Kel Kelly

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Real Housewives: Brand Association Vs. Assassination

August 31, 2011 9:13 AM

Let me start by saying I freakin’ love the Real Housewives series — Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, Beverly Hills, and Miami….although I must admit, Miami didn’t suck me in like the others. From Teresa’s table flipping to Kelly’s metaphor bastardization I can’t get enough of these wackadoos. Clearly I am not alone in my Housewives lovefest. The Real Housewives series success is the catalyst for launching Bravo into the stratosphere and propelling Andy Cohen into a pop culture icon.

My experience is that Real Housewives fans have a positive association to the brand and wear it like a badge of honor in the same way Lady Gaga wears Alexander McQueen. We are not ashamed to admit our addiction and we’re amongst good company when passing the Real Housewives bong. Denise Richards, Anderson Cooper, Kelly Rippa, Gayle King and a laundry list of other top celebrities publicly toke on that same bong when going on Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live to mingle with and dish about the Housewives. Seriously, watching Anderson Cooper giggle uncontrollably with Nene Leakes makes me deliriously happy.

And none of us self-proclaimed Housewives fanatics seem to mind that “real” is usually not even delivered as part of the Real Housewives brand promise. The word is used quite loosely when describing the program’s content. Given that 10 housewives have declared bankruptcy, I’m not sure much footage is grounded in reality. Yet we still toke away on the brand.

But while many peeps get doped up on the Real Housewives brand, mass quantities of people feel that the series is an assassination of their regional brand. As if Jersey Shore didn’t instantly strip the state of New Jersey of all dignity and positive brand equity, along came the Guidices and Gorgas to make sure the state’s perception stayed permanently flat lined. Judging from the social media chatter and blogosphere activity, the same brand assassination appears to have occurred when people think of places like Orange County, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, and Miami. For some reason, New York City appears to have stayed above the brand assassination fray. The NYC brand image is clearly way too big and established to be impacted by Jill Zarin’s bullying or Ramona Singer’s alcohol-fueled antics.

But, let’s get real. This is television. While we may get hypnotized by word “real,” do you really, really think it is? This is about ratings. This is about amping up the shock factor so the Housewives can keep the paychecks coming to dig themselves out of bankruptcy. Mo’ crazy mo’ money — the crazier they act, the more money they’ll get. It’s a business and I happily show up and pay my toll. I love it because unlike the rest of my life, it requires not-one-singe-brain-cell to process. And at the end of the day, I have enough common sense to know that these nutbags are not an accurate representation of people from the show’s state or region. When I think of New Jersey, I think of my friend Grace who embodies every attribute you would want in a human being — honesty, integrity, humor, generosity, kindness and a dedication to family that rivals Caroline Manzo’s.

Do you think Real Housewives is assassinating the regional brands or are you able to separate the two? Oh, yeah, and while you’re at it, who do you think is the craziest Housewive of all time?

Posted by Kel | in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

10 Comments on “Real Housewives: Brand Association Vs. Assassination”

  1. Shelley Says:

    I’ve only watched the Housewives in bits and pieces (although I have seen most of NYC) and I think it depends on what kind of image/stereotypes you carried about a place beforehand, whether the show reinforces or challenges them. I’m probably wrong in assuming that the woman in Orange County are all shallow blonde bimbos but I can’t help but think so. On the other hand, none of the D.C. ladies resembled any woman I grew up knowing, so I don’t think that show impacted the city’s image at all (in fact, it didn’t even make enough of a splash to be mentioned in your post!).

    And to answer your second question, Kelly Killoren Bensimon from NYC is the most insane, out of touch woman I’ve ever observed on reality TV! Which is saying a lot.

  2. Kel Says:

    shell, thanks for sharing your funny insight. since dc was canceled, i didnt even bother mentioning it. the running joke of that series was that half of them didn’t actually live in the city. they were just boring, although the salahis crashing the white house certainly made it entertaining at times. i agree with your point about how it impacted your perception was directly tied to the image you had beforehand. kelly definitely makes my short list for most insane. although i think teresa is actually off the rails this season!

  3. Joe Dawkins Says:

    First, I just wanted to say Thanks to Kendyll for pointing me in the direction of this blog, as I am a HUGE fan of the Housewives!

    I have to say I agree with you Kel, in terms of the reason why I love the shows so much, because it doesn’t take much to process them!

    With that said I think most people can separate the idea that the “Real” in Real Housewives is a loose fit LOL. (I still love them, and still get a little excited when I see the OC girls out).

    And since I can’t pick the craziest ones of ALL the seasons, I figured I would just list one from each one (none of which happen to be my favorite LOL):

    OC: Tamra
    NYC: Ramona
    NJ: Teresa
    ATL: Phaedra
    MIA: Kristy

  4. Meg Says:

    I watched O.C. in the beginning, when they actually WERE fairly normal, fairly representative women from that area. Jeana wasn’t blond or stick-thin, Vicki was kind of crazy but reminded me of every other driven helicopter mom I’d ever met, and Lauri looked VERY Botox California, but those women totally exist. We’d see them making dinner and cleaning at home, so it just looked like life in other places, just with much more money and better tans. Now it’s just a bit too silicone to be credible. Yes, those women exist… but do I find them interesting? Nope.

    When NYC and NJ popped up, I would watch them on and off — I loved Bethenny and Caroline Manzo — again, women that seemed pretty real, if in better-than-average circumstances. What turned me off of NYC and NJ was the false conflict stuff — getting Danielle Staub to be everyone’s arch nemesis, putting crazy Teresa in a room with people she wanted to smack. Not to mention Jill Z. and Ramona and their confusing web of issues with people. I’ll still stop flipping channels if I see Caroline, and I love Bethenny Ever After, but I think there was enough drama when they were just being themselves to make it wacky.

    Atlanta, I tried, but there was too little to like about any of them. Then I basically gave up on the series. :)

    If these cities think these women aren’t representative of all of their citizens… they’re right! No one group of women could possibly be. It’s reality TV, though, so they’re going to choose the group with the most dramatic impact. That’s just how these things go.

    Boston isn’t just people with odd accents or Harvard degrees, Chicago isn’t just hot dog-eating Bears fans, Baltimore isn’t just a few blocks of drug dealers, and Kansas City has more than bumpkins. But shorthand is how we do things. The RH series just capitalized on it!

  5. Kel Says:

    hey joe, thanks for taking the time to comment. it’s sad that the amount of processing energy drives my decision, but it’s true. the thought of watching jeopardy gives me a rash. haha. i like your list of top crazies. what happened to ramona? i used to think she was the voice of reason and now she seems a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. maybe it’s her husband’s affair. tee hee.

  6. Kel Says:

    meg, what can i say? i read your post sitting in my office and laughed out loud (literally) through the whole thing. i agree with everything you said. thanks for making me laugh. it’s been a long day and i needed it!

  7. Grace Carr Says:

    As the above referenced Grace, Kel knows that I hate reality shows and particularly hate Jersey Shore. As a born and bred “Jersey Girl”, I detest the bimbo/macho gold chain images of the women and men on the show – only one of whom is from NJ, and she was not on the initial cast. They continually make a scene (as in police needed) when across the bridge in Seaside Heights and generally cause a disturbance because other men and women want to see them (for reasons that are entirely beyond me). Bruce gave us “girls” a great brand, and the beautiful beaches and summer weather gave us the “Jersey Shore” brand…I hate that that ridiculous show co-opted it. But I thank Kel (and do truly love her as well) for thinking of me and not the show cast when she thinks of NJ!

  8. Frank Says:

    Hey Kel,

    We’ll you know how much of a fan I am of the entire Real Housewives franchise. Wow, there I said it, that felt good! I believe I admitted it, but I guess that’s the first step in admitting I cannot control my addiction or compulsion to watch these train wreck, horrific, shallow and stereotypical shows…but I love them.

    And, I think Andy Cohen is an absolute genius as the EP of Real Housewives and other nut bag Bravo reality series that have made it big. I’m actually surprised he hasn’t pushed for the Real Housewives of Boston considering he’s a BU alumni. Now wouldn’t that be fun…mixing it up a feisty drunk irish gal from Southie, a mediterranean full-figure pasta eating princess from the North End, a blue blood socialite from Back Bay or Beacon Hill and a butch chicka from The South End. Wait, I think we’re on to something…of all the cities in the RH repertoire, few cities are as “zoned” as Boston. It would be brilliant.

    That said, to your point of asking whether RH is assassinating the regional brand, I think the answer is ABSOLUTELY, but it’s ok. I don’t think people will stop moving to the OC because of Vicki’s crazy face, or think less of Franklin Lakes, NJ because Danielle packs a Beretta nine millimeter under the drivers seat of her Range Rover.

    It’s just not reality TV…think about it, Soprano’s started it with making you think all Italian American’s must be “connected”, only eat at italian restaurants, own at least one gold chain with a horn charm, and cheat on their wives.

    It’s ok people…it’s TV, and even better it’s “reality TV”. It’s entertaining and to your point Kel, sometimes we just need to shut everything off, pop some popcorn, and laugh at the ridiculousness.

    PS – I have discovered by accident an even bigger, shallow horrific catastrophe of a show called the A-List on the Logo Network. It makes me want to punch my TV, but I can’t stop watching it.

    Thanks for the post Kel!

  9. Kel Says:

    grace, you bring up an excellent point. bruce springsteen set the bar high when it came to creating an amazingly positive association to new jersey. he is a fantastic iconic image for the new jersey brand. the fact that “jersey shore” no longer invokes images of stunning beaches and instead makes people thing of drunk, obnoxious, spoiled 20 year olds is a tragedy.

  10. Kel Says:

    frank, your post made me cry with laughter! hilariously funny and so true on all points. thanks for taking the time to share your witty insight. i’m sure the other readers of the blog enjoyed it as much as i did.

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