5 Ways “I Want My MTV” Ignited a Whole Generation, and How it Applies to Your Company

“I Want My MTV” was not just a clever marketing ploy for an up-and-coming cable network, but the battle cry of Generation X. Soon the cable TV airwaves were kicking out a new chapter: one that was raw and edgy; one that was experimental and confounding; and one that would inspire cable television for decades to come.

Many have tried to reverse-engineer MTV’s gargantuan popularity, but few have truly mastered the cable head’s essence. Take a tip from MTV’s commanding presence and no-apologies attitude from Day 1, and discover how it can revitalize your business in ways you would never guess.


1. Don’t be Normal.

Ever notice how the “normal” cast member of “The Real World” is the one you know the least about? Take that as a hint that in order to succeed, you need to be add a touch of color to the way you conduct business. Of course this doesn’t mean the OPPOSITE – reckless and riotous, but by standing out of the crowd in your own special way. Think about how you can be memorable in your networking situations from your opening line right down to your business card. Try to be the “Real World cast member” that quickly becomes a fan favorite.

“To me, when you have unaided brand awareness above 30 percent, you have a mass market brand.”Robert Pittman, leader of the team that created MTV

2. Fill Your Passport.
MTV has taken their reality shows all over the globe, and for good reason – by broadening their audience on an international level as well as expanding the limits of what they could accomplish on shows such as “Road Rules” and their various “Challenges” spin-offs. Take a cue from the music channel and fill your passport – pronto. Not only will it grant you experiences that will benefit your point of view, but it’ll give you the leg-up in expanding your product to an international market and dealing with foreign investors.

“The industry is consolidating around big players, and we are benefiting from this trend.”Robert Pittman, leader of the team that created MTV

3. Create Spin-offs.

MTV has launched many sister networks such as MTV-2, MTV Hits, and MTV Jams, to name a few. These networks were designed to primarily play music videos, to honor MTV’s original point of view. Due to MTV’s expansion and eyeing of more narrative television programs, this move was absolutely essential and has been proven to be successful since it’s only heightened their viewership. Don’t be limited by the goals you want to accomplish with your company, and don’t try to force your product or brand into a place that feels inappropriate to accomplish those things. Launch a spin-off brand, or product – explore new territories with what your company can do to broaden your reach while not compromising your integrity.

“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.”
Tom Freston, co-founder of MTV

4. Do the “Crazy Thing” People Warn You About.

MTV’s famous for their kooky awards shows in which celebrities do the kinds of stunts destined for water cooler chat the next day. Use this same alternative spirit when it comes to your marketing campaigns – your website lay-out – right on down to the packaging of your product itself. Consider how many “offers they can’t refuse” your customers get a day, now double that – that’s the reality. You need to stand out in a sea of similar products, and you can only do it by breaking free from the norm and breaking out the weird.

5. Get Inspired by Your Competition

MTV’s taken quite a bit of criticism for “not playing music videos anymore,” but the fact is – they’re successful. They were struggling by trying to compete with other networks that had a more diverse line-up of shows than they did. So what did they do? They got some inspiration. They broke more into scripted television, got deeper into animation, tried out new show concepts – and if they didn’t work out, they took what they could learn from the experience and had it channeled into their next venture. Look around to your competition with a watchful eye and discover what you could be benefiting from their example. It could be a “what to do / what not to do” situation, so take a look around and get inspired.