On October 15, Zee TV went through what has come to be known as a “brand refresh” in television industry parlance. A brand refresh typically entails a change in logo and packaging, but more importantly, a change in the stated brand positioning, which is often accompanied by a brand campaign, a change in tagline and a channel theme song.
Over the last decade, brand refreshes of this nature have been rampant on Indian television. Every other month, you see a one of the big channels going through this process. The Hindi GECs have been particularly hyperactive in this area.
Star Plus had a major brand refresh in 2010, when they unveiled the ‘Rishta Wohi Soch Nayi’ proposition. They followed it up with another round in 2016, where they zeroed-in on just ‘Nayi Soch’ as the new interpretation of that thought.
Sister channel Star One relaunched into Life OK in 2011. Life OK itself then went through a brand refresh or two, before giving way to another relaunch this year, Star Bharat.
Sony has been through a three brand refreshes in eight years, in 2009, 2013 and 2016. SAB TV has had its share too, with two if not more (It becomes difficult to keep track beyond a point). Zee TV has been through at least two refresh exercises in the last five years, around the ‘Umeed’ thought. Colors probably is the only Hindi GEC that has stayed away with this ‘brand-wagon’, though they have tweaked their logo a few times over the last decade.
The irony in this hyperactivity on the brand front is not difficult to spot. Over the last five years, Hindi GEC content seems frozen in time and thought. Most positioning changes in brand refreshes are supposedly based on consumer insights that capture what the next ‘level’ of television, or at least GEC fiction content, should be. But almost none of these brand refreshes, with the exception of Star Plus’s 2010 one, have been able to marry the positioning and the content.
A token show or two are launched to coincide with the brand refresh, but if you look for content being in sync with brand messaging, you will struggle to make sense of it. It’s as if the brand campaign is being created by people who have nothing to do with content, and vice versa. It’s surprising though, because that’s not how TV channels are structured.
Perhaps the only explanation then could be the gap between intention and action. When a brand is refreshed, there would be an intent to stay true to the idea. But as weeks progress, ratings begin to govern decision-making, sidelining a brand refresh that was, till a few months ago, the biggest thing ever for the channel.
Which begs the question: Why should ratings and the brand refresh not be in sync in the first place? And that’s where the real problem perhaps lies. Some of the attempted positioning ideas are so off-key that they can possibly never become content filters. While it’s fine to position a channel on attributes that are not just product attributes but capture a consumer insight that’s more personal and emotional, there has to be a path through which the positioning can feed into the product. In television’s case, that path is often forced and non-intuitive, sometimes even absent altogether.
To avoid being too hard on Hindi GECs in these troubled times for the category, let’s take examples from another genre: Hindi Movies. Star Gold relaunched in 2011 with the tagline ‘Karo Dil Ki’. The new content line-up was fantastic, and the channel took the No 1 spot on the strength of a slate of blockbuster and mass-performing titles. But where did ‘Karo Dil Ki’ feature in all this? Nowhere! Even a mapping of the channel’s FPC to the positioning thought, to see if they are running films that encourage people to follow their heart, at least in key slots like prime time and weekends, revealed no such connect.
Not very different is the case of &Pictures, which did an elaborate launch campaign around a thought that said ‘Sapno Ki Udaan’. It’s just a feel-good line that rests below the logo on the brand material, but has no content play at all.
Good brand messaging must provide a sharp content filter, which at least 80% content on the channel should be able to adhere to. If this is a “restrictive” thought, then the positioning idea selected was restrictive in the first place and should not have seen the light of the day.
If you speak to seasoned marketing professionals in the FMCG category, they would scoff at TV industry’s idea of a ‘brand relaunch’. I suspect many in TV know this themselves by now. But somehow, the temptation to relaunch and re-relaunch doesn’t go away.
It’s a bit early to say if Zee TV will be able to live up to its promise of ‘Aaj Likhenge Kal’. It suggests they should be doing programming that’s supposed to shape the future, and hence, must be ahead of the evolution curve. By early 2018, we will know if that actually happens. Or if this was another brand refresh that existed in its own vacuum, with little impact on the actual product.
This post first appeared on MXMIndia on my weekly column.