How many people do you know who absolutely cannot stand WWE? There are probably quite a few. You probably even know some outright haters who try to hide how much they love the sport by constantly criticizing it. The point is, WWE fans make up a limited portion of the population in certain locales.
But how many people do you know who have simply never heard of WWE? The answer, more often than not, is a resounding “NONE!? The vast majority of Americans know what WWE is, even those who have zero interest in the sport. Virtually anyone can name off at least two or three of the biggest wrestling stars; even your grandmother can tell you who The Rock and John Cena are.
This doesn’t happen by coincidence. There is a reason everyone has heard of WWE. The organization has mastered the art of marketing. They have taken something that doesn’t make a lot of sense, and turned it into a billion dollar industry. These are the strategies that make WWE one of the best marketers you’ll find.
1. Sell The Sizzle
If you’ve heard the expression, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,” then you already know where we’re going with this. WWE is not selling athleticism or even a sport. You’re not watching WWE to see if your favorite “team” or wrestler is going to out-maneuver the other. Pro wrestlers in WWE possess a degree of athleticism, and they are certainly not lacking in muscles, but they are not “athletes” in the traditional sense.
WWE features tremendous actors putting on a violent play on a glamorous stage. It’s managed to sell a “soap-opera” of sorts to an audience that would never watch actual soap operas. From the over-the-top announcers to the lights, costumes, and memorable personalities, WWE sells the “sizzle” like no other.
2. Know Your Market
WWE knows exactly who its target market is, and the organization has been nearly perfect in knowing what its customers want to buy. WWE didn’t start by trying to sell a product. Instead, it realized early on that its customers wanted a super star, and so super stars were created and became the face of the organization. These larger-than-life figures were then used to sell every product imaginable, from tickets and cable contracts to action figures and posters.
Just like no one buys an NBA poster, but everyone has a Kobe Bryant jersey, it is John Cena being sold, rather than WWE. Your kids want to be John Cena; just go ahead and accept it. Who is John Cena? He’s not even an actual wrestler. He’s one of the most successful brands in America, and he sells more WWE product by himself than the organization would have ever sold trying to promote a fake wrestling organization.
3. Don’t Forget To Provide Engaging Content
In its heyday, WWE went all out with its on-screen content. People watched to see engaging content that pushed the limits. Fans went crazy to see what ridiculously would appear onscreen each week. The organization backed up its sizzle with a juicy steak. The show was entertaining to different demographics for different reasons to different reasons, but there was something edgy for everyone. There was over-the-top violence, action, and sexuality at a time when nothing like this could be found elsewhere on television, and all of this together was insanity.
The combination of metal chairs slammed into faces, rock-and-roll wrestler entrances, women in crazy bikini’s, and grown men wearing even less was absolute insanity. WWE took everything to the extreme, which is what made it so successful. When you turned the TV on each week, you knew you were about to see something you’d never seen before.
4. A Merchandizing Master
WWE merchandise is literally everywhere. A decade ago, you could find some type of product in every single grocery store you visited. This is one thing WWE has done exceptionally well, even too well in some ways. The organization focused on superstars first, but after planting a character firmly in American hearts, WWE provided every type of product imaginable to allow those hearts to make a tangible connection. And oh how it worked.
T-shirts, water bottles, action figures, flags, posters, and other items make sense. They are wrestling related. But WWE didn’t stop there. Because it wasn’t selling a product, it was selling a lifestyle. That’s why we bought John Cena Christmas tree ornaments, frisbees, comic books, furniture, car decals, scooters, monster trucks, dog leashes, and so much more. It sounds outrageous, because it is. WWE started by resonating with the core of its target market, but once that connection was established, it absolutely blitzed its audience with products, allowing consumers to bring the brand into their homes and lives in every way imaginable.
In a rather weird way, WWE is inspirational. It happens on an almost subconscious level, but as you’re watching your favorite wrestler perform crazy moves on his way to winning a championship belt, you feel inspired to bulldoze your own way to glory. How many kids aspire to be pro wrestlers after watching WWE? Pretty much all of them. WWE gives us something extreme, and that gets us excited. You get invested in the story, in the rivalries, in the matches, and in the glitzy glory.
WWE has capitalized on the inspiration angle by having its biggest stars regularly involved in charity projects. A quick online search will yield hundreds of photos of big name stars visiting their hospitalized fans. John Cena even holds the record for the most Make-A-Wish Foundation visits, at an astounding 400! Now that is pretty inspirational!
For the last half-century, the WWE has been providing companies with a textbook example of effective marketing. Regardless of what you think about the organization itself, you can’t deny that it has firmly entrenched itself in American culture and planted its name permanently in our minds. Let’s get ready to rumble!
About the author: This post was contributed by Wrestler Supply, an ameteur wrestling gear supply company dedicated to giving you the ability to have your best match every time.