Techniques include audience participation games, music, tours and appearances, and in-jokes that bind the show to its fans.
It all seems to be working. This year Psych came back with a 22% 18-49 ratings increase over the previous season’s premiere, rare for a long-running series.
Network execs attribute this to a multiplatform social media campaign and a six-hour, seven-episode “slumber party” airing before the premiere, a sort of tailgate party prior to the big game.
“The marketing department has come up with great ideas of engaging the audience, like spotting the pineapple in each episode,” says Hill, also citing a fan appreciation day in held in New York, a college tour and appearances at ComicCon, all of which have met with enormous response. “It’s become a lovefest between Psych and its fans, the Psych-Os.”
Adds USA marketing and digital exec veep Alexandra Shapiro: “We didn’t have a huge marketing budget, but we inverted the marketing paradigm and made fans advocates, which resulted in mass engagement, particularly among the 18-34 audience.”
Psych involves auds through online mystery games such as Hashtag Killer and its latest incarnation, Social Sector, in which players can help solve cases, and through Twitter and Facebook, where the series has more than 2.5 million fans.
“We offer relevant content that fans want and the ability to interact with their own content based on the show,” Shapiro says. “The way you interact and reward is where you get the return on investment.”
Music has also boosted the success of Psych, onscreen and off. Strong bonds formed among cast and crew on the Vancouver set, from the Mel Tones — a band led by director/exec producer Mel Damski — to the co-stars’ songwriting habit.
“It’s not uncommon if you hang around the set more than a couple hours to see us break into an impromptu song,” Roday says. “Before you know it, it’s got three verses and is something we can play at wrap parties.”
Music has been key to memorable episodes. Season two’s American Duos is among Hill’s favorites. “John Landis was directing,” Hill says, “and I was dressed as Michael Jackson from Thriller,” which Landis also helmed.
Roday has a clear favorite episode.
“We did a Twin Peaks homage that had been my brainchild since season one,” says Roday, who co-wrote the “Dual Spires” episode, four years in the making, that lured eight Twin Peaks cast members to the set. “That was my favorite of all time, and probably always will be.”