Adapting a century-old brand for an evolving audience requires more than putting content on the internet and hoping people like it. When Viacom debuted Paramount Network in January, it was up to the brand’s marketing team to create an emotional connection.
For Niels Schuurmans, Paramount Network’s chief marketing and creative officer, being handed a 105-year-old brand to care for was a big responsibility.
“I’ve said to my team a bunch of times, we just can’t fuck it up,” Schuurmans laughed, speaking with AListDaily during Cannes Lions.
So far they haven’t. Paramount Network’s original show Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner attracted more than five million live viewers when it debuted June 20, making it the most-watched scripted drama series on ad-supported cable since 2016.
Schuurmans said that the goal for him and his team is to be inspired by the premium nature of cinematic experiences and translate that for other platforms.
“The best way to think about it is [that] we’re taking this amazing classic brand and expanding it,” he said. “This is the brand that brought you The Godfather, Saturday Night Fever, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, etc. Now [we’re] taking this amazing 105-year-old cinematic brand and expanding it into new platforms like television and digital. The challenging piece of [Paramount Network] is ensuring that we live up to the expectations of this high-quality brand.”
Paramount Network is a different endeavor than Viacom is used to. The company specializes in niche programming, each with its own distinct audience—Nickelodeon is for kids, BET is for African Americans, Spike is for men, etc.
Schuurman said that these brands continue to resonate emotionally with audiences because they are brand-first. While there are hit shows on each network, each network is its own unique brand first and foremost.
In contrast, Paramount Network broadcasts original content across different demographics and genres. This creates a challenge for Schuurman and his team to create equally strong emotional bonds with audiences.
“Paramount can be just a word on a remote or a screen and then you can have a bunch of shows, but I think the goal of creating a really great brand is that it means something, it has value and it resonates with you,” he said. “I want the brand to mean something. Any great brand has to strike an emotional chord for it to mean something and for you to want it.”