Brand Doctor: What Now for the CBC?

May 26, 2014

Source: Marketing Magazine

Reason for today’s visit: The NHL season is almost over and with it the CBC’s dominance of Canadian hockey broadcasting since 1952, especially Saturday nights. What will this mean to CBC as a channel and a brand, especially when the Feds are slashing the budget?

Diagnosis: In the face of budget cuts, we’ve seen job reductions, programing cuts and increased commercials. To what extent will these changes affect the CBC brand promise of delivering distinctively Canadian content that informs, enlightens and entertains is still to be seen.
Prescription: Restructure with focus and recapture what makes the CBC truly different as the single source for Canadian culture and entertainment. Canadiana is bigger than hockey; it includes the arts, current affairs, politics, bilingualism, multiculturalism, etc. With reduced funding and increased competition, there has never been a greater need to own this positioning. Who else can? This differentiation will be the CBC’s greatest asset to engage and retain consumers through its transition. The ability to deliver on the brand promise will be an important filter through which to evaluate dropped shows, more ads and other possible changes.

Diagnosis: Forget bedside manner. This case is in critical condition. Long ago, Frank magazine branded CBC “The Corpse” and it’s beendownhill ever since. This reminds me of Eaton’s. Everybody loved Eaton’s, everybody knew someone who worked at Eaton’s, but nobody shopped at Eaton’s. We need a brand vision intervention.
Prescription: Two questions: What can the CBC offer that other broadcasters can’t or don’t? Who is the audience they can super-serve? We haven’t got the lab results, but can still surmise that the CBC needs news, entertainment and a point of view that oozes Canadian sensibility—witty, objective and worldly with an above-average IQ. CBC Radio has done a pretty good job of leaning out the operation while putting forward engaging shows with Q and Writers and Company. Look outside of Ottawa and Toronto. Have you seen the CFL thrive in Saskatchewan and Alberta? Well, so can the CBC.

Diagnosis: Become relevant or die! With the loss of hockey and the slow erosion of the evening newscast, this is no small task—especiallywith a budget among the lowest of any national broadcaster.
Prescription: The CBC has never been strong at drama. And its comedy has always been a joke. So take what’s working and run with it: namely CBC Radio. Here the CBC has always been about smart conversation on an eclectic range of topics. That’s more relevant than ever. Many of the best radio shows (like Q) already shoot video. Put cameras everywhere and stream it live. Mix in some of the best elements of the current TV lineup—like the “At Issue” panel from The National (minus poor irrelevant Peter). Make it a nightly cross-platform show paired with a Skype-version of As It Happens. This kind of talk is cheap—and could save the CBC.

Diagnosis: The loss of such an important relationship will have a significant impact in audience, revenue and profile. A private enterpriseorganization would simply cut unprofitable operations: not so easy with CBC’s mandate. CBC is a specialist channel burdened with a broad regulatory mandate. Importantly, Canadians still like it for its “product” strengths: large radio audience; the best news coverage in Canada; great digital media integration.
Prescription: As a specialist channel, CBC is in the quality content business. Focus on fewer, better-integrated activities. News and information is strong, but entertainment needs stronger quality to be marketable globally. Be like Tim Hortons—relevant locally at the big city and community level, including sports. Focus on rebuilding an emotional connection with Canadians by doing fewer things, but better.

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