NBC’s lessons on what not to do

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The train wreck in slow motion that is the NBC finally came to a head this week as Jay Leno’s prime time experiment was yanked from the network’s schedule. While the falling axe on Leno was known to be coming from media watchers for weeks, what happened next can only be described as shocking. In an effort to fill holes in their Swiss-cheese like schedule, The Peacock hoped to move Leno after the news in a half hour format while pushing the time slots of both the Tonight Show and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon back another half an hour. On Tuesday, Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien politely issued a “thanks, but no thanks” statement to the networks proposal. O’Brien stated that to toy with the Tonight Show name and reputation was a bad idea. NBC is back at square one and scrambling for yet another plan b.

This colossal mess, like most messes, contains some excellent lessons. For starters, O’Brien was dead on when he rejected a timeslot change for the Tonight Show. For forty years, The Tonight Show has occupied the same cozy little broadcast time located right after the news and right before bed. To change this would be dangerous especially for a network that seems to be coming closer to going out of business every day. Online marketing for small businesses can be put in the same predicament as NBC by toying with already successful strategies. If a strong emphasis has been placed on social networking to get the brand’s name out, for example, then it is vital to keep up with the schedule, staffing and budget issues be damned. In short, NBC attempted to violate the age old wisdom of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Also, the network stumbled by wrongly assuming that viewers wanted three hours of the same type of program. NBC stopped listening to their audience and stopped evolving. Time and time again in this climate we’ve seen businesses make the same mistakes with marketing. This can be avoided by branching out in new online marketing techniques that will help expand the brand while avoiding complacency.

Finally, the biggest lesson that NBC can teach businesses of all sizes is that a lack of identity can be fatal. Since the post-Friends era NBC has been struggling to find their own persoanlity. Are they the network known for sports? Are they the network known for cop shows at 10pm? Are they the home of more Jay Leno than anybody ever wanted? Who knows. And this is a big problem. Small companies without the giant corporate parachute that NBC has quickly disappear from the radar if they don’t truly know who they are. Constant care and creativity need to be utilized in order to secure a brand’s identity. Employing a “leave no stone unturned” philosophy while presenting a strong, consistent image gives consumers the message that your business is stable yet evolving to the client’s ever changing needs.

While there is little doubt that late night talk shows will go the way of the dinosaur any time soon, the rest of us can take NBC’s mistakes to heart and learn from them. Being too comfortable, too cocky or too confused in online marketing is a luxury most businesses just don’t have.

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