Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty Is a Brand of the Highest Order

We have two TiVo machines in the house as a result of my wife's penchant for recording nearly every episode of every show on cable TV. No matter what I wanted to record it seemed the machine was already fully scheduled with her shows. Now, I have my own TiVo in the bedroom.

The truth is, most of my Season Passes are HBO shows. Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, the Newsroom dominate my list. There are some PBS specials and an odd episode or two of something but the most capacity on my recorder is taken by Duck Dynasty, the #1 reality show on American television. DD is now being syndicated all around the world.

In addition to enjoying the various personalities of the Robertson family and their interactions, I appreciate the wholesomeness, positive approach and family nature of the show. Each episode features different family members engaged in various situations whose stories are intertwined during the half hour. Ultimately, the show and the various predicaments are summed up by Willie, Duck Dynasty's CEO, while the extended family is shown gathered for dinner, which always begins with prayer. Willie does a voiceover that captures the common thread and uplifting value that ties all the stories together.

In spite of the strong moral messages and wholesome family depictions, in a sea of other nasty, negative reality shows, it's debatable whether this is good TV or not. But what impresses me most is the brilliant manner in which this family has taken a distinguished brand in a very narrow, niche market and expanded it. In addition to being the best known duck calls in all the hunting universe, through this show, DD has accomplished one of the most challenging and sophisticated brand expansions in history.

Think about it. Non-hunters everywhere, of all ages, are buying DD merchandise from cookbooks, autobiographies, DVDs and sunglasses to clothing, and a soon to be released Christmas album titled "Duck the Halls." This says nothing of the millions they are taking in from the television and appearance fees. All the while, The Robertson family maintains its squeaky clean image and boldly espouses its Christian faith.

Last night I attended the Porter County (IN) Fair and joined thousands of other fans who paid $25 to $100 a seat to hear Willie and Korie, his wife, speak extemporaneously about the family, their lives, business and faith. Throughout the fair, everywhere you walked, there were people wearing DD merchandise. The show has spawned four or five expressions associated with individual members of the family from Patriarch Phil's "Happy, happy happy" to Uncle Si's "Hey" and "That's what I'm talkin' about."

Relatively speaking, The growth and expansion of the DD brand is no less impressive or sophisticated in my eyes than what Apple has done with it's brand around personalized music. Apple didn't invent MP3 players but they did find a way to dominate the industry by showing people they could have precisely what music they wanted, when and where they wanted it. In doing so, they reinvented the way we buy music with iTunes and crossed into markets never before united in music.

DD has found ways to penetrate markets that have absolutely no connection to duck hunting or the passion the Robertson men have for killing things and it still won legions of fans. The popularity of the brand is found in the Robertson family behaviors, not merely the messaging, which is the real essence of a brand. I've worked with hundreds of brands including Disney, McDonald's, IBM, the March of Dimes, Wendy's, Taco Bell, American Express and even an arm of the Department of Defense and I stand in awe of what the Robertson's have built. I consider DD nothing short of brilliant brand strategy.