Look Here! Consumer Perception And HBO


Consumer Perception can be defined as a consumers subjective understanding of objective realities.  This is an interesting subject to cover when relating to a media brand because the media often works to construct its own realities in the shows and branding it constructs that the viewer can then become immersed in.  In similar fashion, HBO’s efforts to get the attention of consumers in their day to day lives, is often to create advertising that incorporates the fantastic or dramatic environments of its programming into the consumer’s everyday life.

HBO also makes particular use of contrast in its advertisements, showing parts of the programming that are loud and bold and will draw the viewers attention because it is so diffrent from what might have previously been on their screens.

HBO has also tried hard to make itself easily accessible to the consumer.  In media, the concept of a retailer is quite different then with traditional goods.  There are the cable companies that bring HBO’s premium stations to your television set, but there are also all the online portals that a viewer may use to access HBO Go.  In response to this diversity or retailers, HBO has worked very hard to develop its brand independent from this measure of credibility and make itself accessible on all manner of platforms that the viewer already likes.  In turn, the media industry has adapted to using access to HBO as a factor to give individual retailers crediblity rather then the other way around.

HBO has also discussed possibly making some of its products available exclusively online without the need for a premium cable subscription.  When deciding at what price to set this service, I am confident HBO will pull from the perceived price of the consumer, defined as the customers perceived value of the product or service it received.  HBO may also look at other external reference prices available to consumers, such as that for a subscription to Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Prime.

When it comes to consumer perception, HBO’s main goal should be to play it fair.  If they take an objective look at the value of their product and not inflate the prices due to ego, or lower the price too much to continue to support the quality of media expected, they should be okay.  They are in a good position within the industry, and as they say – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


But why watch? Motivation and HBO


As a brand, it is hard to precisely explain what motivation a consumer might have for participating in HBO.

Psychology tells us that motivation is the driving force within an individual that propels them towards an action, to move them from a state of tension to a state of content.  But, how does HBO satisfy a need?

From my perspective, HBO, and entertainment in general, are acquired needs.  This means they are needs learned in response to our culture or environment.  So although logically I know I will not die if I miss the next season of Game of Thrones, in reality sometimes it can certainly feel like I might.

But, to ask another question, why is that and how does it affect my behavior?  I would argue that the need for entertainment and HBO relates back to our many discussions over the course of this blog.  Participating in the HBO brand conveys a position of prestige, and inclusion in a larger community.  This need then turns into a motive.  In the case of HBO, I would call this a primary motive as the need to be a part of a community can affect a whole set of behaviors beyond just buying a subscription to HBO.  This is an emotional motive, one set according to personal and subjective criteria, and bears little weight on the logic.

However, logical motives do come into play when a consumer faces the choice between HBO and another premium cable station, or between HBO GO and another online entertainment provider like Netflix.  In these case, logical factors such as cost, and type of programming play a major role in the decision.

An interest in the motives of the consumer leads to the development of a brand personality.  This is something HBO has in abundance.  The programming is dramatic, the advertisements are bold, and the whole attitude focuses on originality.  The brand itself has a voice that expands beyond each show to the overall network.

One example of brand personality and the inspiration of community with HBO is an event they hosted where they invited viewers to participate in a comedic “roast” of King Jeoffrey found here.

Another example is this segment on the new series “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” which starts by making fun of other brands because HBO has its own approach to advertising.

In conclusion, advertising requires a basic understanding of the motives of your audience.  It means that if HBO doesn’t understand why its current customers joined the brand, it can not inspire new ones to do the same.  Entertainment is not a need to survive, but it is an important one and relates to this goal that we all have to participate in a community and feel connected to one another.

Did you see what happened? Reference Groups and HBO

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We have well established that HBO markets itself as a premium company with high quality programming and overall customer experience.  But, if you have never before seen an HBO show, or are still hesitant to believe subscribing to such a service is worth the cost, how are you to be convinced?  One important elements of this choice are your reference groups.  Those individuals who influence the consumer and provide a measure of a brands overall credibility.

Source credibility is the impact a brand has on the consumer stemming from its perceived expertise, trustworthiness, and believably.  There is much that a brand can do to improve this itself through advertising, customer service, and simply producing a high quality product.  But, in order to get the word out to a larger population, the use of opinions and word of mouth from those who have already tried the product or service is essential.

Normative influence is learning and adopting a group’s norms, values, and behaviors. The most pertinent normative influence comes from groups to which people belong, such as family, peers, and other members of one’s community.  In our case, this means that you are more likely to watch or try HBO if those who you interact with regularly, and who you trust, also do the same.  Which makes sense if you think about it because we as humans like to be in the loop.  We like to know what everyone is talking about and feel like we fit in.  One small way this can be accomplished is by participating in the same media and entertainment as our peers, friends, and family.

Getting more specific, another reference group that would have a particular influence on potential consumers of HBO would be virtual communities.  These are websites that encourage consumers to leave comments and have others respond to them.   This way, fans of HBO programming have a place to communicate with one another even if they do not know each other in day to day life.  These viewers can bond over a shared interest in the shows and support of the brand, and therefore provide a place for those interested in the service to reach out and get information.

An example of such a community would be Reddit.com/r/HBO.

Another way to build up credibility as a brand through reference groups is the use of celebrity in advertising.  Obviously, HBO has a fair amount of great actors and actresses to pull from.  However, it is important to remember the diversity of HBO’s programming.  For example, below is an advertisement for a special event hosted by HBO that featured Lady Gaga.


In conclusion, although all these methods are important, personally I believe that as an entertainment brand HBO’s best bet on creating a strong reference group for new consumers is to do its job.  If the programming is strong and the price remains reasonable, individuals that ask the community if they should participate and get an HBO subscription should receive positive responses.