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CNBC's New Ad Campaign Offers Lessons in Branding

With a new Fox Business Network set to launch October 15th, other sources of television business news, CNBC primary among them, will face new competition. But as the LA Times reports today, "CNBC is not about to cede any ground."
Mark Hoffman, president of CNBC, comments, "We take all competition seriously... We want to be fast and accurate with the information . . . and we are going to be unbiased" -- a none too subtle dig at Fox News which is frequently criticized for being less than "fair and balanced."

But CNBC has more in it's arsenal than just sly asides in major newspapers. The New York Times reports today that CNBC is launching a new marketing campaign, conceived before the launch of Fox Business was announced, but well-timed nonetheless. The ads, made by their internal marketing team, feature prominent American business people, including Mel Karmazin of Sirius Satellite Radio and Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines, talking about business and leadership, and ending with the tag line "I am American business. I watch CNBC."

Speaking to the NY Times, Hoffman describes the message the company hopes to convey with the ads:

"When you watch CNBC, you're in the company of really interesting and successful people, and I think that comes through in the campaign," Mr. Hoffman said. "You're in a very unique, rarefied space."
What's interesting here is the idea of a brand as a space -- to live in and to share. The idea of literal, physical brand spaces has been around for awhile. outlines all the variations on the concept, including brand spaces for transformation (think of the classes at Apple stores), tryvertising (the Wired store, for example, offers a space to hang out and try various gadgets), and empathy spaces (branded airport lounges for weary travelers).

But CNBC's Hoffman is talking about a different, metaphorical kind of space. Just as traveling through New York City can give you an electric hit of energy, and spending time in Miami's Little Havana might make your hips move differently when you dance, CNBC is presenting the glow in front of the TV screen as a place that, through its energy and the company you share it with, can amp up your business performance. True? Who knows. But it may be a profitable mental exercise for you to think of your brand as a space for your customers. How should they feel in that space and what effect are they hoping it will have on them?