After reading trough FastCocreate’s article on National Geographic’s brand revamp I was left with mixed feelings. Following are the goods, the bads and the middles of their latest move.
The brand is re-discovering its core. They already updated their programming by including more of what the National Geographic Partners CEO Declan Moore says is “smart content”. This decision follows the increase of 21st Century Fox’s holdings in the company and after the management team recognized the growing thirst of millennials and gen Z for programs which are “more on the intellectual side.” The new and improved NatGeo channel includes programs like the newest Leo DiCaprio documentary: Before the Flood, The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, Years of Living Dangerously, StarTalk with DeGrasse Tyson, Origins etc.
Moreover, the brand aims to introduce cohesion across all of their platforms. Moore sees this trough the lens of teams taking proud ownership of the content that is being produced at the level of the whole company.
Reading trough how Moore approaches his brand was a personal shock, to say the least. He said that the management team has just discovered that millennials like “smart programming.” Now, whilst people chased UFOs on NatGeo, people were tuning into YouTube channels like ASAP Science, Veritasium, One minute physics and to science blogs like IFLScience, Science alert, iO9. In fact, people have been doing this for more than a decade now and to share such a statement in 2016 shows that people at NatGeo are seriously out of touch.
There is a reason why these channels and blogs are so popular, and that is in part because of the lack of quality programs on dedicated science channels like NatGeo. I can safely say that the sphere of specialty science entertainment was destroyed in the last decade with the introduction of reality TV which increasingly got out of hand and out-of-brand. Animal Planet anyone?
Moore is quite happy to recognize and capitalize on the thirst for “smarter programming”, but is not aware that he and his team is responsible for creating this kind of thirst in the first place. All this comes from a business ethic which ultimately doesn’t show passion for its own brand. It’s opportunistic in nature and leaves a dry taste of old-school marketing where only graphs and numbers are considered.
One other thing. Declan Moore practically says that teams from different platforms were not comfortable taking ownership (responsibility) to what was happening over next door. For example, the magazine team was not comfortable with decisions made by the guys over at the TV channel. If this doesn’t illustrate a brand in cohesive shambles, I don’t know what does.
The middle ground
I am glad they are taking very positive steps towards more quality programming and more brand cohesion despite what factors influence those decisions. Should they have done it sooner – yes. Has 21st Century Fox got something to do with the new programming direction? Maybe.
If they keep up with the production of quality content and if they don’t stray off-brand again, National Geographic Channel could soon be well ahead of their colleges over at Discovery & Co and can reclaim their spot as the primary authority on exciting science and discovery.
The main mistake dedicated science channels do nowadays is serving what people want instead of what they actually need. I know this sounds unintuitive, but let me illustrate. Let’s say I had a choice between a doughnut and an apple. An apple is what I need because of the fiber and vitamins, and the doughnut is something that I want because it is tastier. I would almost always choose a doughnut over an apple , but when I eat it, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t feel terrible (and less healthy) afterward.
The same goes with television channels. They make people feel terrible about themselves. They make people feel like brainless, lazy slobs and this is not something any self-aware human being would ever need nor want to feel. This lesson can be applied to any brand. Each has the power to use its position for the greater good and make the world a better place.