What HGTV Can Teach You About Your Brand

What HGTV Can Teach You About Your Brand

by Tracy Johnson

Knowing who and what you’re for are two of the most important things each media brand must understand. There’s a place for hard news, for engaging political debate and a place to escape from it. It’s critical for each brand to be clearly defined, and not get caught without an identity. And there are valuable lessons to learn from television brands like HGTV.

There’s a lot of stress in the world today. Everyone is on edge, quick to shout disapproval of anything that doesn’t perfectly align with their worldview.

The 2016 U.S. election was full of drama, intrigue, vitriol, and stress. Many radio shows struggled with how to address it on the air. But the right answer for many was to ignore it.

Some shows had success amplifying the ranting and raving of the real world. But others function as an escape.

When events happen that consume the public’s attention, smart personalities refer to their reason for being.

Pay attention to how the audience uses your brand. Most are seeking entertainment to get away from problems, at least for a short time. Being a safe place can be a welcome relief for those looking to get away from it all.

Knowing Who You’re For, Ala HGTV

The concept works.

CNN enjoyed a significant rise in popularity due to the attention and suspense surrounding Donald Trump vs. Hilary Clinton. But check it out: HGTV beat them in the ratings. Think about that.

HGTV features a series of aspirational shows like Property Brothers, Love it or List It, House Hunters, and more. This episode of House Hunters is an example of their programming:

According to Bloomberg:

The escapist appeal of looking at other people’s beautiful homes turned Home & Garden Television into the third most-watched cable network in 2016, ahead of CNN and behind only Fox News and ESPN.

Side note: It’s interesting that Fox News outperforms CNN. The conservative news channel has a distinct point of view, with a series of right-wing hosts that are anything but objective, despite their claim of being fair and balanced. That attracts a very specific type of viewer tuning in to have beliefs validated.

But back to the main point: HGTV understands who they are and what they’re for. Their formula is consistent: A shabby house gets a makeover and a happy couple moves in. Or house-flipping that almost always a profit. It’s a feel-good theme with a happy ending.

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At parent company Scripps Networks, chief programming officer Kathleen Finch understands the audience:

For the most part, our viewers live in suburban houses with yards. We embrace the real America.

That leads them to a programming code of behavior. Finch is the gatekeeper, emphasizing consistency:

We super-serve our viewer what she likes, and we give her more and more of it,

The HGTV Focus

The key is a refusal to upset HGTV’s audience. There’s no profanity, and on-air conflicts are confined to paint colors or tile choices.

Each episode finds friction between characters, which adds suspense, but not an intense drama that causes stress. It’s more good-natured differences in taste or opinion. The disagreements are relatable. Viewers can choose a side without having values threatened.

HGTV fans say the relentless consistency in programming is comforting, especially in hard times. A viewer commented:

A lot of the news these days is really stressful. HGTV is not something that’s going to hurt me. I watch and dream of what I want for my future house.

The audience appeal is incredibly broad. As millennials consider buying their first home, the network is enjoying growth in young demos attracted for specific reasons.

HGTV also succeeds with a healthy amount of recycling content. They repeat shows regularly. By getting the most (value) from their best (content), HGTV is able to offer high-quality programming that’s consistent with their brand values. They’ve learned it’s better to extract more value from their hits than add more shows that attract fewer viewers.

Developing HGTV-Type Vision

What does this mean for a radio brand?

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Here’s how:

Audience Persona: Develop an in-depth target audience persona. Watch this webinar to learn the step-by-step process.

Character Profile: Develop an in-depth character profile that focuses on enchanting, likable attributes that can draw fans. Watch the seminar-on-demand Build a 5-Star Personality Brand to make that happen.

Mission: Know who you are and what you’re for. Develop a keen sense of value through a clearly defined mission statement.

Execute: Once those are firmly in place, channel all content creation, messaging, and marketing through the filter. t


As Scripps CEO Ken Lowe says:

We’re not going to surprise you. We’re not going to throw you a curve ball. It’s not easy to create content that people are passionate about and somewhat addicted to that is somewhat repetitive.

Sound familiar? Find where you fit with your audience.

You’ll be amazed at how focused your show becomes.


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