What’s a brand worth? When do you make a change? If the brand is #1 and has been for years, do you make the decision that you have to change things up, particularly to capture “the younger demographic”?
In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company introduced to great fanfare, “New Coke.” This was a reformulation of “Coke” that was thought to be more of what “the kids today” wanted. The reaction by the public was REJECTION. After the backlash, “Original” Coke was re-branded as “Coke Classic”, brought back onto the market, and “New Coke” slowly disappeared, with Coke marketing executives hoping it would soon be forgotten.
Network television has been trying desperately to hold on to the “youth” audience. The Internet, with multiple viewing options (from Netflix to Amazon TV, Hulu to Crackle) has taken a bite out of the ratings and changed viewing patterns. Yet, the most recent Super Bowl – Seattle’s annihilation of Denver – was the most watched show in television history, with an audience of more than 112 million people. This show was not viewed on the Internet, but on broadcast/cable/satellite network television, reaching demographics across the board.
The integration of broadcast TV with digital continues with companies like Viggle making it lucrative to watch shows live (rather than via DVR), by making it an aspect of gaming and rewards. And Twitter continues to capitalize on “hot” shows by live tweeting by cast members and fan groups. Terrific ways for marketers to keep their audiences engaged before, during and after a broadcast.
Now NBC is taking another page out of the “Coke” playbook, firing Jay Leno (for the 2nd time) and replacing him with a younger, hipper host of “The Tonight Show”… Jimmy Fallon. Leno’s show has been #1 in the ratings for years, and didn’t look to be slowing down. Did it trend on Twitter or YouTube like Conan (with his new show on TBS), Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon do? Not even close. But his ratings with the key 18-49 demographic were just as strong with now signs of fading.
But it’s time for a change. Because we are fickle and need to address what we believe are the needs and wants of the younger demographic. Back when Johnny Carson hosted “Tonight,” there was competition (anyone remember Dick Cavett, David Frost, or Joan Rivers or Alan Thicke?) Yet he prevailed. There were many critics who said he should have retired long before he did. But he stood firm and the brand – “The Tonight Show” – brand and legend grew along with him, until he passed the baton to Jay Leno (whether he wanted Leno or Letterman to take his chair remains up for debate). This is the same Jay Leno who has been “branded” as unoriginal, unfunny and vanilla by many, but who consistently has beaten the hip, snarky, original and very funny “Late Night with David Letterman”.
So now Jimmy Fallon comes in as host of The Tonight Show. Fallon is a riot. I love him (my 13 year old daughter and her friends think he’s amazing – not that they’ve ever watched his show at 12:30am, but they catch his bits all the time on YouTube!) He’s bringing the show back to New York City where it originally started (*bonus points if you know who the original host was – see below) Will Fallon not be embraced by the public and become the new “New Coke”? Or, will a new brand finally be developed that breaks the mold and he becomes a “Classic”?
* Original host of “The Tonight Show” was Steve Allen, from 1954-57