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Katie Couric, Brand Extensions, And Value Proposition Mistakes

by Doug Davidoff | May 7, 2007 1:05:25 PM

While I admit that it is probably too early to determine whether the decision to hire Katie Couric as the anchor the CBS Evening News was a good idea or not, it is certainly heading in the direction of a failure. Katie is struggling. I’m not surprised by the struggles, however. CBS appears to have fallen victim to the same mistake as many growth-oriented executives.

It seems that network executives thought that because Katie Couric was #1 in one market, her success (and the formula that led to that success) would apply equally in another market. In branding terms, it’s called a ‘line extension.’ She’s a great host on morning TV,” they reasoned, “Let’s make her the anchor of evening news.”

The problem was that Katie Couric does not control the ‘Katie Couric brand’. The people do. The people view her as a personable, fun-loving morning personality. Sure, maybe she does the news sometime, but she is not a newsperson. I hope that, should the Couric experiment fail, it doesn’t get chalked up to the idea that the public will not accept a woman as a news anchor.

CBS made other mistakes as well. If we were to look at Katie Couric as a business offering, we’d see that her value proposition foundation is customer intimacy, while the evening news requires operational excellence or superiority. When you are great at one, you cannot be (and I mean cannot) be great at another.

Businesses make this mistake all of the time. They think that success in one market, or with one offering, means they will be successful at another. They fall into a formula and stop listening to the market. Remember, it is the market, and the market alone, that decides what succeeds and what does not. It is far better to listen to the market than it is to try to prove that the market is wrong. David Aakes, author of several books on brands, observed that nearly three-fourths of all new products introduced have been brand extensions (usually incremental extensions). Most of these products fail to meet expectations.

I wish Katie overwhelming success, but I don’t believe she will find it where she is currently.