Brand building needs to reflect goings on in consumers' lives: Harrington

MUMBAI: With more entrants coming into the television space including the kids genre brand building is becoming more important. As Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific VP, branding and communications Lucien Harrington notes, "If you don‘t‘ build a brand you are really just a commodity, shelf space. To be successful you must build a brand that reflects what is going on in your consumers‘ lives and reflect their interests and passions."

The challenge in the kids space according to him is that if you look at viewing habits - they are comfortable with viewing content on multiple platforms - on-air, online, mobile, social. A great brand must therefore have executions that make sense and work in all of these spaces. "Cartoon Network has become in essence a lifestyle brand that kids can interact with anytime and anyplace."

Cartoon Network recently underwent a re-branding exercise across the Asia Pacific including India. The brand reface launched across the Asia Pacific region on 1 October 2011. He has called it the beginning of a new era for the kids broadcaster and a proud moment. 
When asked about the factors that were kept in mind when Cartoon Network underwent the refresh he said, "Kids! Pure and simple! We just focussed on kids and their lifestyle. No matter where you are in the world or what you are doing - kids are on a quest to have fun. We wanted to capture this quest and reflect it in all of our content. We had a lot of fun creating and executing the refresh - and we have more kids on air than ever before - which all adds to the sense of excitement and energy that is propelling our brand forward in India."

He goes on to explain that the channel‘s aim is to convey a reality that blurs the line between what‘s seen on screen, and what happens in real life. "It‘s about believing that the impossible is possible and that you could, for example, take a hole out of your pocket and disappear into it."

This is a total Cartoon Network makeover complete with an accompanying theme song, ‘It‘s a Fun Thing‘ sung by up-and-coming teen star Jeronimo. "We produced interstitials, bumpers and a series of spots all themed around fun. It was our biggest ever casting call - well over 70 kids with almost 35 making it into the spots. These include a series of spots made specifically for the Indian market, featuring Indian kids. It‘s all part of our investment to make Cartoon Network the brand that kids relate to more than any other."

Talking about the effort involved he says that it was a lot of work as the broadcaster had to revamp not only on-air, but online including, the Facebook page, all of its marketing collaterals and merchandise - a huge effort by everyone involved and based on early, positive feedback from viewers, well worth the effort.

Asked about why the refresh happened now he notes that trends change over time particularly in the kids‘ space. So it‘s important to stay fresh and reflect what‘s important in their lives. "Kids today are really "screenagers" and Cartoon Network‘s new look reflects this outlook with its depth, pace, vibrant colour and ability to promote an overall brand experience, not just a television programme.

"The process, including the planning, took about 10 months and was a huge effort by all departments, especially the creative services team."

The tagline of the channel is ‘It‘s fun thing‘. "At its heart, Cartoon Network is about animating kids‘ lives be it on air, online, via mobile or in the playground. Our content is fun and funny and created to make kids laugh out loud so the Cartoon Network: It‘s a Fun Thing! tagline was a natural extension of our brand promise."

As it is important for content to have a ‘home‘ therefore a channel‘s brand identity remains as important as ever. He gives the example of ‘Ben 10‘. "Everyone knows this alien-morphing boy hero and they also know that the series‘ home is on Cartoon Network. Strong brand identity for broadcasters provides powerful context for their shows and characters. If a viewer likes and trusts your channel and the way it‘s presented, they‘re more likely to want to tune in to new content. The new brand look has been extended to all of our screens and the feedback to the vibrant contemporary look has been really positive."

Stressing on the importance of the look and feel of Cartoon Network or Pogo he notes that this is what makes the channels different and drives emotional connections that will promote loyalty and viewing preference. "The alternative is that you are just scheduling programmes and you become shelf space with little viewer affinity for what your brand or channel represents. 
"Cartoon Network is all about the fun and energy of the playground and this is illustrated in our "fun spots" featuring kids - the Scooby Slurp, Pop Eyes and Hole in Your Pocket! are a few great examples. This kind of packaging and short form define our brand - I‘ve seen them countless times but they still make me laugh and I doubt you would find anything similar on any other kids‘ channel."

Cartoon Network he adds will launch in HD in India within the next 12 months. Therefore the fact that the refresh has aimed at making the channel be as vibrant and as colourful as possible will be an added bonus.

"We hope to roll out the Cartoon Network HD in India next 12 months. We‘ll be HD ready in Asia by early 2012 and will be the first regional kids‘ broadcaster to launch such a premium offering. Once you‘ve experienced animation in HD, it will be tough to go back!"

In terms of the expectations of kids from the channel he points out that TV is still king when it comes to kids and their media consumption habits, but with the advent of technology there are more and more mobile screens. So kids tend to multitask and ‘snack‘ on various types of content. "Our reface reflects their expectation of a 360 degree brand experience and combines it with the energy of the playground - the place where dreams and fantasies can be acted out."

He adds that as per recent research Turner has the number one and number two kids‘ brands in India. "There may be some short term volatility and the marketplace is undoubtedly competitive, but we believe that we have the best brands and the best variety of content to maintain our leadership over time."

The key to succeeding is to not be reliant on just one show. "We have several top performing shows such as Ben 10 and Tom and Jerry and we also invest significantly in local seminal series like M.A.D and ChhotaBheem."
Local content will continue to be important. "We were the trail blazers for original production in India in both animation and live action - Roll No. 21 is a great example - and we will continue this strategy going forward as we believe it is only by bringing the very best in kids‘ entertainment with the right balance between local and international titles that we will maintain our success."

In terms of digital media he says that kids make little differentiation between how and where they consume their media - they just want to be able to access it conveniently when they want to. "Our philosophy is to encourage this choice - if a kid loves watching an episode of Ben 10 then Cartoon Network can expand and extend their brand experience by giving them more choices: play a game online, chat about the latest episode, enter a competition or attend an event. In this respect digital opportunities are increasingly important as this space complements what‘s happening on TV and opens up a different kind of interactive brand experience."

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