To Brand Or Not To Brand? That Is The Question

I was driving home and saw a neighbor driving her new electric Ford Mustang. It looks nothing like a Mustang, but rather like a run-of-the-mill small SUV.

Mountains of articles have been written about the weird/brilliant decision by Ford marketers to brand this SUV as a Mustang.

To me, this decision doesn’t  make sense. It seems inconsistent on so many fronts. The car is not a muscle car by any stretch of the imagination. It's not even an exotically styled car. So why the Mustang label?

And why did they NOT label the electric Ford F150 Truck as a Mustang (it is called “Ford F150 Lightning”)?  Not doing so is equally baffling as labeling the SUV as one. But then, what do I know?

Anyway, before you think that you have accidentally opened a MediaPost Marketing: Automotive column, let me explain why I am sharing this with you. It comes back to branding.

In the past, our national TV networks positioned themselves as brands, sometimes with sub-brands included. Some may remember “Must-See TV” from NBC back in the 1990s. It mostly applied to the highest-rated Thursday evening shows, like “Seinfeld."



Also, everyone knows “Monday Night Football” as a brand.

Slowly but surely, TV shows started to become their own brands, and through use of social media were able to create a direct relationship with their viewers. The direct relationship with a show and its cast ultimately became more important than any relationship with the channel on which it aired.

This was proven over the last years when a network would cancel a show, and then someone else picked it up and ran with it, sometimes successfully (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which switched from Fox to NBC, “Monday Night Football” which moved from ABC to ESPN, or “All Rise,” which moved from CBS to OWN).

More recently, we have seen the rise of the reboot, with shows like "Fuller House," "The Wonder Years" and soon, "Frasier" all finding new homes and audiences on streamers.

Which makes me wonder if the brand of the network still matters Or is it the show? The actors? Is a Netflix comedy perceived as “better” than a Hulu comedy? Is a documentary on Discovery perceived differently from a documentary on PBS? Is a historic costume drama rated differently by its audience when seen on Apple+ vs NBC? Do these brands matter?

I am leaning toward “No, they do not matter.” In the Albarda household, we happily switch between streamers (including those owned by legacy networks like NBC/Peacock and CBS/Paramount). We endlessly share trailers among family members and bookmark shows to watch, regardless of where it might be on. We rarely stay within one platform for the duration of the evening. And anecdotally, I hear the same viewing behavior confirmed from others.

So what does this mean? That the old adage “content is king (queen?)” matters even more today than ever before.

If we truly select on the basis of story, and to a degree, pedigree or familiarity of the cast members and possibly producers/directors (”from the makers of…”), then marketing your content before marketing your platform seems important. And yet, from how I see (legacy) streamers market themselves, I'm not sure they agree.

But as I said before when talking about the Mustang EV -- what do I know?

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