Cable’s bossy branding

Jul 15, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Several cable networks have recently begun telling their viewers what to do.
With such slogans as “Enjoy the Show” and “Join the Investigation” and “New Things; Turn Us On,” programmers are getting into the habit of issuing edicts to audiences.
It’s all part of their enterprisewide rebranding efforts.
E!, Court TV and TechTV have launched rebranding campaigns during the past few months that include new color palettes, new programming and new taglines aimed to embrace, reach out to and invite viewers. These three networks tackled the decisions of when and how to launch such a reconstruction with methodical research, and their stories reveal the processes involved in making an image adjustment.
With more than 10 years in the space and spurred by encroaching competition, E! reintroduced itself to audiences as a more mature and sophisticated network during the past year, following an evaluation of the company, its strategy and competition initiated by CEO Mindy Herman. “I thought it was important that E! reassess our position with our customers, and there are a lot of people who dabble in our category,” Ms. Herman said.
MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and AMC had expanded their entertainment coverage, and E! wanted to reiterate its status as the leader, explained Gavin Harvey, senior VP of marketing and brand director for E! In 2002 the company conducted a “brand audit,” relying on input from consultants, research companies, phone surveys and focus groups.
“Being a brand means understanding what the customer wants. Branding isn’t about marketing. It’s about the business-what type of shows to develop, acquire,” he said. Last fall the network introduced new shows “Rank” and “Revealed” to emphasize its position as a leader in entertainment information.
For its first 10 years the network used green, purple and yellow colors to and a playful, snappy and youthful look to reflect its position as a growing network, he said. That was fine for then, but the look had become retro and kitschy. “It’s time to be more dynamic, bold and revealing,” Mr. Harvey said. The switch to the new look, which combines red, black, silver and gold, occurred in March.
The tagline “Enjoy the Show” is designed to convey a sense of connection to the entertainment world. “The most powerful brands are the ones that focus on the customers. We stand for what you want,” Mr. Harvey said. “We put emotion behind it, like Nike’s `Just Do It.”’
E! ran image spots in the spring directed by Robert Altman to introduce the new tagline. The spots featured actors Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver and Ving Rhames re-enacting famous movie scenes. The network invested more than $10 million in its rebranding efforts. For the quarter to date E! is up 35 percent in prime-time viewership in adults 18 to 34 and up 14 percent in adults 18 to 49.
Court TV recently unveiled its rebranding effort punctuated by the new tagline “Join the Investigation.” The process began, however, back in 1999 when the network began airing “Homicide” and beefed up its documentaries as a signal that Court TV was much broader than mere trials and trial coverage, said Henry Schleiff, CEO of the network, which he joined in late 1998. At that time the network’s growth had plateaued and reached a “death-defying” low rating of 0.1, he said. Novels by John Grisham, films such as “Erin Brockovich” and television shows such as “Law & Order” that emphasized crime and justice were popular. To Mr. Schleiff it made sense to turn the network in that direction.
During the past year and a half the network has acquired “NYPD Blue” and “Profiler” and has created original programming with the signature series “Forensic Files.” Through focus groups, phone research and independent research the network gleaned that viewers’ interest lay in the appeal of the investigation and the mystery solving.
“[We want to say with the tagline] we share your passion for puzzle solving, for peeling back the layers of investigation,” Mr. Schleiff said. To make a rebrand work, it must touch all aspects of the viewer from programming to interstitials to community outreach, he added.
Image spots began June 1 in movie theaters, on Court TV and on other networks. Court TV also introduced a new graphics package with more blues and whites and a brighter look.
TechTV is in the midst of rebranding to broaden its audience and offerings. In 2001 it conducted marketing studies with 2,400 adults in multichannel homes and projected that the market for TV about technology is 55 million homes, said Joe Gillespie, executive VP and chief operating officer for the network. The network has added more entertainment-based programming such as “The Tech of …,” a series that looks at technology behind different things, and “Eye Drops,” an original series showcasing computer-generated animated shorts.
“The brand drives everything-programming, the look and feel of graphics, the logo,” he said. The network changed its look during the past six months to more blues, whites and gold filters from red and black. “We lightened it up, softened it to make it broader. We are not a propeller-head channel. It’s more inviting,” Mr. Gillespie said.