Sony AXN Case Study
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AXN is a general entertainment network that serves all of Asia. The channel featured a lot of adventure and excitement shows such as CSI, NCIS, Amazing Race, and Wipeout. But despite the predominantly action-oriented programming, they lacked a focused brand position. To draw viewers, they had relied heavily on plot-based promos like the one below. As a result they failed to build a unique brand identity or forge a meaningful relationship with their audience.

Though this clip is intriguing and provides a solid understanding of the game rules and the show’s plot, it does not tap into the emotional motivation of the network’s core audience, and it does nothing to build equity or image over time. It tactically sells the show, without strategically branding the network.


We began by identifying seven viable brand positions: action, adventure, challenge, courage, determination, smarts, and tenacity. We then researched the 602 Communications library of over 50,000 commercials to find three or four strong examples of each position, each hitting upon a different “emotional driver.” We then showed these ads to focus groups to see which examples would resonate with the core customers.  Below are just a few examples of the commercials we tested. This example, a very American experience of rule-breaking adventure, did not test well. They called used terms like “crazy, illogical, risky, jackass, reckless, psycho.”

This example of clever adventure got mixed feedback. They admired the hero’s ingenuity and confidence, but felt he was too devious and too smart for his own good. Some felt he was “clever, cheeky, quick-witted.” Others called him “arrogant.”

In contrast, participants liked this hero’s determination, ingenuity, and energy. They used terms like “cool, clever, smart, stylish.” They wanted their adventure to be smart and exciting, but not break rules. This action hero is backed into a corner. He is forced to break some rules. But he is smart, industrious and inventive. These are emotions about adventure that the Asian culture respects. But this next spot was the spot that was a really big hit.

This commercial got wildly positive remarks, such as “fun, exciting, determination, can-do attitude, I feel all pumped up, I want to run.” The audience admired the hard work, dedication and competitive spirit of these people.



After studying the focus group results from all 27 of the commercials we tested, we could confidently make the following conclusion: The audience wanted action, excitement and adventure, but all of it should be firmly grounded in a more realistic premise—no wild fantasy, no reckless behavior, not too violent, and no rule breaking. We found that “action with a purpose” was what resonates. “Determined” is how this group wants to feel about itself. So we set about building an entire brand image on this emotion. Here are examples of how the “determination” brand message is translated and integrated into a variety of AXN promos:

Now instead of a mere explanation of the game rules, Amazing Race is promoted with an inspiring message of determination, more visceral and less mental in its appeal.

Now, AXN’s typical action-adventure programs are promoted with determination

In addition, even varietal genres such as these two can also integrate the determination theme.


Similarly, groups of programs are branded together under the emotion of determination. In this example, determination is the primary characteristic the typical AXN hero.

Month-long programming campaigns can be showcased under the determination driver, while continuing to reinforce the channel’s unique brand.


Even interviews with various stars can reflect and support the network’s personality.




A year after integrating the determination theme into all promotional and branding messaging, AXN saw an overall increase of XX% in ratings and XX% in retention. Their ratings among their core customers (Males 18 to 55) saw a dramatic increase of XX%. In effect, AXN now owns “determination” among a larger and more loyal audience that responds to, identifies with, and loves it.

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