaties? Still the “Breakfast of Champions” from its first bowl in 1927.
It’s easy to “try something new” and redo the logo or tagline. Or to stop using a concept because it feels outdated.
McDonald’s purple Grimace shakes recently went viral on TikTok because they haven’t thrown away their 50-year-old cast of characters.
The first challenge of any brand is being remembered. The second challenge is being trusted. Both take unrelenting repetition.
Repetition = Trust
Enter the rule of 7, or if we go by Thomas Smith’s guide from the 1800s, the rule of 20.
We all know a consumer must encounter a message multiple times before it sinks in. Repetition builds familiarity, and familiarity breeds trust. Every time your message re-enters the public's sphere, it reinforces the brand’s position in the consumer's mind.
This doesn't mean bludgeoning your audience with the same mindless creative over and over. We do get tired of the same visual and will tune it out.
It's about fine-tuning a consistent message while ensuring it remains relevant. Ensuring you have creative opportunities to reinforce. And always remember, you might not be the best gauge of when a message has lost its luster.
How Horror Keeps Thrilling
Back to our favorite stabby villain, Chucky (and all horror movies) rely on familiar tropes and a consistent experience. Much like marketing.
We remember the oddly cheerful yet murderous doll with red hair.
The stripped-shirt guy with knife fingers.
The hockey mask killer.
Horror franchises like Child's Play endure because they tap into a universal, familiar emotion: fear. It’s not my cup of tea, but clearly, there’s an audience. My dad encouraged me not to look away from scary movie scenes when I was a kid. Maybe he made me immune to horror films? I will say, some very specific scenes from Alien are still very much stuck in my mind.
For many of these films, the adrenaline is exactly what some movie-goers are looking for.
As with branding, it’s about evoking that reliable experience time and again.
The big idea
If you feel like you’re playing the same tune over and over again, BUT people are still listening, play on.
(Even if you have to suspend belief that somehow someone is still playing with a Chucky doll after a death toll of over 67 murders)
It’s tempting to reinvent the wheel. But sometimes, what's needed is a refined, consistent message. Repetition isn't about being redundant; it's about reinforcing trust.
Hat tip to Jim MacLeod on Threads for helping me think in this weird Chucky direction.