This morning I was on Fox Business News. It wasn’t the first time but the tenth. While I was there I realized that I’ve officially become a talking head. Today was a little different though. I was there to talk about a re-branding that the new owners of The Athlete’s Foot are undertaking. They are changing the name to TAF and moving to a variety of store formats that will add more apparel and cater to more segments including the Abercrombie & Fitch crowd and urban kids.
I really did not like the re-branding plan because I thought it was walking away from the core expertise of The Athlete’s Foot (who used to be positioned as experts in technical footwear) and because I think acronyms are very confusing for consumers.
The other nine times I’ve been on Fox I’ve either agreed with a company spokesperson or disagreed without seeing the human face I was disagreeing with. This time was different because I was brought on almost immediately after the new marketing director, Darius Billings, and I had to basically say that I thought he was wrong and that his plan wouldn’t work.
I suspect that most talking heads on business networks are stock analysts, consultants or academics. I’m not. Yes, I do teach at NYU, but I spent over 15 years on the client side at places like Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson. So when I am watching Darius, I am thinking that he seems like a very nice guy, that this probably was not his plan to begin with but something handed to him by his CEO who is an investment guy, not a marketer and that I am basically trashing his plan on national television. And I know exactly what that might feel like. And I realize at the same time that even a bad branding strategy executed well might work, at least for a while. So he might be able to do exactly what his bosses are asking from him.
This makes the talking head business a bit more difficult. I’m still happy to do it, but now I see that there may be human consequences.`