What you can learn from Sean Hannity. | Bruce Turkel

I read an interesting article in October tenth’s New York Times titled, Victory Lap for Fox and Hannity. This paragraph stopped me:
“… Fox is the envy of the media industry for its popularity, and perhaps too for its consistency — something that Mr. Hannity embodies, as the only host on the channel to have the same time slot, 9 p.m., for all 15 years.”

For the sake of this blog post forget what you think of Fox and its politics for a minute —it’s irrelevant whether you like their point of view or loathe it — you certainly can’t question their success. As far as liking Sean Hannity himself, I’ll admit that I don’t get him at all. I’ve always found him to be vacuous and small minded and not much of what I think a TV personality should be.

But my opinion apparently doesn’t mean very much, not when Hannity is one of the most popular news personalities on television today. His Fox franchise is so strong that The Nielsen Company reports that Fox is now the number four cable channel in prime time — not number four in news, mind you, but ranked fourth amongst all cable channels. Fox is so strong that “the company will soon be going back to distributors to renew its deal.” Fox currently charges ±$1 per subscriber but now wants the $4 per household that ESPN charges.

Dan Abrams, former general manager of MSNBC, explains Hannity’s strength in the Times article. “With all of the most successful cable news shows, you know what you are getting every night — they have a clear identity and mission. There is probably no host on cable whose identity and mission is clearer that Sean Hannity’s.”

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“There is probably no host on cable

whose identity and mission

is clearer that Sean Hannity’s.”

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So is 15 years of consistency what it takes to achieve dominance? Before you disregard that, look at some of the world’s most successful brands and how they’ve marketed themselves. BMW has been “The Ultimate Driving Machine” since 1973. Volvo has been selling safety since the early seventies too. Wal-Mart said “Always Low Prices” for 19 years before copying Target’s “Expect More. Pay Less” with their own “Save More. Live Better” in 2007. Slightly different words but still a consistent low price message.

Even companies who change their tagline fairly regularly are careful not to shift their image too much. We’ve heard different messages from McDonald’s, for example, but they’ve never swayed from their golden arches. Coca-Cola also changes their message but has been consistent with their bottle design and colors. And you may recall that when they dared to change their recipe it almost spelled disaster for the beverage company.

Consistency is not critical just for taglines. In his book Audition, written to help actors get gigs, Michael Shurtleff says that actors called back for a second audition should always wear “the same thing (they) wore to the first audition.” One time the late Broadway director Jerry Robbins asked Shurtleff “’…why I hadn’t brought back the girl in the orange sweater?’ I had, but she was wearing a purple dress. I’m not sure we ever did get that straightened out.”

Consistency, then, is clearly one of the bedrocks of brand equity. We think so much of it that it’s the seventh and final point of our Seven Points Of Building Brand Value, “Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.” After all, if it’s made Sean Hannity as popular as he is, it’s a pretty good bet it’ll work for you and me.

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