By Laura Hess
“One show does not a brand make.”
So said Melissa Wasserman, SVP of Client Solutions and Integrated Marketing at AMC Networks, as she recently met with students in Professor Rick Kolsky’s Marketing Strategies in Creative Industries course.
The class discussed AMC’s acute pivot from American Movie Classics with no original programming, to a rebranded AMC and the release of Mad Men and Breaking Bad in 2007 and 2008. Now, the network has 17 original series, including The Walking Dead, the most-watched scripted program in basic cable history.
Such radical shifts raise many questions and concerns about branding, consumer engagement, and the evaluative processes for each. At a time when the measures of success within media are continuously disputed and reframed, a clearly-defined brand identity is crucial and yet elusive.
The rise of disintermediation, the hand-wringing over cord-cutting, the declarations that print media or broadcast television are dead; different forms of media drafting their own obituaries. Yet, we produce and consume more media now than ever before. Are traditional media models broken?
Wasserman challenged the cascade of hype-driven proclamations. When referencing the currently ubiquitous media mantra, “Content is king,” she countered with, “Content is only king if it has value. Someone has to pay for it somewhere for it to be of value.”
In order to assess which content is of value and how that content impacts business strategies, including digital and international markets, Wasserman presented core benchmarks she employs.
“Choose Your Bedfellows Wisely” focuses on calculations for short- and long-term impact. If a key partnership is out of reach, leveraging other opportunities must avoid myopic or desperate measures. Another tenet, “Go Big or Go Home”, is illustrated by Mad Men. Distributing a niche-appeal show was a risky move for AMC, but the network focused on the quality of Mad Men‘s writing, talent, and production design.
These risks are essential for a brand to understand what and how it delivers value to its users, or as Kolsky reminded the class, “The brand is the idea in the customer’s head.”
In step with Kolsky, Wasserman rallied the class, challenging students to approach marketing with genuine curiosity and a solutions-oriented, holistic approach. “If you only talk to you, you’re only going to have small audiences for your shows.”