Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
16 December 2019
Hallmark Channel misinterpreted its brand
Let’s be honest. The reason the Hallmark Channel reinstated the Zola ads is because they actually represent its audience. Not because of any newfound waking of social responsibility.
It was simple economics. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
For those who haven’t heard, the Hallmark Channel pulled a campaign from Zola, a wedding planning website, when one of its six ads featuring a lesbian couple kissing aired earlier this month.
The conservative group One Million Moms powered nearly 30,000 signatures calling for the ads to be pulled. Afraid of any controversy (ahem), Hallmark stopped airing the campaign, probably thinking it was doing what its audience wanted.
However, those 30,000 signatures only represent one small extreme of the channel’s audience. Especially during the Christmas season, the Hallmark Channel is the number one cable network among women between the ages of 25 and 54. While I’m sure only a small fraction of them are lesbians, I’m also sure most of them weren’t offended by the ad.
Some of you know the rest. Social media exploded with celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Monica Lewinsky calling for a Hallmark boycott, and Zola pulled all its advertising. DeGeneres, whose show “Ellen” is the one of the top syndicated daytime programs in the US, is gay. But with an average of 4.2 million viewers each day, her viewers (mostly women between the ages of 25 and 54) simply don’t care.
“But that’s not what the Hallmark Channel brand stands for. Family friendly, yes. But it’s a romance channel, filled with romantic comedies of just about every type and plot. Its theme is The Heart of TV.”
Hallmark Channel means romance, not exclusion
The Hallmark Channel made its initial decision based on what it interpreted was its brand. A family friendly channel that reflects conservative values.
But that’s not what its brand stands for. Family friendly, yes. But it’s a romance channel, filled with romantic comedies of just about every type and plot. Its theme is “The Heart of TV.”
That’s why it made so much sense for Zola to advertise on it. Wedding planning fits exactly into the content the channel offers. Responding so harshly to one ad of a six-ad campaign does not fit into its true brand meaning.
Brands, and not just the Hallmark Channel, should always note that their audiences carry the brand meaning. Not the brand itself. If you’re the number one cable channel for women between 25 and 54 (as Hallmark claims), One Million Moms does not reflect the core beliefs of your total audience.
Hallmark tweeted an apology over the weekend, saying it “will be working with GLAAD to better represent the LGBTQ community across our portfolio of brands” and putting the ads back on the air.
So, maybe like so many of its movies, there’s a happy ending to all this after all.
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