Aaj Groping For ‘The’ Brand Power To Dethrone Geo TV I : THE DILEMMA

‘Don’t you think that people today are more program loyal rather than channel loyal?’ Hameed Kashan, the marketing manager for Aaj TV replied in response to my branding scenario for their channel. In other words he was saying that the laws of branding don’t apply to the television industry, which for some inexplicable reason he emphasized as the new media. He was trying to give the impression that the laws of branding are centuries old and don’t apply to today’s marketplace, or at least in his field. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Brand management is a field still in its infancy, hence the reason most marketers with a background in sales fail to comprehend it. They just don’t know how to translate the mammoth sales data the company gathers into a viable branding strategy.


 Back to the offices of Aaj TV, Mr. Kashan then goes on to give me a brief history of what glorious programs Aaj TV has come up with and how successful they have been. It’s true that Aaj has come a long way since its inception just a couple of years ago, and its programs have played a pivotal role in that achievement. But the million dollar question is, where to from now? And more importantly, how to reach it?


In spite of all the pride Aaj TV’s marketing department feels about its efforts, theirs is a troubled and I might add, dwindling group, courtesy Geo TV. Geo TV has been on the case of Aaj TV for a while, whether that’s because it considers it as its arch rival or it metes out the same treatment to all the players in the field is not known. Especially in the wake of May 12 carnage in Karachi in which the offices of Aaj TV were made a target for a healthy shower of bullets, a big chunk of its marketing team has switched jobs, mostly to GEO TV, Mr. Kashan confided.


Hence Aaj TV is on a recruitment spree especially for its marketing division. If you believe you have the guts to work for an exciting but hectic job in a dangerous location, then shoot your resumes to marketing@aaj.tv.


But more than that, what they are really looking for is for someone to show them the way, what their marketing strategy should be from this point on. Right now they are basically groping in the dark, though they don’t want to admit it.


Aaj TV may have quite a few TV shows that have been runaway successes, but beneath all that there is a confused positioning. During the ongoing recruitment drive, the Aaj team had to endure quite a few disappointing feedbacks on their channel. Most of the people didn’t know many of the popular TV shows of Aaj. One candidate when asked to name a few Aaj program quipped ‘Aaj ke bhaau’, which interestingly is a GEO TV program. Another said that Begum Nawazish Ali Show was aired on GEO TV. Most of them could name only a handful of their programs, sometimes missing the big names altogether.


Just like a little knowledge is dangerous, a little bit of success is dangerous as well. And this adage couldn’t be truer in the case of Aaj TV. I got the impression that the creators of Aaj TV don’t consider it as a brand. They consider it just as a TV channel like the others and are trying to compete with other TV channels on their turf. This is a classic blunder that most of the companies not only in Pakistan but all over the world and in every conceivable industry make. They meet the rival head-on by playing in the existing competitive framework, pitting their resources against the far more resourceful rival and inevitably they wind up in trouble.


What do they expect by playing on his field, by his rules, and with fewer resources? A miracle? Sadly, miracles don’t happen in the realm of marketing to those who play by the rules, that is, the rules of the competition. And hard work may pay rich dividends in all the other areas of life, but trying harder is not the secret of marketing success.


What you’ve got to do is change the ground rules of competition. To what end? At best you can nullify a competitor’s strength; at worst you force him to move from his natural strengths and compete in a field he’s not familiar with or even comfortable. So even in the worst case scenario you have a chance to catch him off-guard. This is the true essence of marketing creativity.