PART 1 - “The WWE Wrestling-Mark Consumer Lifecycle” -
by, 04-21-2012 at 11:18 AM (2865 Views)
Little Jimmy Full Graph.jpg
Greetings, fellow wrestling (s)mark. My name is Dr_Cuboid (well not really) and this is my first blog on this site. Like many of you, I’ve been a fan of pro wrestling my entire life. The image that you see above is something I created out of sheer boredom at work.
A bit of background on myself (I’m going somewhere with this, its not filler),
- I just turned 26 years old last week
- I’ve been a fan since I was about 8 years old (around 1994);
- I work full time;
- I watch MMA religiously and train in Brazilian JiuJitsu;
- I broke up with my longtime girlfriend about 2 years ago and haven’t had a proper relationship since
- I still hang out with my buddies from university and we often bitch about wrestling.
Why is this important and why should you care?
Well, first off, by introducing myself, I have allowed you to do the following:
- Identify which demographic, I fall into i.e. 18-35 Male, long-term wrestling fan
- Identifiy psychographic consumer data such as my other interests and personal situation.
Wresting is a business first and foremost. Any business-owner will tell you that the first step to marketing your business is ALWAYS to identify your target market. Vincent Kennedy McMahon, MBA (Harvard), understands this concept extremely well.
Ask yourself a question, “am I the target audience for Raw and Smackdown? If not, who is?”
Secondly, I come from a Marketing background, so If you will do me the honour of reading all the way through this blog I will introduce you to a concept that some of you may already be familiar with, but others will find completely novel. I call this concept, “The WWE Wrestling-Mark Consumer Lifecycle”.
This concept will help you understand why wrestling is in the state that its currently in and will help you to predict future trends. If that’s something you may be interested to understand, then READ ON!
Now I warn you, this blog is intentionally long (2 Parts) because I want to emphasise certain points. If my writing style annoys you, thank you for reading this far, please feel free to stop reading now.
The graph explains the jist of it anyway.
If you do decide you still want to read on, please do me the simple courtesy of reading through to the end before commenting (It’ll be fun… as Jake the Snake once said, “Trust Me”).
I must mention that I am focusing this blog purely on the E. TNA, Japan and other promotions are out of scope for this article.
Ok now that’s out of the way lets begin.
PHASE 1 Get Little Jimmy (6-12 year olds)
The WWE, as many of you know – or SHOULD know – is by default targeted towards children.
Think about that for a second.
When I was a kid, wrestling was the coolest thing ever (and this was at a time when the industry was financially in the toilet). My friends and I idolized Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.
I’m sure that many of you who grew up in the 80s felt similarly about Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. They weren’t around when I first started watching (WCW doesn’t count because they didn’t show it where I lived until 1996). So by default Bret Hart was the greatest wrestler ever to me and could take Hulk Hogan any day (I still feel that way today).
What about the kids today, who were either too young to enjoy Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock in full pomp during the Attitude era? They need someone to look up to as well right? Enter the man the IWC loves to hate, John Cena.
Like it or not, John Cena is this generation’s Hulk Hogan. Believe me, it pains me to write this and I know I’m not the first person to say it. The 80s had Hogan, the 90s had Bret, the 00s had Cena.
For the sake of this article I shall refer to this original 6-12 year old consumer targeted by the WWE as “Little Jimmy”.
You need a squeaky clean babyface for Little Jimmy to look up to and want to be like when they grow. Remember, the vast majority of children don’t understand ‘kayfabe’. Its still REAL to them dammit! This is reflected in their consumer behavior, they’ll buy ANYTHING with their heroes on them: lunch boxes, action figures, t-shirts, you name it… It’s a gold mine that the WWE simply MUST utilize if it is to stay financially solvent.
If you didn’t start watching wrestling as a 6-12 year old, ask yourself “What else did I like when I was a kid”. Transformers? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Pokemon? Naruto? Ben 10? Think of how much merchandise you or your friends bought as kids and you’ll understand that for WWE to target Little Jimmy is simply “good business”. This, as almost everyone knows, is the business reasoning for the PG era.
PHASE 2 : ‘Medium Jimmy’ - Keep the Pre-Teens interested
Now having an established “Face of the Company” perform regularly in the main event for several years establishes the WWE brand in the consumer’s mind.
The goodwill carried over from years of epic moments watching Hulk Hogan or Bret Hart (or John Cena * sigh*) , carries a lot of weight with Little Jimmy. Even though life’s starting to get a bit harder and things aren’t as simple and easy as just a few years ago.
During this time for whatever reason, the do-no-wrong babyface’s popularity plateaus and eventually begins to decline. Does this sound familiar?
For Hogan this happened around the early 90s in the WWF (extended through his WCW run prior to the NWO). For Bret this started happening in 1996 when Vince wanted a younger, Shawn Michaels to be the new face of the company. Despite declining popularity, the top babyface usually still remains on top, but an urgent requirement for new stars to have their time in the sun emerges.
Bearing in mind that a new “Face of the Company” needs to be built in order to attract new 6-12 year olds, the company’s target market is STILL Little Jimmy. Little Jimmy’s going through some changes and doesn’t enjoy the same stuff he used to.
I believe that we are currently entering this Phase of the lifecycle.
This period of the lifecycle is usually when storylines start to get slightly edgier, babyfaces start acting a little bit like heels (and tweeners like Austin emerging) to reflect the growing frustration in Little Jimmy’s Life. We also start seeing more violent matches, with (dare I say it)… blood! Poor Little Jimmy may not have been able to handle that a few years ago.
What do you guys think?
With the current storyline of John Laurinitis trying to remove Cena as the face of the company and Cena jobbing to The Rock, Tensai and possibly Brock are we really witnessing the beginning of a new Phase?
The early signs may be there, Cena bloodied on Raw, Brock Lesnar returning, CM Punk taking up the main face role on Raw...
Thank you for reading so far and check out PART 2! Look forward to reading your comments!