How Nickelodeon Moved To A One-Brand Strategy

Pamela Kaufman

Branding in the digital age has become painful for aging companies, especially when brands give birth to mini brands without closely tying together the two. It worked for Apple early on, for example. The parent, more than 30 years old, spawned iPad and iPod. Perhaps you remember when the Lisa became the Macintosh.

Family values prompted Nickelodeon's move to a one-brand strategy last year after internal research revealed that the first generation of viewers turned into parents. The audience for the 30-year-old brand had grown much larger than the company expected, Pamela Kaufman, chief marketing officer at Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group, told attendees at the Forrester Marketing Forum 2010 in Los Angeles Thursday.

Kaufman explained how shaping the message required Nickelodeon to outline and refocus on priorities. The brand has always been Nickelodeon, but she says consumers became confused about what Nickelodeon represented. Pointing to numerous acquisitions, she said each organization had different goals.

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So the company set out on a two-year path to confirm Nickelodeon as the brand, and put a plan in place to get people to stop calling characters, such as Sponge Bob, the brand.

Shaping the message requires Nickelodeon to set new priorities. The one-brand strategy rolled out Sept. 28, 2009. A new creative to support the strategy accompanied the launch. It wasn't just a new logo, but involved rethinking what each part of the company represents.

Kaufman says the one-brand strategy brought clarity that differentiates the company from the competition. Projects move seamlessly across the organization. The philosophy took a focus on embracing families, being leaders, championing creativity, listening and learning, being diverse and inclusive, breaking rules and taking risks, thinking big and having fun, and thinking globally.

Apparently, older brands with products that take on their own persona can become challenging for marketers that want to keep that associateion with long-time audiences and fans, according to one conference attendee from a major brand who asked for anonymity.

For Nickelodeon, the one-brand strategy unified the company, and made it more powerful. It proved beneficial to consumer because it helped them to more easily identify Nickelodeon as the brand during the transition into the company's new culture, Kaufman says.

The one-brand strategy also should better support the company's July 2 release of "The Last Airbender," a movie based on Nickelodeon's animated series "Avatar." Nintendo snagged the video game, developed by THQ, and plans to release it for Wii, DS and DSi devices prior to the film's release.

Meanwhile, Nickelodeon promoted Marjorie Cohn to president, development and original programming at Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group on Tuesday. Cohn reports to Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group president Cyma Zarghami.

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