Charlie Ergen: Satellite cowboy, TV viewer, pitchman
Charlie Ergen is best known in media business circles as the straight talking homely founder of satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp. He’s often been disarmingly honest on quarterly conference calls with Wall Street analysts by admitting that he had personally taken his eye off the ball when the company was losing customers a few years ago or putting his annual family vacation ahead of being present on the quarterly call.
Well Dish Network’s marketing team is hoping that Ergen’s southern gentleman charm can win over new customers or at least keep old ones in the pay-TV wars versus DirecTV Group and the various US cable operators.
Ergen appears in a new in-house produced campaign below talking about his pride in the company he founded, his “embarrassing” picture from his early days, and its recent success in customer service etc.
Dish Chief Marketing Officer Ira Bahr said that his boss is a “plain-speaking, easy-to-understand American TV viewer” just like the kinds of people the company is trying to win over in a business sector where there is so much “yelling and price competition” between the various players (Dish has been as guilty as anyone in that respect as you can see here and here).
But outside of crisis management does recruiting the boss as your top pitchman really work for a major national brand campaign? The closest most recent example would be mobile phone company Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, who first hit our screens in a black & white stylish campaignsoon after he joined in 2008. Sprint’s fortunes haven’t exactly improved since the end of 2007 the last quarter before he joined the company. Sprint has lost more than 5 million customers, though the rate of those losses appear to have narrowed in recent quarters. Bahr argues that a professional CEO as pitchman doesn’t have quite the same marketing resonance as that of a founder CEO like Ergen and Dish is currently on the up having already added 700,000 customers in the last year or so.
But what does branding professional Allen Adamson think of Dish’s ad spot?
Adamson, who is managing director of branding agency Landor Associates and author of BrandDigital, said: “It’s a fairly tricky thing to do. Personalities of CEOs don’t necessarily always match up with the brand and ultimately may not be persuasive. It really is about how credible and powerful a communicator the CEO is. (Ergen’s) techy personal matches his office with model rocket by the window and lends some credibility but I still feel that he is not the best way to tell the Dish story”
Ergen has proved doubters and experts wrong before, his marketing team will be hoping he does so again.