The UK press has taken much delight in reporting the story of Roland Bunce. To bring you up to speed, Bunce is one of the contestants who took part in an online modelling competition with UK clothing retailer Next.
Next is a mid-price high street fashion name, present in most town centres across the UK. As part of its latest ‘Make me the Next Model’ competition, potential models can post photographs to a website for public vote. The highest scoring entries are shortlisted for final adjudication by jury and the winner gets to appear in a Next photo shoot and receives £2,000 for being good looking and popular enough to win the competition.
As marketing ideas go, this is a nice idea but fairly unremarkable. That is until 24-year-old Roland Bunce decided to take part. In modelling terms, Bunce is not what one might term ‘classically good looking’, but then since this is a competition open to the public, Bunce gave it a go and submitted his picture.
Next presumably wanted to encourage submissions from people of all shapes and sizes, but what they might not have counted on is the astonishing popularity of Bunce in the competition. His unlikely appearance in a competition of tall, dark and handsome men has struck a chord with the online audience, who have voted him into the top 10. To date his profile page on Next has been "liked" an astounding 32,000 times.
The UK press has reacted very strangely, with the Daily Mail claiming the competition has been sabotaged. The insinuation being that the competition is a mockery if Bunce wins. If the rumours surrounding the controversy surrounding Britain’s Got Talent are true, it’s nice to know that we can still have an honest competition in the UK.
Next were no doubt surprised – but since the final decision rests with a judging panel they can obviously pick a winner to suit their purposes, but I can’t help but feel that if Next had the guts to go with what seems to be the public favourite, there is massive PR potential in turning the Roland Bunce into a stylish man about town, kitted out in Next clobber.
I wonder if the people in charge are up to the challenge.
WHY IS THIS ON CREAM? Getting the public involved in a campaign is always going to be risky, but even the most unexpected result has potential – provided the brand involved has the vision to deal with and the backbone to see it through.
By Mark St. Andrew