Monday, October 26, 2009

Two Brands, Different Decisions

A former television news media client of mine just recently switched Internet Service Providers. It got a cheaper deal. Hey, who isn't looking to save a buck where they can in this economy.

That same week, there was major breaking news in this market. The body of a missing 9-year-old girl was found plus an arrest. My former client was all over it on its Web site. Immediacy and responsiveness are critical drivers of its brand mission. That laser focus and commitment to living its brand mission the past few years are the reason it is now the viewers' go-to source in the market for breaking news and weather.

Wanna guess what happened when the masses came looking for late-breaking developments on its Web site? A door slammed in their faces. A "do not" enter sign. A broken promise.

You see, when it paid more it got more bandwith. Now, it pays less and gets less bandwith. The Web site shutdown from too much traffic.

Wanna guess what information-hungry consumers probably did next? They went elsewhere. To competitors. And that leaves a mark.

You see, consumers don't care about your excuses. They want what they expect from you - what you've promised - each and every time they need it. Break that trust enough and they will ultimately break up with you.

Station ownership is private equity. Definitely bottom-line thinkers. Can't really blame them for trying to run lean. But they are shooting themselves in the foot. By nickel and dime-ing it, this news brand, after spending the past couple years earning back viewers' trust, has taken the first step toward breaking its contract with its customers. Isn't it customers that ultimately pay the bills and help you realize a return on your investment?

Now, some contrast. Last week, a new online-only news Web site, the Texas Tribune (, went live. A few days later, in its own back yard, the tragic Fort Hood shootings.

The Texas Tribune could have covered it and in person. But it didn't. Why in the world wouldn't it?

"It wasn't our story. Should we have been just one more news organization that rushed to Fort Hood? I don't think so, " said reporter Matt Stiles, who joined Texas Tribune from the Houston Chronicle.

"We're about public policy and politics," said Evan Smith, one of the founders of the new not-for-profit. "What I wasn't going to do was send someone racing up the Interstate to cover something, however important, that wasn't ours."

Let those two quotes sink in for a bit.

Here is a brand-spanking new brand that could benefit from sampling. But instead it made a brand decision, not a bottom-line one. Time will tell how successful their enterprise will be. But it's off to a good brand start.

First, it appears the Texas Tribune has done an excellent job of immersing its staff of 12 mostly seasoned, enterprise journalists in its brand. They seem to grasp who they are and who they aren't. The Texas Tribune is creating it from the inside out, the only way to build an authentic brand and insure a consistent experience each and every time, at every point of contact, for customers and prospects.

Second, reminiscent of Southwest Airlines, it has a unique business model (funded by investors, endowment and donations) that allows it to be a brand first and foremost.

The Texas Tribune early on gets that your brand should be your most valuable asset, the thing you protect at all costs. That's THE real bottom line.

These are my Guts Feelings.

Kurt Bartolich
Founder, Brand Internalist
Guts Branding

1 comment:

  1. Update: Today, more major breaking news in the market. Possible hostage situation in a state government building. Former client's Web site shuts down again. Strike two.