By Geoff Nelson
Last week Deb wrote about how both political brands broke their promise to their respective audiences and it struck a chord with me. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump in with my two cents.
An even larger and more important brand broke its promise to its customers over the last 18 months; the media. Think about it. An entire industry broke its brand promise. Not since yellow journalism of the 1880s where exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering and sensationalism was used to sell more papers has the media gone to such lows. When Kyle Smith over at the New York Post (tabloid journalism at its finest) must call out the rest of the media for their shameful behavior, you know things have gotten bad. He wrote, “I didn’t vote for him either, but Trump won. Pull yourselves together and deal with it, if you ever want to be taken seriously again…. The media are supposed to tell us what happened, not speculate on the future. But its incessant scaremongering, the utter lack of proportionality and the shameless use of double standards are an embarrassment, one that is demeaning the value of the institution.”
The brand promise of the media is trust. The job is to find and report the facts. Let’s walk through the three most important questions a media brand must answer for its customers:
- What does it say about a person that they use/wear/drive/eat/drink/support this brand?
Whatever news outlet you follow says a lot about you. Conservatives follow Fox, liberals CNN and the rest of us try to read a little bit from everywhere to try and get a balance. The 2008 elections set off a brand war over media with the public. They defend their outlet and bash the other side. Now an entire industry is tarnished. Per Gallup, “Americans' trust and confidence in the mass media "to report the news fully, accurately and fairly" has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year.”
- What is the singular thing a person gets from this brand they can’t get anywhere else?
This is where it gets interesting dear readers. I can get my news from so many other places besides major media outlets. The mainstream media had a monopoly for almost three hundred years. The Boston News-Letter was the first continuously published newspaper in the United States in 1704. Super fast-forward and we come to the first blog news sites in 2002 and then twitter and facebook. What was a monopoly became citizen journalism. The mainstream media looked down their collective noses and scoffed. Then comes twitter and facebook. The outlets for finding and digesting news intensified. The media lost its hold on exclusiveness. You can get news now from hundreds of places. Not only can I get it anywhere else on demand, I can get if from more trusted sources.
- How does this brand make a person the hero in his/her own story?
Knowledge is power. Having the indisputable facts to base your argument and frame of reference upon enable you to persuade and educate others. That was the customer felt the hero in the past. I trusted the source and felt empowered to state my opinion based on facts. This is the biggest and most interesting point. The majority of the American public decided they could be the hero in their own story quite fine without the medias help. A Media Research Center/YouGov poll found that, “7 in 10 (69%) voters do not believe the news media are honest and truthful.” And, “97% of voters said they did not let the media’s bias influence their vote.” That is an incredibly high number of people who said they just tuned them out. And the election results prove the survey correct.
Brands exist to elevate their customers’ self-concepts. This wasn’t a misalignment as with the political parties. It was a total abandonment. These customers felt like the could accomplish anything, and reach self-actualization and achieve their full potential as humans quite fine without what has been one of the most trusted and powerful institutions on the planet. I truly hope they can dust themselves off and get back to being the trusted brands they once were.