Over the last two years, BBC Worldwide has been turning Doctor Who from (simply) a gigantic British show into a truly global icon.

Julia Kenyon, Acting Chief Brands Officer, BBC Worldwide, spoke at the Festival of Marketing about how this was achieved and included some staggering stats about the brand’s performance at ComicCon 2015, its 2014 world tour and the 2013 50th anniversary.

Understanding Doctor Who’s origins to enter new markets

Julia spoke about the programmes origins, which were somewhat unusual for 1960’s Britain.

A female producer in Verity Lambert, sci-fi characters with carrots on their faces and a different kind of hero.

One that didn’t rely on guns, tanks or superpowers, but on a screwdriver, phone box and an extra heart.

This long heritage of Doctor Who is one that Worldwide introduced to new fans, such as the American market, with specially created video content.

As a brand, everything Worldwide does around Doctor Who is designed to invite people in and let them know it’s their show, embracing their creativity.

Regeneration, Julia explained, has been great for brand growth, allowing renewed relevance for each generation in every new doctor. 

The Doctor’s human companion has also been a conduit into the shows and into the brand, as each viewer can relate to someone who wants to be whisked away from the boredom of everyday life.

Doctor Who as a show has always embraced the outsider, exploring themes such as madness and homosexuality in its episodes (perhaps best summed up by an ancient lizard alien married to a victorian parlour maid). 

This adds another strand to the inclusivity of the brand.

Brand characteristics

Julia described the brand characteristics as follows.. 

  • Challenging
  • Bringing people together
  • Real emotion
  • Extraordinary storytelling 

..detailed the three Ps of the brand.

  • Purpose: Doctor Who exists to fire our imaginations.
  • Promise: We’ll put you at the heart of an extraordinary adventure.
  • Personality: Unpredictable, brave, thrilling, quirky charm

Doctor Who’s 50th birthday

2013 saw Doctor Who’s 50th birthday. BBC Worldwide threw a party at the ExCel centre and broke the world record for a simulcast, ensuring all fans experienced the anniversary show at the same time, avoiding piracy and creating a massive social event.

The numbers were remarkable. 

  • 98 countries on six continents.
  • Audience up 69% on regular episodes.
  • 650,000 cinema tickets sold in 25 countries.
  • 440m Facebook impressions, reaching 97m people.
  • 12,000 tweets per minute.
  • 8% awareness increase from global average of 60%. 

The 2014 world tour

In 2014, the brand built on the 50th anniversary success with a world tour to introduce the new Doctor, Peter Capaldi and the season opener.

Once again the numbers tell the story. 

  • Six countries visited in 12 days.
  • Media reach of over 90m people.
  • 200 journalists covered the tour.
  • 11,000 ticketed fans at events.
  • 255,000 tickets sold for 88 cinema screenings in 16 countries.
  • Content viewed in 216 YouTube territories.
  • 130m post impressions on Facebook.
  • 400% increase in YouTube engagement rate.
  • Highest ratings for opener since 2010.
  • Number one show on Twitter and Tumblr on night of launch.

ComicCon 2015

This year, Doctor Who made its first trip to ComicCon, getting there early and achieving great exposure in the US market (the second biggest after the UK). 

  • Over 7,000 fans turned up to the Doctor Who panel.
  • 4,000 players attended the Warner Lego video game event.
  • 20% pre-ordered the game.
  • 125m social comments were generated.
  • Commercial deals received an uplift and the brand estimated the PR value at over £12m. 

As we head into 2016, the name ‘Doctor Who‘ seems more ironic than ever.