“The Power of a Good Idea”
by Bob English, Guest Contributor
I’d say the US market for design and branding is pretty tough at the moment and a lot of this can be put down to a lack of confidence in the economy. To put it bluntly, people are afraid for their jobs and this leads to a willingness to accept less than outstanding creative work. In this climate, a TV executive won’t be fired for not taking a risk and the thrusting, can-do culture that we Europeans have always secretly admired about the US seems somehow diminished.
That sounds almost sacrilegious given that I have lived and worked in the US now for 11 years and although my words might provoke a sense of doom and gloom about the state of affairs, expect things to improve when the political uncertainty clears up later this year.
If there were one point I would preach to help us move past this it would be FORGET STYLE! It comes in second place in the race to capture the hearts and minds of the consumer. Style is transitory and will date as quickly as this seasons’ fashion line. My experience has taught me that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, one thing will never change, and that is the ‘POWER OF A GOOD IDEA’.
The US TV network philosophy is to plan for a fall season so a new ‘look’ is created with regular frequency. This ‘Catwalk’ mentality seems to be migrating to the actual shows as well. What people aren’t realizing is that this can play havoc with any holistic brand philosophy. Such short-term thinking is a response to the market place for sure, with such severe competition for viewers, but I wonder whether it isn’t doing some long-term damage to some incredible brands. Sure there are examples of US networks taking risks and getting it gloriously right, but certainly not so many in recent years. Only two examples even come to mind, the 2005 USA Network’s ‘Characters Welcome’ re-launch and 2002’s ABC ‘Yellow’ campaign.
Recently I returned from a branding seminar given to 1+1 in the Ukraine. I watched TV in my hotel room (not much else to do in Kiev) and happened to catch ZDF. In 2001, I spearheaded a massive rebrand for them and was struck by the fact that the entire brand system we had created was still in place. Sure, some things had changed, but only within the overall plan devised for them. In other words the holistic brand philosophy was holding strong 7 years on. In the process they saved themselves several expensive and unnecessary redesigns.
Now that was money well spent
Bob English is Creative Director at Click3x Entertainment, the new specialized broadcast design division at New York based agency Click3x . He was previously Executive Creative Director at Nth Degree and Razorfish, and was founding partner of international branding agency English & Pockett.
A pioneer in the broadcast design industry, Bob has helped launch numerous network packages around the world, including PBS, Disney and Toon Disney Channels, Country Music Television, Fox Movie Channel, Court TV, Discovery Geschichte, Lifetime Movie Network, and ARTE.