Monday, October 13, 2008

Can brands help break the mould?

David Dale's piece on network copy-catting highlights an opportunity for brands and TV programmers to work together. Sounds crazy but it's true.

Brands spend millions of dollars a year in understanding what consumers want, need or at least might think they need (Proctor & Gamble alone spends $200m annually). A lot of time is spent exploring how these insights intersect with wider trends in culture, changing social norms, the socio-economic landscape and category developments. Launching a product because you can is not reason enough. Just ask Google. Its 'always start with the user' mantra as been a formula for success.

This approach contrasts markedly with the way networks launch new programs. As David Dale points out:

Television programming has always gone in waves - a station notices that another station has a hit, assumes that represents a trend in public taste, and copies what it imagines to be the most appealing details.

Network product launches revolve around the latest trends at sales conferences, what's working for their competitors and largely superficial observations on why a format has sparked interest from audiences. I'm not suggesting we research the bejesus out of everything. We all know that's a recipe for the death of original ideas. Only that more often than not, networks are second guessing the needs of their viewers.

TV programmers are extremely skeptical about what role brands have to play in developing television entertainment (other than they're paying for it). Yet it occurs to me that brands (and their agencies) have oodles of expertise in understanding consumer behaviour. This is the ammunition they have to blast us with new products and ideas.

Surely there's an opportunity for brands to work with networks to better understand their audiences and support the development of ideas that break the mould or even just entertain us. At the very least, it might give us a break from the CSI franchise.

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