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MTV: Music Television

Written by Alan Goodman

for Fred/Alan, Inc.

July 17, 1987


To recap something we all learned long ago: "positioning" a product

means finding a place for it -- a hole -- in a prospect's mind. A place we can
claim that competitors cannot.

There are many reasons why we may want to be "the entertainment source
for young America." Or "a non-stop party." Or a million other things.

But these aspirations are ours, not our consumers. We must remember to
look inside the consumer's head.

And to successfully position a product for minds everyone else wants to

occupy in the age of overcommunication, it must be a simple message.

Often, positioning a product is easier when that product has competitors --

Avis "tries harder," Lite Beer is "everything you want, and less," 7-Up is
the "uncola,"etc.

But MTV is "Music Television," and nothing else is. So MTV has no
Right? Wrong!
The Environment Defines the Competition

MTV exists in an environment where there is more choice available than

ever before. Cable television.

Often, cable programmers try to draw a distinction between cable and

broadcast. Cable means choice and modernity, broadcast means less
choice and tradition.

But these programmers identify the environment in their terms, not

consumers' terms. More and more, the difference between broadcast and
cable will blur in consumers' minds, and for our children, who will never
see a TV dial and won't know the limitations of the VHF 2-13 band, the
distinction may not exist at all.

WTBS is shows, just like Channel 2. So is USA Network and Lifetime.

And when the Pay services show movies you don't want, they may as
well not be there at all.

For real consumers, television is television. And there are certain things
about television that MTV isn't.


• Making a commitment (a half-hour -- or hour -- commitment).

• Putting up with the shows they feed you.
• Watching things that aren't for you (they are mass audience).
• Not listening to music.
• Predictable.


• A small, or short, commitment.

• No shows. Or, a new show every three minutes.
• Watching something that's for you.
• Music.
• Reliable, not predictable.
Simplifying the Message

We have to put all of these differentiating characteristics into a simple

Because we can't list them all for consumers whenever we want to talk to
And because they aren't all that meaningful to consumers, who never think
about things like "commitments" when they hit the remote button.

We need one word that instantly identifies us and our competition to our

We know what we are: MTV. So what is the competition, all those other TV
channels out there?

There is only one word to describe them: Normal.

When programmers talk of "Miami Vice" as having MTV attitude, they

mean "not like normal cop shows."

When commercials are said to have and MTV look, it means disjointed,
disconnected, musically-rhythmic but not linear or logical -- in other
words, "not like normal commercials."


Normal TV vs. MTV

Normal TV and MTV

Normal TV is boring.

• It let's you down.

• It makes you wait for what you want.
• It's never surprising.
• It all looks the same.
• It's for old people or my little brother.
• It's phony and hype-y.
• It's dumb and old-fashioned.
• It's not mine.

MTV is alive and looks interesting.

• It's always there when I want it.

• Sometimes, it can really surprise you.
• They really do some different-looking things in the videos.
• It's for people like me.
• I can believe what they say.
• It's very up-to-date and state-of-the-art.
• It's my MTV.
Normal TV vs. MTV

MTV is relief from Normal TV.

• It's a quick break from Normal TV.

• It's mine, and Normal TV belongs to everybody.

• It's more stuff I like, and Normal TV is more stuff I hate.

• It's music, and Normal TV isn't.

• It's for people like me and my friends, and Normal TV isn't.

• It's cool, and Normal TV is dumb.

• It has "it," and Normal TV doesn't.

Normal TV or MTV.

This simple statement provides MTV with a benchmark

against which everything about and for the network can
be judged;

• Programs

• Specials

• Promotions

• Contests

• Advertising

• Staffing

And it has value beyond promotion and advertising;

• It supports and encourages MTV's fundamental

strength as a risk-taker.

• It guarantees that MTV will never evolve into

"normal TV."

• It is used as a common vision throughout

the company to ensure that MTV will always deliver on
this promise.

The End.