Television broadcasting has become an increasingly crowded marketplace. During the mid twentieth century, only a handful of networks dominated the airwaves and established strong, immediately recognizable identities. The CBS “eye”, the NBC “peacock” and the four circles of ABC are all extremely effective because of their simplicity, consistent application and memorability—so much so, in fact, that they have changed very little, if at all, over the past fifty years.
Today, digital cable and satellite have created hundreds of different channels for viewers to choose from. In order to stand out from their competition and entice viewers to tune in, cable networks subscribe to the idea that developing a clearly defined “brand position” will help them achieve the same success as broadcast stations mentioned above. Taglines such as “We Know Drama,” “Very Funny” or “Characters Welcome” have become common ways in which these new networks try to attract and retain viewers.
The idea of creating a “brand position” is not a bad one; after all, effective branding encompasses every aspect of a company, its products, or services—its visual identity as well as the emotional connotations its customers may have. It takes several years build a successful brand. Unfortunately, cable networks are too busy mimicking each other’s attributes or reinventing themselves every couple of years that they do not give the time necessary for a brand to become ingrained in the consumers’ psyche.
TBS, or Turner Broadcast Station, has gone through several revisions of their brand since the late 1990s. Most recently it has matured into a simplified mark that clearly identifies their name and resembles a smile or open mouth laugh. “The Superstation” was dropped from its name, most likely to reduce confusion between it and Chicago’s WGN Superstation. While an improvement over the old identity, the true effectiveness of this re-brand will be whether or not it resonates with viewers and remains in use for more than a few years.
USA Network, not to be outdone, recently introduced a new identity that looks somewhat similar to the new TBS. It too is rendered in lowercase letters, with the “s” formed by the negative space between the “u” and “a”. Bearing a slight resemblance to two puzzle pieces coming together, the mark says nothing about the network or the type of programming it provides. How it relates to the idea of “characters welcome” gets lost in the overall execution. Unfortunately, their previous brand was much more unique and effective.
The battle of the network brands has only just begun. Within the past year, other networks have followed suit by introducing new looks, with brand positioning that they think will help them be identified in a saturated marketplace. What these networks fail to realize is that changing a logo or image does not a good company make; it is only through the consistent application of that image, and positive associations from customers. The ABC, CBS and NBC brands were not created overnight, but through consistent application became dependable to their viewers. Consistently changing or re-branding a company, on the other hand, only communicates a false sense of identity, and that it is not sure who or what it really is.
By: Ryan Hembree