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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Aging (Media) Brands

It is quite clear that times change, our culture in is in constant flux, and above all consumer interests change. Often I discuss with people how their brand or more often media brand is no longer in tune with the times. Some agree, while others disagree with great vehemence. Here are some of the questions I ask of all players. It may come in handy for you some day.

1) Has you market changed? Do you face new or stronger competition? How well does your experience stand up to the people with whom you are competing?
2) Have new market solutions (like the internet) or customer preferences caused consumers to lose interest in your brand? Does your brand promise still hold water?
3) How is your brand identity? Do your logos or taglines seem out of step with cultural trends or current design looks?
4) What of your brand message? Is it in sync with current consumer tastes?

What I often suggest is that people do a brand audit. If one is unusually honest, this process can be done internally. Nine times out of ten, however, you need an outsider to smoke out the current strengths and weaknesses of your brand.

Is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) or the distinguishing characteristics of your brand of increasing or lessening interest to the consuming public? Does your brand attract the people you aspire to reach or is it business as usual?

Sometimes entities such as cable channels can erase previously established value and start all over and actually grow stronger. To have such a transformation you need to have energy, total commitment and be very focused. Few do it well.

In a world where we all have to change or be left behind there are several caveats that sadly most still ignore. They would include:

1) Listen to your customers. Most don’t so you will have a tremendous leg up if you do.
2) Change and adapt as your customers need change. This is subtle and hard but pays incredibly rich dividends.
3) Many brands fail due to death by a thousand tiny cuts. By the time they realize that things are bad, they are too weak to change. Small mistakes add up. Protect your brand image jealously. Watch the details relentlessly.

If all this sounds like basic fundamentals, so be it. I was talking to a broadcaster the other day that was very enthusiastic about these ideas. He called 48 hours later to say that he was starting all over. The solution was that he was hiring a new weatherman!

Well. I wish him all the best but he seems to have missed the point. The real issue is whether he should still be doing news, period. His market is not large and he is in fourth place in a daypart that attracts an increasingly old and downscale audience. The addition of a new meteorologist does not strike me as the silver bullet that the station needs to turn things around.

Do you need a brand audit? Will your brand be better off in ten years? Will it still be around? As the Coast Guard’s motto says, you need to be “semper paratus” (always ready).

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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