The TV Name Game Coming Soon to a City Near You

Echostar is seeking the ultimate in off-line marketing: Looking for a town to change its name to "Dish" after its Dish Network.

This follows recent themes in marketing lore that roll with capitalistic marketing tendencies. That includes having your wedding sponsored by a company. Say a long-distance phone company, for example. Or people imprinting perhaps an automotive logo on their forehead (in the hopes of getting free cars for life). News reports also had consumers naming their children after popular consumer products.

EchoStar says, in exchange for the name change, everyone in that town will get 10 years worth of free satellite service, which would total about $4 million for 1,000 households. The town would have to change street names, buildings, even city stationary. After the 10 years is up, the town would be allowed to go back to its old name, which is not unusual. Zaire went back to Congo. Peking (or Peiping) took back its Beijing identity.



On the surface, this is where media marketing is going. Increasingly TV brands have a tougher time in a more fractionalized media world where spending heavyweight marketing dollars is necessary to get noticed.

One analyst said EchoStar's marketing stunt is rather low-rent. But it really is marketing, old-school. This is a publicity gimmick that harkens back to early times - during the financially troubled times in the United States during the depression. Others have already blazed this trail, somewhat: In the 1950s, the New Mexico town of Hot Springs legally changed its name to Truth or Consequences after a popular television program.

Since the TV universe will only be cut up into smaller pieces - and therefore tougher on all TV marketing executives -- the best bet is for every TV show, broadcast or cable network, cable operator, infomercial, or five-second program vignette to grab any available inventory - city or town -- that is left.

The bigger the city, the bigger the offer. Change Indian Springs to IBM and give computers and Internet service to all citizens for 10 years. Transfer Chesapeake to Cheese Whiz and kids under the age of 12 get free snacks during their lifetime. If all that gets to be too much, neighboring Baltimore could shift to Bally Fitness.

Ten years is a long time, however. By then Echostar might be sold and the Dish brand name could be retired. But don't worry. We'd have every reason to think "DirecTV, Delaware" or "Comcast, California" will work just as well.

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