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Katie Couric, Commoditization & Regrets

by Doug Davidoff | Jul 9, 2007 1:20:33 PM

Two months ago, I wrote that CBS' decision to hire Katie Couric was not only a mistake, but one that could have (and should have) been predicted. An interview with Katie Couric appearing in New York Magazine quotes Couric expressing possible regrets with her decision.

The article quotes her as saying, "“I think I underestimated the feeling that some might have that I was a morning-show personality and not a credible news person. Which I, quite frankly, think is patently unfair.” This may be true, but, unfortunately for Couric or CBS, it's moot.

While I would not disagree that people, or companies, are capable of doing more than one thing excellently, the market can only see an offering under one banner. It's called positioning. A company or an offering (and make no mistake, Katie Couric is an offering) can only maintain one position in someone's mind. Choosing that 'one thing' is one most important decision a company makes. The failure to obtain - and maintain - that one position leads to commoditization, and kills growth.

Worse yet, if you have achieved an effective position and you then violate that position (as Couric has done in going from morning 'entertainment' to 'hard news'), there is no going back. While it wouldn't surprise me if CBS attempted to fix its perennially struggling morning show by convincing Couric to return to morning TV, I highly doubt that it would work. Couric and CBS have violated their 'one thing' and we are most likely never gpomh to see her the same again.

Make sure you learn the lesson that Couric is teaching fast growth executives - it doesn't matter what you think, it only matters what your customers think. Violate that trust at your own risk.

By the way, I wrote a series of articles on this very subject (how companies can determine and communicate their 'One Thing') last year. If you'd like a copy of the article, send me an e-mail. My address is doug@imaginellc.com (sorry for not including a link, blame it on the spambots), and enter One Thing in the subject line. Better yet, tell me what your one thing is and I will create a list. If it's interesting enough, I'll post it in a future blog and include a link to your website.