Our perspective at VantagePoint

What We Can Learn From Leno

NBC’s experiment with primetime television begins tonight at 10 pm, with the premier of “The Jay Leno Show.” With the 10 pm time slot typically reserved for dramas — a least on the broadcast networks — NBC is forging new territory with this nightly primetime comedy/variety show.

If we take a look at some of the reasons why NBC is taking what many deem a risk, there are some lessons for us (B2B marketers).

1. Jay Leno is an asset worth keeping. Or at least an asset worthy of protecting against the competition getting him. NBC knew that locking in Jay Leno would prevent him — and his loyal viewers — from moving to another network. The lesson? Know what your assets are (including your very brand) and be sure to leverage them appropriately.

2. Ratings are down. With so many more options available for our entertainment — cable channels, the Internet, movies on demand, video games, etc. — NBC needed to consider how to get more viewers tuned in to them. The lesson? When customers begin to vote with their wallets and to defect, it’s important to take a hard look at how you can get them back (even if it means a paradigm shift for you or your company).

3. Consumer behavior has changed. With the advent of the DVR, we aren’t tied to watching our favorite shows only when they’re aired or through reruns. We can enjoy them on our own time table. It’s been said that NBC is hoping the new format will bring viewers at 10 pm to enjoy the show ‘in real time.’ The lesson? Customers today are different from the customers of yesterday. The recession has, of course, had a tremendous impact on changing behaviors. Sales cycles are longer and sometimes more complicated. Customers don’t merely want, but they demand return on their investments. Understanding how your customers have changed and how you must adjust to fit their needs — not your own — is critical to success. I would caution, however, on just ‘hoping’ as NBC appears to be doing. A little research goes a long way to making your decisions effective ones.

4. It’s expensive to launch a new hit drama (much less to have it succeed). NBC knows that producing “The Jay Leno Show” will be significantly less expensive than a new drama. And with only one out of about every five new dramas succeeding in a season, they figure the gamble is worth it. The lesson? Sometimes it’s important to look at the breadth of what you have to take to market and look for less-costly-but-still-valued options to include. Again, research can help take some of the guesswork out of the choices available to you, and to test that those choices don’t diminish your brand.

5. The old business model is, well, old. Based somewhat on reasons 2 and 3 above, NBC maintains that the old business model won’t work in today’s world. They’ve decided to ‘shake things up,’ again thinking that the gamble will be worth it. The lesson? When the marketplace changes, it’s time to consider whether reinvention — of your company, of your products or services, of your target markets, or of your very business model — is needed.

Whether “The Jay Leno Show” will succeed or fail remains to be seen. I know the NBC executives will be watching. And so will I.

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