Brand Strategy / 04.07.2020

Anchorman

On March 24th, Adweek reported that “ABC World News Tonight with David Muir and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt were the two-most-watched programs on all of television last week.” They went on to say, “and it’s no secret as to why: An increasing number of Americans are home at 6:30, and they want the most up-to-date news and coverage concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.”

 

news anchors

Source: Adweek

I’m one of those adults in the 55+ demo helping drive these ratings up. And, while my evening routine hasn’t yet become News-Wheel of Fortune-Jeopardy-8pm bedtime, that sure sounds appealing, especially after a nice piece fish and soup for supper.

In our home, we watch ABC. Even with cable news streaming throughout the day, at 6:30 pm we turn to David Muir. Nothing against Lester Holt or Norah O’Donnell, but David Muir is our “Anchorman.”

I know people under the age of 35 have no idea what I’m talking about. Who watches television news when we get alerts from social media all day? Who turns to live network broadcasts for anything except sports? Who even sits down in front of a TV anymore? (“no, it’s okay Dad, I’ll watch Endgame for the fourth time on my phone.”)

And, why would anyone use the term “Anchorman”?

anchorman

The answer? We all need anchors right now – things that steady us and keep us moored. We want our anchorman. No, not Ron Burgundy – Walter Cronkite.

Who was Walter Cronkite?

walter cronkite

Cronkite anchored the CBS evening news from 1962 until 1981, during which time he was considered “the most trusted man in America.” He reported on the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.; the Vietnam War; and the 1969 moon walk. (Source: NPR)

The New York Times says it best: It’s almost impossible to convey the place Walter Cronkite held in American life for the 19 years he spent as the anchor of “The CBS Evening News.” It wasn’t just that he narrated the spikes in modern history, from the Kennedy assassination to the civil rights movement to the election of Ronald Reagan. People tuned in to his program even on routine days… Mr. Cronkite’s air of authority, lightly worn and unquestioned, was unusual even then, but nobody comes close to it now.”

I’ve asked my Grafik Brand Strategy colleague, George Nicholas – architect of our recent rebrand of C-SPAN – to add his perspective on Walter Cronkite and his thoughts about what this all means. George…

“Thanks, Jay. Allow me to illustrate, beyond just the facts, what those 19 years meant, emotionally.

 

In an era when men simply did not cry, the whole nation saw a man use his thick, horn-rimmed glasses to buy himself some time, to collect himself and his emotions, so that he could do what we all were supposed to do—keep our wits and do our jobs. That pause spoke volumes, as did his example.

And four and a half years later, now broadcasting in color, Cronkite took a moment to not simply pass on the body counts that General William Westmoreland assured us meant we were winning the war in Vietnam, but to state what had become clear to him—decisive victory was impossible. To advisors in the Oval Office as they watched the evening news, President Johnson turned and said “If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” Thirty-three days later, he announced he would not seek reelection.

The ratings Jay cited above tell us we are seeking such authority in the midst of today’s crisis. But can such authority and trust truly exist today when there are not simply three networks to tune into?

We turn to anchor men and women—on broadcast, on cable networks, on PBS, on podcasts and YouTube and even Comedy Central—for personal consistency and grounding. And each day we turn to other anchors. The anchors of home and hearth. And we do so with rapid-fire consistency through every brand choice we make.”

Back to you, Jay…

Thank you, George. Let me share a quick example of my own brand choices, my own “home and hearth” anchors. Well, mostly “hearth…”

Yesterday, I decided to make Jambalaya for dinner. (My Giant actually had top-quality chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage, so I scored!) After dark roast Peet’s coffee brewed perfectly in my Keurig, I prepped everything for my Crock Pot including exactly three teaspoons of Tony Chachere’s original Creole seasoning. Then I ate my bowl of Wheaties with Horizon organic milk before my Zoom call with my team at Grafik.

My trusted brands are my anchors. Each of us has them. Every day we turn to what is solid, consistent, trusted, even cherished. (Of course I cherish Grafik, but that Creole seasoning is like powdered gold…)

Strong brands are an organization’s strategic anchors. When you take the time to build them and maintain them, customers and clients turn to them again and again. As we emphasized in our latest podcast about brand responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is especially important now when we need them the most. I know I do.

The Jambalaya was great last night; we ate it while watching ABC News. They don’t call it comfort food for nothing.

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