gkBRAND has more than 25 years’ experience working in the broadcasting industry – both network television such as NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX – and cable channels including HBO, MAX, MSG, CNBC, CBS Cable, A&E, The History Channel, Fuse and others. We’ve done projects for on air, off air, online, print, web, upfront events and affiliate stations – launching new shows, naming, branding, packaging, promotional materials, integrated marketing, designing logos and corporate identity systems, posters, and much more.
If you want successful promotion, branding or design for your television station or programs, we have discovered some proven methods that may help. You probably already have a very well-defined brand and a great, recognizable logo. If not, let’s assume you’ll call us and we’ll get that under control very soon.
Here are some pointers we’d like to suggest in this age of specialized channels – cable, satellite, network TV and broadband – for everything from food to sex to golf and religion:
- What is the core essence of your station?
- What is the interest in that segment? Is it growing or declining?
- If it is growing, develop some scenarios you can see in the future to expand into other markets. If it’s not growing and the need is diminishing, revamp it and create new programming.
- How do you base your new ideas? How you come up with the scenarios is just as important as the final ideas and their success or failure.
When I was managing the promotion department at NBC back in the late ‘70s (I was 22 at the time), I was always reading about various theories, philosophies and methodologies. I was interested in how some of these could work in the business world. For example, what would a Taoist master be like at a corporate setting like NBC or at our parent company at the time, RCA?
I had read somewhere about economic planning methodology and the ways to brainstorm and mindmap with groups of people, although this didn’t become popular until the ‘80s. From my
studies in Kundulini yoga in college and transcendental meditation as a teenager and various forays into Taoism, Zen and G.I. Gurdjiedff’s ideas, I had envisioned several scenarios about what could happen to the television industry in general and to NBC
I had come up with some bizarre ideas, which are nice to revisit after 26 years. Looking back, it took a lot of courage to type a memo on my NBC stationery with my IBM Selectric typewriter. I didn’t ask my secretary to do it, but typed it myself, and sent it through the manila interoffice-mail envelope, where you wrote the name of the recipient and handed it to the fellow who came around with his mail cart. I sent it off to the CEO of RCA, whose office was somewhere atop the RCA building (now the GE building) at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. I knew very well that it wasn’t proper corporate protocol to go over layers of superiors and write directly to the CEO. I didn’t even cc: the president of NBC.
I said, “Dear Mr. CEO: I really like working here at NBC. I am doing some amazing and creative work, and I am happy with my boss Mike M. He is the best VP you can have. I am writing to you because I have been doing some thinking about the company, and I’ve come up with a few scenarios for NBC’s future that I’d like to share with you.”
At the time NBC was #1 in ratings. I said the ratings for NBC would eventually erode, but the same would happen with all the networks. The overall audience for network television will diminish drastically. Cable stations like HBO and Cinemax will grab big chunks of the share; later other niche channels will segment and erode the audience and revenue even further.
- Sell NBC now while it’s profitable.
- Hang on to NBC, but quickly get into the cable business.
- Begin such new stations as wrestling, rock’n roll, children’s, news and Saturday Night Live. You could have taken practically everything we were offering at the time in our programming line-up at NBC and spun them into separate channels.
I also included such bizarre thoughts as putting televisions in elevators with NBC News programs playing all the time, and a gigantic TV at the Rockefeller Plaza with NBC on 24/7. And, oh, an NBC store at Rockefeller Center to sell everything NBC, much like the Olympics promotional stuff that I produced for the 1980 Olympics, which unfortunately, were boycotted by the U.S. when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan! (Talk about déjà vu – who is in Afghanistan now?)
I also told him those big movie discs that RCA was making had to shrink like the Japanese did with transistor radios, to fit in your pocket. Otherwise the Japanese will do this, making RCA’s technology obsolete.
I had just finished the promotional campaign for the mini-series Shogun, which was a huge success. Thanks in large part to the packaging and posters I did, NBC pre-sold the show within a week. I suggested that they devote a whole channel to Samurai, wrestling, Japanese cooking – everything Japanese – and also to spin off Saturday Night Live into a comedy station. I recommended special health programming that could run in hospitals, especially in maternity wards. Many years later, another NBC executive later did start this and sold it to another company.
I never thought I would get a reply. Or, I would get into trouble with my boss for not asking his permission before writing to the CEO. In those days, your boss always took credit for your ideas (the good ones). I am not sure if it was the CEO’s executive secretary or someone else up there who wrote back on his behalf a very polite letter thanking me for my interesting ideas. He thought some of the ideas were good. Some couldn’t be done because of FCC regulations that prohibited NBC from owning cable stations. (Of course this has since changed.) He also said he would pass along my ideas to the proper channels.
What happened? Within 18 months of that letter, RCA digital discs saw their demise, not to a smaller disc but to VHS tapes. Smaller discs would not happen until many years later. In another two years, GE bought out RCA. GE kept NBC and all the satellite contracts and RCA’s military business, and got rid of the TV, stereo and manufacturing part of RCA. Mr. CEO got lots of money and retired, probably to some nice golf course.
In another seven to 10 years, NBC bought a cable channel that became CNBC and the store did open at Rockefeller Center. They never put the big screen there, but they did broadcast the Today show at the Plaza, from a storefront where everyone could see.
Without knowing it at the time, the method I was using was scenario planning. It was years later before I would read about it and find out how it worked. It is an interesting concept that truly works. You can read more about scenario planning in our other article about the
I realized what was important – then as now – wasn’t that you were a genius or had some psychic powers to see the future. No, it is about having passion – a very focused passion and deep love for what one did. I had an entrepreneurial spirit to come up with ideas that made sense – ideas that created and supported certain needs – and a way to look at things like a blank canvas (which I do often because I paint every chance I get, see kalayjianfiinearts.com). On this white canvas I bring something into existence that hasn’t existed before and in the process make money. But the key motivation beyond the creation isn’t the money, although the money is important. The key is to create for a purpose. And this purpose is always to improve, help or contribute to the world around us in a positive way.
The question I always ask our clients is: “How does this product, your company, service and what you do contribute to the world and meet a real need?” If there isn’t a real need, you can brand it, package it, do all the market research and focus groups, and advertise it, and you may sell it for a while, but eventually it will die out. Your product has to meet a real need and make the world better. This isn’t being idealistic; it’s being realistic. Another important thing is to observe and listen to what needs to change in the world. And how does my product or service meet those needs to change the world for the better? To see it, you have to be able to observe it, listen to it, picture yourself in it, and allow something to emerge and then act on it. If you are shallow, no amount of observing and staring into a white canvas is going to produce anything. You have to know your limitations and may have to do a lot of work on yourself. After all, it all starts with knowing yourself, as inscribed on the sun god Apollo’s Oracle of Delphi temple in ancient Greece: “Know Thyself.”
That’s why we have few visionary executives and CEOs who go down in history as such. The rest of them, the non-visionary CEOs, make big figures with lots of zeros at the end and retire to a golf course. What a waste of a human potential for greatness.
In the movie Groundhog Day, what finally stops the entire day from repeating itself over and over is the change in the Bill Murray character himself. He needed a level of deep reflectiveness to see and change himself so he could be more internally conscious and caring to others. Eventually his day changed when he changed. By changing his day, he was able to change the whole world around him. But it all started with the ability to change himself.
Our capacity to see ourselves within the world and be able to change is paramount to breakthroughs. Once we are in this generative flow state, every object of our contemplation will result in something exceptional. Then a good CEO or a manager will choose wisely which option to pounce on.
By Vásken Kalayjian