Enteraction’s Murphy argues that in a niche world branding takes on added importance. ‘The more niche a channel is, the more of a brand it [inherently] is. Channel 4 and MTV stand for something,’ he maintains. ‘Catch-all’ channels such as BBC1 and ITV1, on the other hand, rely less on the power of their brands.
In a sector of five channels, then, it is less important for a TV brand to stand for something than it is in a sector of 500 channels, where the brand needs to be instantly recognisable as viewers flick through their programme guides.
The devil’s horns of the Bravo channel reveal its ‘lads’ mag’ credentials, while MTV and music are synonymous. Channels with smaller programming budgets require instant recognition to attract grazers.
English & Pockett creative director Rob Machin has worked on channel brands including ‘Discovery Home and Leisure’. He says a station needs an immediate appeal in a multi-channel environment.
‘If a channel is not memorable, it will not last. If a viewer can’t tell immediately what the channel is about, they will switch over,’ he claims.
The UKTV channel’s rebranding last winter was all about building this sort of awareness and finding ways to keep viewers from straying from its network. Clustering types of viewers together and offering clarity and guidance were vital, explains Kingsbury.
‘We needed branding that people recognised as a mark of quality, but which also presented itself in a compelling way to different audiences,’ he adds.
The concept of TV channel branding has expanded concurrently with the expansion of the television market. Now, as retail, financial and even supermarket brands are fighting alongside the entertainment brands for the attention of viewers, brand experts need to go the extra mile.
Kevin Hill, design director at BBC Broadcast, recently worked with BBC1 to tidy up its junction ‘clutter’ in order to keep the station at the forefront of viewers’ minds (DW 1 April). He has also just completed a brand update for BBC America’s Friday night retro programming block.
Hill claims that TV branding is a much deeper process than it previously was. ‘It has expanded its brief. It’s now very important for a channel to have a clear and consistent voice throughout, and to achieve that you have to understand how the channel works,’ he says.
‘We get under the skin of a whole network or channel to see how they function and talk to the programme-makers. You have to take a holistic approach and be consistent across the board.’ Accordingly, channel branding can include the voiceovers between shows and the language used in-between programming.
‘In the past it was just a case of creating idents. Now we deliver total brand systems that channels [can adopt],’ Machin says. ‘Branding extends to packaging and infographic systems and to print and on-line.’
As TV channels are faced with diminishing visibility in the expanded digital world, branding is being hailed as the best way of locking in viewer loyalty.