Here's to NCIS Brands: Do You Know Who You Are?
A great deal of the work we do here is about positioning, e.g. figuring out where a brand or a company fits in its category and in the greater world. Oftentimes, using analogies is a great way to frame to ourselves and Clients a way to think about that fit. Thus, I was engaged by an article in The New York Times this morning about the long-running CBS drama NCIS, starring Mark Harman. It is ranked as the number one show in the country and arguably the world. It will air its 300th episode soon.
This is a big American brand. Loved by virtually everyone and emblematic of a certain sense of national values. A 60-minute adventure (pulsed to allow for commercials) that takes us from horrible murder, to team effort to solve, to final satisfying denouement. All done with a wry and familial sense of role and personality. We know what to expect, the program delivers what we’re counting on and does so with enough variation cut with well-known and loved characters to keep us intrigued and tuning in for more. The ingredients: Ducky, Abby, Ziva, Tony, “The Autopsy Gremlin,” and, of course, Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
And, yet: “Did you watch NCIS last night?” has probably never been asked around the water cooler. It’s just not cool enough, but it is good enough to keep us absorbed weekly. It’s not fresh content delivered in a fresh context, as from Netflix or Amazon, and the only way to binge watch is by turning into USA cable, after the infomercials are over. Still, there’s a lot to be said for NCIS-style brands. I’m thinking Cheerios, Hershey’s and Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Fill in the blanks: Name your own reliable favorite. Just enough flavor variety and gluten-free news to stay interesting and relevant (Tony kissed a transgendered woman!), but not, happily, attitudinal or edgy.
Some brands are Kimmy Schmidt brands, others are House of Cards, still others, Downton Abby. We’re not in the discovery zone with NCIS, but rather in the world of the tried and true ‘procedural.’ In a landscape that is festooned with breakthroughs seeking our full attention, advocacy and passion, sometimes it’s a good idea to exhale. And, of course, it’s always a good idea, in life as in branding, to know who you are and what expectations you’re hoping to fulfill.