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MARKETING

When Should You Go on TV, and What's the ROI?

Getting on TV might seem like a great way to get massive publicity. But if you're not careful, you'll end up draining resources for little payoff.
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For College Hunks Hauling Junk, appearing on national television has become something of a marketing competency. The $12 million franchisor of moving and junk-removal services--recently named to its fourth Inc. 5000 list -- has appeared on various networks and programs, including ABC's Shark Tank, AMC's The Pitch, Bravo's The Millionaire Matchmaker, and TLC's Hoarding.

Glitzy, glamorous TV appearances have seduced many an executive into thinking that all publicity is good publicity, especially when it exposes your brand to a national audience. But Nick Friedman, cofounder and president of College Hunks Hauling Junk, begs to differ. He tells Build that companies should carefully consider a media broadcast's viewing audience and its editorial motives before agreeing to participate on any level.

Assess whether the audience's reach and demographics suit your marketing needs.

College Hunks Hauling Junk has two target audiences: potential customers and potential franchisees, Friedman explains. "We probably had the biggest impact from Shark Tank (August 2009) and The Millionaire Matchmaker (January 2010). The viewership of Shark Tank was very much business-minded, so the franchise opportunity spoke to the audience, and it was on a major network."

Matchmaker, he says, has a large following. Better still, CEO and cofounder Omar Soliman picked up his date in a company truck, and the episode aired in reruns for three years. "The date went badly, but it was great exposure for the brand," Friedman says.

All told, the company's haul from these two appearances--which cost an estimated $3,500--was five additional franchisees, including its most lucrative one, which earns $3 million annually, Friedman says.

But not every TV appearance yields a fruitful outcome. College Hunks Hauling Junk's appearance on The Pitch in August has cost the company $2,500 in travel and lost productivity, yet it's produced no palpable payoff, Friedman notes. "Viewership was very low, down 30 percent from last season," he says. "It aired at 11 p.m., and it wasn't heavily promoted. Even though we were the featured brand, we didn't see a big response. And most people watching that show were in some form of advertising. It didn't fit our target customer."

Know how your brand will be positioned.

"First and foremost, you want your logo or brand to be visible, and you want your company mentioned by name," Friedman says.

He's precise about these things, because they didn't happen enough in August, when College Hunks Hauling Junk appeared on the Bravo program Below Deck. An entrepreneurial group had circulated an e-mail asking whether anyone wanted to appear on a new show filmed on a yacht. Friedman applied, hoping to reap branding and marketing benefits from the company's annual forum treat for franchisees--this year on board the yacht with television cameras standing by to capture the company's vibrant ideas and personalities.

But it didn't quite work out as Friedman had planned. "This show was much ado about nothing. There was no brand involvement aside from our logo shirts," he says, adding that the company spent $3,000 in travel and tips to yacht staff. Although the shirt logos technically counted as visual exposure, it wasn't enough; there was no connection to the services College Hunks Hauling Junk provides. "We probably would've been just as well off if we hadn't done it, especially since it also painted us in a bit of a negative light by making it seem like we were light tippers."

In order for a TV appearance to pay off, Friedman says brand visibility must connect to the company's product or service. "On Matchmaker, we could've been saying 'College Hunks Hauling Junk' all day, but until Omar drove up in the truck with the logo on the side, people really didn't connect what we did with who we were," Friedman says.

Ideally, he believes, a brand should get both audio and visual exposure, which means the company's name needs to be mentioned in the show's dialog and appear on camera. College Hunks Hauling Junk's appearances on Hoarding, for example, haven't generated the desired payoff because even though its logo can be seen every time staff cleans out a house, "people don't mention the company by name." Yet the cost to the company, so far, has been $15,000, for labor, time, and disposal fees, Friedman says.

The takeaway: National brand exposure, in and of itself, is not always a worthwhile investment.

Nonetheless, Friedman would still recommend television as a marketing vehicle. Why? "The impact we've had when it is positive has been so overwhelmingly positive compared [with] other types of marketing or brand positioning or PR," he says.

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Last updated: Nov 12, 2013

THE BUILD NETWORK STAFF

The Build Network staff curates provocative, actionable leadership advice for executive teams running sustained-growth companies.




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