Training for a Lifetime

Haskins started young in learning how to market a brand
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Every marketer has to learn to cope with rejection. So it's good that Rick Haskins had early training: selling Mormonism to the Japanese. At age 20, the current Lifetime Television marketing executive vice president became one of many young Mormon volunteers, who commit two years to trying to coax new members into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Having grown up in a very insular family in an insular town, Mormon-dominated Salt Lake City, Haskins found himself knocking on doors in Fukuoka, on an island in southern Japan.

Haskins's knowledge of Japan was pretty much limited to "it's the land of cheap transistor radios, right?" He soon discovered that the largely Shintoist and Buddhist Japanese had little concept of Christianity. "The thing that was the most interesting was that people thought Christ had died maybe 10 years, 50 years ago," he recalls.

He was not very good at it. After two years, he met his target of one baptism. "I was basically a door-to-door salesman for religion. I found it was not the best thing to be a door-to-door salesman."

He has found more success selling television to women. At Lifetime, Haskins is responsible for crafting the image of the No. 1 basic-cable network, which attracts the most viewers despite purposefully targeting just half the TV audience. His goal is to have the Lifetime brand resonate with women the way MTV resonates with young audiences.

Haskins's responsibilities include brand management, creative direction, promotion, media placement, and licensing Lifetime Television and spin-offs Lifetime Movie Network, Lifetime Real Women, and the to-be-launched Lifetime Magazine.

But his best marketing training wasn't in Japan; it was in Cincinnati at Procter & Gamble. In on-campus recruiting interviews while in college, Haskins found an affinity with representatives of consumer-product companies. Thinking "they knew something I didn't," he sought a job with P&G as part of its venerable brand-management program. He spent more than six years in the lower ranks of the company, relishing its attention to the tiniest elements of its brands, particularly those that conveyed trust to consumers.

His highlight was helping revive the Vidal Sassoon line of shampoos and conditioners. But the P&G bureaucracy grated. He remembers writing 140 drafts of one of P&G's famous one-page memos, one that sought to justify why Crest toothpaste should be sold in a pump dispenser.

Haskins is grateful for the marketing discipline he learned, but he hated the straightjacket. "I ran as far and fast as I could to an entertainment company," he says. He joined Walt Disney Co.'s home-video unit, recruited by fellow P&G alum Carole Black, now CEO of Lifetime.

He worked for Black for eight years, following her from home video to Disney's syndication unit, Buena Vista Television. He started a marketing-consulting business when she went to run KNBC-TV Los Angeles.

He also co-authored self-help book Brand Yourself, about "taking packaged-goods principles and applying them to yourself. It really forces you to take a look at what you're good at and what you're bad at."

Black lured him back to entertainment when she joined Lifetime, where they were handed one gift: the slogan "Television for women." Previous management had coined it, though considered scrapping it as too limiting. Haskins finds that it resonates perfectly with both Lifetime's audience and the way Black wanted to package the network. That includes more programs with female characters at the center rather than, say, a cop show whose viewership merely happens to skew female; careful integration of public-affairs efforts like anti-violence campaigns; and brand extensions.

"All branding is the shorthand," Haskins observes, "so the consumer has a mental image of what you are."

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