One of the greatest perks of being an entrepreneur or business leader, especially in this day and age, is that you have tremendous control over your brand. You choose what goes out on your social media accounts, what you blog about, and the tone of your website.
Even if those tasks are outsourced, you should still have final say, right?
Sesame Street Gone Wild
So recently, when I was watching PBS with my toddler, something struck a chord with me. And it all happened during what felt like the 99,857th rendition of Sesame Street that morning, so thank goodness for DVRs, since I had to rewind a few times to be sure I heard right.
In this particular episode, one of the Muppets – I think Bert – was sitting down reading a book. I wasn’t paying attention to the title until he spoke it aloud. He was reading 50 Shades of Oatmeal. In essence, throwing out some adult humor for those familiar with 50 Shades of Grey.
Now, I’m not a total prude. I can take a joke. I mean, I live and breath humor….it’s my saving grace.
But this is kids’ programming, people. It’s like one of the last shows that hasn’t been tainted by adulthood and all its craziness. It’s sacred.
Frankly, I couldn’t believe that the producers were okay with having that reference in there. True, I doubt any kids would “get it,” but still, it felt like a cheap shot and a way to garner attention. And they did receive a far amount of attention on their Facebook page. Although it was definitely a mixed bag.
It felt like the show had sold out. Like they were going against their generally accepted wholesome brand and jumping on the bandwagon of the latest popular trend.
And that didn’t sit well with me.
My Issue with Oatmeal
It took me a while to figure out why I got so upset about that Sesame Street episode.
At first, I figured it was because the show had changed so much since I was a kid and I was having something akin to separation anxiety. I’m one who tends to buck against change, if I’m completely honest here.
But after chewing on it for a bit, I realized that it was because of this: I figured if anyone could hold out and not be influenced by mainstream media, it would be PBS and Sesame Street. And yet, they had succumbed to the pressure now too.
I’m totally not trying to be a Debbie Downer here. I get that businesses and brands evolve – they really must in order to stay relevant. But, in my opinion as a marketer and mom, they should have branched out into a different direction.
They didn’t need to cheapen their brand and image by tethering themselves to such an adult and risque subject. The inclusion of that scene did nothing to enrich the children’s experience, which is what their programming is all about.
And that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t broach tough or sensitive topics. Sesame Street does that quite often, in fact. Topics like equality, bullying, and ethnicity absolutely serve their purpose…and match their brand. It’s when they go off course, into territory that’s just not them, that it sticks out like a sore thumb.
I see businesses using similar tactics all the time. They engross themselves in the latest fad even though it doesn’t fit their business model or branding strategy. Like Sesame Street, they think just because the topic is “newsy,” that it represents a prime piece of content.
Sometimes it might…if it aligns with your brand. But other times, you just might be doing more harm than good.
So take a lesson from Sesame Street:
- Don’t try to force your brand to be something its not.
- Be picky about the content you endorse.
- It really is okay to just be who you are.