JULY / AUGUST 2012 | PDF | Subscribe | Home

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Which hit television shows have endured as the strongest brands?

Over the past four years, the Hub has fielded a “Battle of the Brands” survey for the July/August “brand identity” issue, in which we ask respondents to make a series of snap judgments between pairs of brands, picking the one with the stronger “brand identity.” Previously, we featured brands across a range of categories, but this year we thought it would be fun to match up some of the most popular television programs of all time.

This was a little tricky because, unlike most other brands, television shows are relatively fleeting; many of the shows in our survey went off the air years ago. In many cases, our readers tended to deem newer television shows to be stronger than the older ones. American Idol wiped out The Ed Sullivan Show in the “entertainment” category for instance, and The Honeymooners was no match for Seinfeld in “comedies.“

Some respondents professed to have never heard of Ed Sullivan, which, if true, is truly sad. As one reader noted, “Ed Sullivan was the face of TV — American Idol is one of twenty trillion reality shows.” A similar sentiment surfaced in comments about The Honeymooners versus Seinfeld, with one reader commenting: “There will never be a statue of Jerry Seinfeld outside the Port Authority Terminal.”

The older shows were at a certain handicap given the demographic composition of our sample, which was led by Generation X (41%), Baby Boomers (35%), Millennials (19%) and the Silent Generation (5%). So, the Boomers and Silents were vastly outnumbered. But that did not prevent I Love Lucy from besting 30 Rock, Julia Child topping Rachael Ray, M*A*S*H dominating House, ER edging Grey’s Anatomy, The Monkees giving Hannah Montana the slip and Star Trek eclipsing X-Files.

Nor did it stop The Beverly Hillbillies from outpolling Keeping Up with the Kardashians — although by the narrowest of margins (most of our matchups were not close). “The Hillbillies were actually talented,” said one reader. “The Beverly Hillbillies certainly have a better theme song,” said another.

In fact, theme songs emerged as one of the most enduring elements of brand identity for television shows (M*A*S*H, Fame, The Monkees, Addams Family, Flintstones). A number of respondents also mentioned the tick-tick-tick of 60 Minutes and the do-do-da-da of Jeopardy! Certain cast members, for better or worse, also color opinions. While Davy Jones is fondly remembered from The Monkees and Tim
Russert from Meet the Press, Jay Leno evokes outright hostility from some viewers while others see Ashton Kutcher as a poor substitute for Charlie Sheen.

With tongue firmly in cheek, we pitted Mad Men against Two and a Half Men (the category was “men”) and predictably it was Mad Men in a walk. In the “children” category, Sesame Street walloped Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It seems a number of viewers found Mister Rogers a bit “creepy.”

In what was probably the most emotional matchup, we asked readers to choose between famous co-stars: Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke. Mary won handily, although some respondents were distressed by the choice: “Ugh, this is like the TV version of Sophie’s Choice,” a reader wrote. In the “families” category, Modern Family won out over All in the Family, although not by much. In “animals,” we had Lassie versus Mr. Ed, and (of course, of course), the horse lost.

As in previous years, we wrapped up the survey by asking readers to name the one television show with the strongest brand identity of all time. Unlike the past, when the question concerned the all-time strongest brand, Coca-Cola was invariably the runaway winner. With television shows, opinions were far more fragmented as Seinfeld narrowly edged 60 Minutes, with I Love Lucy and The Simpsons close behind — an interesting mix of shows.

Ironically, Meet The Press, the longest-running show on television (having made its debut in 1947), received only one vote.

For full survey results, visit:

JULY / AUGUST 2012 | PDF | Subscribe | Home