Strategic communications can include advising companies on what image to project to the public for the greatest appeal.
Mistakes in branding can be catastrophic if done on a large enough scale.
What follows are two case studies illustrating how careful consideration can improve the level of sophistication of media properties, which are front-and-center when it comes to public exposure.
Case Study: Maverick TV
In 2008, the Maverick Entertainment corporation recruited me to build brand awareness of their entertainment brand: a television channel aimed at the male, 18-30 demographic and called Mav Television. The name was a shortening of Maverick Television.
The network launched four years earlier, privately held and founded by four former executives from Showtime Networks. They launched the channel before Spike TV came along.
My primary goal was a specific call-to-action of motivating the target demographic to request their cable systems add the Mav channel to their local lineups. Doing so required a careful balance of promoting the channel and its programming without turning off people with spamming. Particularly challenging was the fact that most people had never seen the network and had only my descriptions and teaser videos to go by.
In fact, when I told most people about them, I would get a reply along the lines of, “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen Mad TV…”
I updated their website, which was static and ranked by Alexa.com in the 700,000 range. With a redesign in the future plans, I immediately initiated a blog aimed at the target viewer base. Called “The Works,” it presented each day’s news from a decidedly irreverent tone.
The blog and a featured Mav “Girl of the Week” featuring tasteful pictorials of girl-next-door type beauties I personally photographed gave viewers incentive to bookmark and return to the website regularly. I provided regular reports to the founders regarding website analytics and guaranteed the content conformed to SEO best practices.
The Mav branding campaign also included outreach via social media to viewers of the channel’s niche programming. Specifically, I began talking and listening to fans of roller derby, motor sports, etc. Some of them were not even aware that the channel was broadcasting their events.
I scoped out the competition and responded to questions or complaints from viewers and prospective viewers. I developed the overall interactive and social media strategy for key series. I reinforced brand attributes and drove tune-in to series with meaningful consumer engagement.
I set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and managed/monitored them, while editing many of the network’s native 1080i HD series into short clips distributed on YouTube, Vimeo, and other social video channels.
During my time as the online editorial and marketing manager, the channel grew from select cable systems in scattered markets to nationwide distribution on DISH Network.
It would be misleading to suggest that my branding campaign solely led to this growth – it isn’t easy to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations – but it is clear that the changes I ushered in attracted more people to their website, created a two-way communications exchange with viewers, and enhanced the branding of the company.
Case Study: Savvy
In 2004, I left the newspaper industry for the online publishing world. Given the sad state of the print publishing industry these days, I’d say my timing was just about right.
I joined the staff of a fledgling new website based out of Silicon Valley, California. The position resulted from the publisher noticing the work I’d done on a web startup called “Mensclick.com” that I created along with Tim Grissett. We sold them the domain and shutdown our website so we would not provide competition.
It was a time of web startups, including a little new social network named Facebook. Myspace seemed to rule the online world back then.
This was part web magazine and part social network. The attraction? Beautiful women and irreverent humor. At the time, the print publishing world exploded with so-called “lad magazines” such as Maxim, Stuff, and FHM. Investors wanted a piece of that pie, and the Internet afforded us the opportunity to join the pack without the expense of printing pages.
The only problem: the business model consisted of selling online advertising.
There was no way to get around it. Major advertisers were wary of associating with anything that might be perceived as unsavory, and a name like “Xposed” was a non-starter. It evoked mental images of adult content. Being an exclusively-online publication, some companies with pitched advertising to automatically assumed it was a porn site without ever bothering to see for themselves.
The website was going to crash and burn in spectacular fashion unless something changed.
After weeks of strategy concerning the best course to take, we relaunched under the name Savvy and expanded the formula from babes and bathroom humor to slightly more sophisticated fare. We had plenty of guys there to look at hot models, but we needed to attract female readers and social network users.
Content previously included featuring mostly unknown models, but by reaching out to publicists, I was able to get interviews with celebrities like Dane Cook, Nadine Velazquez, Amber Smith, Sara Paxton, Erin Cummings, Joanna Krupa, Hayden Panettiere, Erykah Badu, and many more.
The rebranding was a huge success.
Along with some creative affiliate efforts, the image change allowed the website to grow enormously and attract larger, more affluent advertisers. In fact, Savvy ranked among the Top 3 websites in the world in the “men’s lifestyle” category for three consecutive years. For much of that, we were second only to Askmen.com, which had a considerably larger budget for production and promotion. This meant millions and millions of page views every month.