A few weeks ago, something very strange happened to me. I was doing a gig as a DJ at an open-air techno festival when, at around 8 p.m., a heavy storm broke over the grounds, eventually leading to a blackout. My set was already over and I stood at the side of the stage watching the other acts. Suddenly, the sound system crashed. As the music stopped, I walked out onto the stage to see if I could assist somehow. A couple of hundred spectators were standing out front and when they saw me appear they started chanting: "MTV! MTV! MTV!" On stage we just stood there and looked at each other in confusion. Like I say, it wasn't even my set, and people were not calling my name, they were simply chorusing: "MTV!" I'm still not really sure why that happened. Am I MTV? Me, all by myself? Or was the crowd just hoping that if they intoned MTV loudly enough, MTV would magically appear and get everything running again?
On the street it frequently happens that people recognize me and call out: "Hey, MTV!" which I think is pretty strange. I mean, nobody would ever think of calling out "Hey, Pro7," to Stefan Raab (a popular German talk show host). Sure, my appearing on MTV on an almost daily basis for 10 years may have given some viewers the impression that Kavka equates to MTV in Germany. Personally, I've always seen myself as a minute cog in the wheels of a global machine. Yet, apparently, not a few viewers actually thought I was the – "boss at MTV" – even demanding that I do something about those damned ring tone ads immediately.
In the past, other people in show business had already remarked that I, Markus Kavka, am a brand. And, I always wonder what they mean by that. Personally, I see myself primarily – surprise, surprise – as a human being, as somebody who has a fun job and enjoys doing it.
Wikipedia tells us the following about brands: "An expression used in marketing: brand (Ger: Marke, literally: label, make) stands for all the unique characteristics that distinguish the object connected with it from similar objects of rival brands. Typically those objects are products or services, and, increasingly, businesses.
It doesn't mention people anywhere! So what am I? A product or a service on two feet, i.e. a one-man operation? Or maybe even an object? A brand is supposed to have singular characteristics, right? In all likelihood I do have some, after all there can only ever be one of me, but that holds good for every other human being on the planet too. After all, we are all unique, right? In the light of this I’m starting to find it almost creepy that my first name is nearly identical with the German work for brand: Marke.
And on occasion I've had to deal with the downside of what it means to be perceived as a brand too. Of being "branded." For example, when channels that I discussed projects with voiced their worries that working with me could be seen as inviting MTV on board.
Apparently MTV still has a vibrant presence. Even though the really cool and trendy years of the channel are over, and the viewing figures and advertising returns are not what they used to be, it still benefits from the fact that a large number of the movers & shakers of our era, typically between their mid-twenties and late forties, i.e. an entire generation, grew up with MTV Germany. MTV helped form their sense of identity, MTV gave them direction, MTV was something their parents never watched. MTV had a lasting influence on the television industry, it created stars and, in its heyday, MTV was in its own universe.
But then, the music industry crises kicked in and the Internet in particular started making its impact felt. Suddenly, music videos were not exclusive anymore, social media started determining the new hypes and other channels were offering trendy formats for kids too. MTV's unique selling points vanished one by one. Yet, even so, the MTV logo is one of the best-known brands globally and its ring still powerful. But for how much longer?
And therefore, I have two questions for you readers of "The Brander" out there as you probably know all there is to know about brands.
1.) Can a person actually be a brand?
2.) What has to happen at MTV for it to regain its former strength.
I'm really looking forward to reading your replies.
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“The face of German music journalism” is a TV host, journalist, author and DJ. For MTV Germany, Markus Kavka produced several programs (e.g. MTV news, MTV spin, 20 years on MTV). Additionally, he regularly reports live at the MTV EMAs and VMAs. Since 2009, he has also appeared in programs on ZDF, Kabel 1 and MySpace. Presently he is on a reading tour with his first novel “Rottenegg”.
The Brander is a publication of the Branders Group