Concluding Thoughts

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This semester we have looked at HBO as a brand from many different perspectives.  We have discussed the brand’s approach to cultural values, its cross-cultural significance, and its relationship to social class.  We have discussed the influence of reference groups of HBO consumers and the factors that influence the motivations, perceptions, and attitudes of those consumers in a modern media world.  Then lastly we looked at how HBO can use this understanding to persuade consumers through the proper use of media and communications.

Having now the perspective of the entire course, I would like to go back through some of these topics and discuss what, in the grand scheme of things, seemed to be the most important point of each of these topics, and any additional thoughts I might have now that the semester is over.

Firstly, is HBO and its approach to cultural values.   During this discussion, I stated that “HBO is known to be groundbreaking, original, and high quality, and it turn, highlights its attachment to the current societal values of innovation, entertainment, being social, and success.”   I would still support this understanding and would now like to highlight its importance.  One element that was not as apparent to me at the time would be how central HBO’s positioning as a “premium” brand would effect every decision it makes when approaching other topics.  For example, when we would go on to discuss social class, I would talk about how an individual might use subscribing to HBO as a status symbol because it is a premium service and therefore something not everyone could afford.

Secondly, is HBO as a cross-cultural brand.  During this original post I discussed how HBO offers both new content for additional markets in countries outside the United States, and its distribution of its U.S. content to these countries as well.  However, one element that I do not think was appropriately addressed was why HBO may choose not to make its foreign content available to U.S subscribers.  Considering the United States is a melting pot with many different cultures that watch HBO programming, maybe this is something that they should consider.  I feel that due to the brand emphasis on high quality content discussed above, that we could trust the shows being produced for HBO Europe, for example, would meet the standards of the traditional HBO viewers.  So it would be interesting at a future time to discuss what other reasoning they may have for not sharing this content with us?

Next we discussed, HBO and its relationship to social class.  This was one of those moments where I disagreed with the perspective of many others about the goals of HBO programming.  In it, we looked at The Wire and how it is being studied at universities such as Harvard and Boston University as a realistic representation of the struggles of the working class in the United States.  However, I still maintain that this is the efforts of the upper class and upper middle class of America to get perspective on the issues of those from a lower socioeconomic class, rather then those from a lower socioeconomic class fighting to represent themselves in the media.

Then, we addressed the important influence of reference groups on HBO consumers and potential consumers.  To date I have actually received a few comments on this post that support my thoughts that it is your normative reference groups that have the most impact on what shows you want and media outlets you choose.  Specifically, I said “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.”  I think this is important because as we moved into talking about a consumers motivations, perceptions, and attitudes, these reference groups are going to become even more important.

But, the discussion on reference groups in no way minimized the importance of consumer motivations as individuals.  However, I found this topic particularly difficult to discuss.  Media and entertainment fulfill certain cultural values, and are symbols of various cultures and social classes, but do they really fulfill a need?  The way I settled this conundrum with myself goes back to the importance of the elements we discussed previously.  Access to HBO programming is an acquired need and relates to how we interact with our greater community.  I still support this fact but would be interested to know if others felt the same.  Post your comments below if you have any thoughts!

In the end of November we also discussed the perceptions of consumers and how that should affect the HBO brand in the modern media world.  One element that I think is worth mentioning now that the semester is nearing its end is how surprised I was by the style of HBO commercials once I started viewing them.  I had always thought about the HBO commercials as scenes out of an action adventure movie, but in actuality they are very serious and dramatic, but rather quiet.  I think this is a good approach in the world of chaos and loud noises.  If you make your advertisements more subtle, they actually make a bigger statement.

At the start of December, we looked into the influence of consumer attitudes and determined that right now HBO is seen as favorable by the general public.  However, one thing I did not discuss in this post that is worth noting is the element of HBO related to sexual and violent content.  I know there are some people out there that say “Oh I can not watch that stuff, it is too graphic,” and it seems as though HBO has done nothing to address this audience.  I suppose they have just accepted that you can not please everyone?  I would say yes.  HBO has marketed itself as edgy and dramatic, I suppose the organization has to recognize that its programming is for a broad audience but not necessarily everyone.

Lastly, most recently we talked about how to use this knowledge and persuade consumers effectively through the use of media.  I commented that as a media company, any mistakes HBO might make in regards to choosing and utilizing media and communication.  I think, once a company has a reputation like HBO it is a lot about keeping current customers engaged, and persuading new customers that have held out that your new content should be the missing piece for them to join the club.  Today there are so many mediums out there to get your message heard.  It is vital that you choose the right one or else you get lost in the noise.

In conclusion to the semester.  I have greatly enjoyed this process.  I chose HBO because I felt like it was relevant to my position as a B.S. in Television/Video and Business at Hofstra University, and wanted to use these skills that I was gaining to advance my perspective on a growing brand within my specific field, and I feel I have done just that.  Overall, I am proud of the perspective I was able to share.  HBO has a major following and hopefully some of those individuals have found this place and learned something.  I look forward to any opportunities to see it grow and become something big and better then myself and my class.

 

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Can You Hear Me Now? HBO And Persuading Consumers

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Persuading consumers is all about communication.  How then, does a media brand, who falls under the industry of “communications” maximize this skill?  The answer falls in mastering the process.  When communicating, there are five components to consider – sender, receiver, medium, message and feedback.  Just like any brand HBO has many subsets that could be trying to reach different audiences in different ways for different reasons.  But for the sake of understanding lets assume that the sender is the traditional HBO premium channel, the receiver is a current HBO subscriber and viewer, the medium is a video through the television, the message is watch our next episode of True Blood, and the feedback through increased buzz online about the episode is that, yes, the message was understood as intended.

Now, communication can also be broken down into the categories of impersonal and interpersonal communication.  Using the example above, the commercial for True Blood is an example of formal communication because it came from a formal company like HBO.  An example where this would be informal communication is if your best friend told you that the new True Blood episode was going to be on soon and that you two should get together to watch it.

An important element to the use of impersonal communication is the selection of media – or channel for transmitting the communication.  As HBO is a media company, this choice may seem easy.  But it is worth remembering from our previous discussions that HBO is very nontraditional in is business model and approach to advertising.  So although there may be some use of traditional media, such as commercials on TV and articles in magazines about HBO content.  HBO also takes advantage of new media – which includes elements like online channels, social networks, and mobile access to online content.

As a media company, HBO also has to deal with two new factors of the advertising world.  This is the ability for users of traditional media to time shift programming which allows them to skip certain commercials by recording the show and watching it at a later time, and the correct use of narrowcasting, which is are the methods that allow marketers online to create messages that are more addressable, customized, interactive, and response-measurable.

So how is HBO dealing with these two factors – the first is simple.  HBO has no commercials on its premium stations.  All of its programming is supported through subscriptions and the only advertisements that are shown are those for other HBO programming.  Also, HBO makes the HBO Go platform available to all its customers, making the need to record a show unnecessary as it will still be immediately available on any device.  Lastly, HBO has made use of narrowcasting by developing a system that keeps track of what each HBO Go subscriber is watching, and supporting its own fans online with special events for social media – such as this current event where individuals use twitter to receive predictions of the future from the three eyed raven from Game of Thrones – http://www.threeeyedraven.com.

In the end, HBO as a media company has to take communication with consumers seriously.  It is more responsible then most for understanding how media works and how to best take advantage of current cultures to get your messages out there.  Because, if a new media company can’t get it right, then who can?

Too Cool For School – Consumer Attitudes and HBO

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Attitudes are learned predisposition to behave in a consistently favorable or unfavorable way with respect to a given object and can be learned from direct experience with the product, word-of-mouth, exposure to mass media and other information sources.  For HBO, this would come from those consumers who have already purchased an HBO premium subscription choosing whether or not it is still worth it and sharing their experiences with others.  Attitudes may also be formed by those who may not have purchased a subscription yet but have still interacted with the brand, and of course by all those consumers who have seen advertising or reviews of HBO products and services.

Using the tri-component model, we can analyze the effectiveness of HBO’s brand in creating a positive attitude within the general consumer.

The first step of this process is the Cognitive Component. Cognitions are knowledge and perceptions that are acquired by a combination of direct experience with the attitude object and related information from various sources.  To clarify, these elements are those beliefs about a brand that come from a consumers personal interaction with HBO and the information it has gathered through both formal sources such as advertisements and articles, and informal sources like word-of-mouth.

Based on the consistently high ratings for HBO shows like True Blood and Boardwalk Empire – HBO does fairly well in this department.  There is always more of the market share to be had, but those who use HBO services seem to stay loyal and be growing in number.  We have discussed in the past how HBO market’s itself as a premium experience and therefore must continue to provide the high quality programming and services it has promised.  But, as profits have shown, if it continues to do this, the cognitive component of this model has been adequately fulfilled.

The second stage of this process is the affective component. The affective component of an attitude consists of the consumer’s emotions or feelings which are considered evaluations.  This means that any negative cognitive experiences a consumer has may be more easily recalled, and similarly with the positive experiences depending on the consumer’s overall attitude towards the brand.  Personally, in relation to HBO this reminds me of the public’s reaction to the scene with The Red Wedding in season 3 of Game of Thrones.  Without spoiling the plot, I can say that viewers had a very emotional and passionate reaction to the events in that episode.  However, although the actions in the scene could not be considered positive, I would call this a high point for the affective component of HBO’s Brand.  It showcased the level of content that consumers expect from HBO programming and they had an emotional reaction to it.

Also in relation to this would be customer service.  This is a moment when a consumer is having an issue or has a question and any brand has the opportunity to turn it into a positive or negative experience.  Based on my research, there is not a lot of information publicly available about the HBO customer service process.  However, they can be reached – here – and I think that it is still worth discussing how important that element is to the consumer experience.  A brand that has positioned itself as a luxury, as HBO has, needs to take this process very seriously because its customers still expect the premium treatment.

The final stage of the tri-component model is Conation, or the likelihood or tendency that an individual will undertake a specific action or behave in a particular way with regard to the attitude object.  In relation to HBO, I would say this is the likelihood of a viewer to choose to watch HBO programming, the likelihood of a viewer to purchase or renew a subscription to the brand, and the likelihood of the viewer to recommend the brand to others.

HBO is now at an established point where it is trying to gain new subscribers and slowly gain more of the media market.  Therefore, the conation element is important because after the attitude towards the brand has been gained in the cognitive phase, and emotionally interpreted in the affective phase, it is now time for the consumer to act.  If HBO fails to take the positive attitudes consumers may have towards its products and turn these into actual sales and views, then they would have a major problem.

In the end, I think HBO is doing pretty well.  I wish that more information was available on how to reach them for customer service, but this model explains how an HBO consumer would develop its attitude towards the brand, and how new consumers may be persuaded to join.  I think understanding this helps a brand like HBO establish what further steps it needs to take to change and extend the brand into its next phase of existence.