LIVING THE BRAND

LIVING THE BRAND

I am the kind of person who, for fun, will do things like reading the National Retail Federation website looking for story ideas. As an avid shopper and certified “looking for a good deal” saver, I find it interesting to see retail trends from the backside in addition to the pretty storefronts and websites.

Today I stumbled across the “2021 Hot 25 Retailers List” and took note of which merchants got my money this past year or two. These are the “fastest-growing retail companies.. determined by the increase in domestic sales between 2019 and 2020.. domestic sales in excess of $300 million.”

HINT: At a time store shelves are bare and shipping challenges face us, it’s a good idea to sign up for the mailing list of the NFR. I also subscribe to the Recall Alert list from all the government agencies.

It got me thinking of the brands I love and will forever be fiercely loyal to, barring some unexpected crash and burn on the part of the retailer. It also got me thinking of the brands we represent when we work in a newsroom.

Keep in mind a brand is not a slogan and vice versa. A brand is what you stand for and a slogan is a way to sum it up for consumer appetite. A mission is an internal spotlight your company shines for employees to understand.

One of my favorite product lines is Aveda. I honestly don’t know their slogan. I don’t think they even have one. I do, however, know their brand and their mission. I do know it’s made from the earth to the consumer, and there is a spirit of giving back and treating the earthly products with compassion. I know this because in the 20 years I’ve been dedicated, I’ve seen the brand in every salon and store I’ve gone to on shopping sprees.

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I know their products are a bit pricy, but I also accept the price in the name of good, quality, earth-friendly products. I also like their reward system.

But Slogan? No idea. It’s just Aveda. If I ever tell you “You smell like Aveda”, that’s a compliment.

I love American Eagle and Aerie. The clothes are comfy, meant to fit a variety of body shapes and sizes, and even provides those “XXL” lengths of jeans for those who are insanely tall like me. Their sizes “feel” real to me, never assuming a vanity size and always surviving through loads and loads of laundry.

I also am loyal to Bath & Body Works, but only some of their scents. I’m not a fan of the expanding name of lotions and such, but I do have the ones that I am dedicated to finding every semi-annual sale. Sun-ripened Raspberry reminds me of a time when I was younger, and life was simpler. Summer Boardwalk might always be the best candle scent in the world, yet I’m torn with the Yankee Candle scent of Pink Sands and Sun & Sand (please bring back the blend of these two scents, if you are reading Yankee Candle Decision Makers.)

When I want to be warm, I think Columbia and The North Face. I love that Columbia has a pro-discount so when I order warm jackets for news crews I don’t have to break the bank. When I want to immerse in Summer I think of Bealls (pronounced Bells), a Florida-only chain that delivers anywhere. You just FEEL like summer at the beach when you shop here, and summer at the beach is amazing to me.

Like most middle-aged women, I could spend a whole day at Target and still not buy what I came for. I think in some sense it should be named “Squirrel” because of all the “Squirrel” moments you have when shopping there.

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I like Amazon for its ease of purchasing random things that show up two days later. I really want to like Forever 21 more aside from the fact they don’t think a person grows taller than 5’4 judging by the length of their dresses.  Or maybe I’ve lost sight of being “Forever 21” and those short skirts are no longer appropriate when you are mid-40’s. However, I could binge in their accessory selection forever.

For food, I love Chipotle. I could eat it daily. Even despite the E. coli situation, I was a forgiving consumer, thinking the problems were fixed and food was now safer than ever. THAT is how loyal I was to that brand. I don’t get all the Chick-Fil-A craze. I don’t dislike their food at all, I’m just not savage about it. I love Panera and still call it “St. Louis Bread Company”. To me it’s a slice of home, remembering the first “Bread Company” restaurant at West County Mall. I was in middle school and made my mom take me there because the cool kids ate there, and I desperately wanted to be a cool kid. She asked, in a way only my mom could, “Why am I paying $7 for a sandwich with grass on it?” I rolled my eyes with the force only a middle-schooler can muster and said “They are sprouts mom. Not grass.” As the chain grew, I always felt like walking to the restaurant was like walking back in time.

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When you go to work in a newsroom, you’ve got the same “brand” you should ask about in the interview. You know those times when the hiring manager says, “Do you have any questions for me?” and you draw a blank? Ask that question. “What is your mission statement for the staff?” and “What is your brand and how do you enforce it day-to-day?” or “What about your station stands out from the competition?”. Ask to speak to the marketing team and ask how they live the brand. Ask how your stories can stand out in topicals and give a heads up when you do a story that really lived the brand. They might turn a POP (proof of performance) spot that day.

I once worked in an Action News newsroom, and the news mission was simple – if someone wasn’t opposed to it we didn’t do it. That left out all the sweet, cute, feel-good stories we tend to love as young journalists. But you don’t go to Burger King to get a taco, so you didn’t come to us to feel good. You came to us for action.

When I worked in Las Vegas we had a brand of “Local. Las Vegas.” On the surface, it seemed to mean nothing, but in the marketing and presentation, we brought the brand to life. No other market was like Las Vegas, and we celebrated the uniqueness of that while still staying loyal to local news coverage. We knew in our market it wasn’t odd to see people smoking in the casino section of the grocery store, and you could play video poker while waiting for a prescription at Walgreens. We took for granted grocery stores were open for hours and some nightlife hot spots didn’t open until 3 am. We didn’t bother celebrities we saw at Target. It was just par for the Las Vegas life course.

Our promos from that era were about my favorite ones ever. Here are a few examples.

It’s important you know what the brand of your workplace is, the mission statement, and the slogan. You need to live this every day and get people loyal to your brand versus the others. You need to be the Bath and Body Work to The Body Shop of local news. Everyone is offering you something special, and you need to help sell the brand where you work.

I once wrote a mission statement for a newly launched weather brand. Never one to be able to use few words, it got a bit long, but it summarized what we did.

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Mission Statement

While we might be known as the Suncoast, skies can quickly turn dark and ominous bringing life-threatening weather to your neighborhood. Half of the year we face a risk of dangerous tropical storms and hurricanes. That’s why you need a weather team dedicated to forecasting, tracking, and following severe weather. We are the ABC7 First Alert Storm Team.

What does that mean? The ABC7 First Alert Storm Team is committed to keeping you safe and aware of the threat of severe weather days before it happens and as it is developing. 

We will also be here when the weather isn’t severe but can disrupt your lifestyle. We know how important your family outings, barbecues, birthday parties, and even walks on the beach are to all Suncoast neighbors. We also know that inconvenient weather can mean changing those plans, and we want to make sure that every weather event, from small to significant, is treated as an important part of your day-to-day life.

We’ll activate a First Alert Day if the weather gets severe, but know we’ll also be there when the winds are going to kick up the seas and bring life-threatening rip currents or toss around the garbage cans. If temperatures are expected to get unseasonably cold or insufferably hot we will alert you well in advance so you can plan accordingly.

You don’t have to come to us, we will be everywhere you are. The First Alert Storm Team is on air, our website mysuncoast.com/weather, on a mobile App, on OTT platforms Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and AppleTV. We’ll send push notifications when the weather impacts your life, from life-threatening storms to dangerous currents at local beaches. As storms approach, we will let you know what to expect even if you are out playing golf, or fishing in Sarasota Bay.

With the new addition of our new state-of-the-art technology, we will be able to pinpoint a certain area of the Suncoast and give a specific alert for that location. This is an extremely valuable tool that will only alert the people in harm’s way. To download the new and improved ABC 7 Weather App, go to your app store and search “ABC7 Weather”.

When you see the First Alert Storm Team promotions and social media posts, you’ll know someone has got your back on the Suncoast and making sure you can plan your activities in the beautiful area where you live and play. We won’t give unnecessary hype. We won’t exaggerate the forecast. We’ll give you real-time, practical information so there’s one less surprise coming to that surprise party you are planning outdoors in the summer, or the holiday family outing to look at Christmas lights.

We also help you prepare before Hurricane Season, so you are ready well before the first named storm of the season forms.

You live your life, and we’ll give you the First Alert Weather to plan accordingly.

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When you sign up to work at a TV station, you are giving 2-3 years of your life to live their brand and mission. Be sure you are able to do that. There’s nothing that could force me to shop at a store I don’t like, so I don’t want to live and breathe a brand I don’t like just to get a paycheck.

It’s a step in the process many young journalists miss. If your station has a “we go live” mentality and you don’t like going live alone as an MMJ, it might not be the place for you. If the station is all Breaking News but you want more time to dig, maybe look for a spot on an I-Team elsewhere.

Make sure the people above you can vocalize the mission and brand and will incorporate that into daily conversations. When you feel confused, ask. If you go through a branding change, see if you can be on the committee making those decisions. You, as an experienced person on staff, know the local community and bring valuable input.

I’ve worked at several stations that had so many brands out there it can be confusing. It’s hard to reinforce the brand when different viewers have a different take.

Most recently I was at “Nebraska’s Trusted News Source”. It was a brand and mission I liked. Hitting on the “trust” issue that most newsrooms deal with in this heated media-consumer market and focusing on the state and not just our little corner of it. I don’t care where you live, corn destroyed by storms impacts us all. A tornado in the panhandle gets just as much compassion as the one down the street from you. It allowed us a focus on truth and vetting and building trust, not just assuming it’s there. We can’t say we are trusted as a fact – we have to prove it every day and fix it when we get it wrong.

In Huntsville, we made a switch to “This Is Home”, summing up the feeling of Alabamians and their love of the state. This is their home and we told stories that investigated and celebrated that. Our branding kick-off included celebrating “Hometown Heroes”. We had a jingle and promos running ad nauseam to reinforce the brand.

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We did a “31 Days of Thanks”, playing off the WAAY31 channel, and the social media movement during November. We gave special gifts to those who aren’t always appreciated, like DMV workers and those who work at the Jail. The brand was a little “soft” for my personal preference, but it’s not about me (or you) when it comes to station branding – it’s about the viewers and what resonates with them.

It’s also good to write a mission statement for yourself before you begin a job search. What do YOU want to get out of a job? What is going to help you avoid “Burnout”? Do you want to be at a consumer-advocacy station, an investigative station, a breaking news wins the day station? You need to look at yourself and your own mission and see where you work best. You are going to be wearing those letters and feeling that brand in every step you take and every story you pitch.

Think of your own favorite brands and why they resonate with you. What do you like best about them? What about the places you DO NOT like? Why don’t you like them? What could they do better?

You can’t give “Coverage You Can Count On” or “Live. Local. Breaking.” if you don’t know what that means, and you need to make sure the viewers are getting the same product no matter what time of day they watch. A Big Mac tastes the same no matter what shift is on duty or what part of the country you are in. They make it the same way. If you got a Big Mac that tasted like a Whopper you might be disappointed.

Be the brand you want others to love and respect your specific role in that process. Don’t be a Whopper in McDonald’s.

Also, interview Betty White any chance you can get!

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