Howard Stern is the King of All Media. The title not only suits him but has become synonymous with him. I’ve never heard anyone else refer to himself using that title. It’s Howard’s, he owns it, and it’s a good title in the world of show business.
Let’s not forget that much of the beauty of this lofty title lies in the fact that Howard was self-crowned. No one bestowed the title upon him—he took it, like any good king!
He has always had an extremely keen sense of personal branding. He has moved in a calculated manner to develop his brand and the persona that he wants to portray, but his approach has always been authentic.
“The secret to my show is honesty, reality, that I will say the truth.”
-Howard Stern on The O’Reilly Factor, 12/2005
Long before Twitter and Facebook, Howard was on the airwaves building a brand. He has mentioned that bringing the audience into his thought process was an important element of his show and his success.
His approach to notoriety was to push the envelope of broadcasting standards. He pushed the limits of language on the air, often receiving warnings and fines from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He pushed the limits of content by dreaming up sexually charged “games” for his studio guests to play. In inventing the rules of these games, he saw just how far (or low) people would go to get on the radio.
Testing the limits in every way possible was a key element to Howard’s brand development, but like all great brands, the “Stern brand” evolved over the years. It’s often mentioned on the show that when people in mainstream media talk about Howard, they use words like “vulgar,” “shocking,” and “outrageous.”
Howard has discussed how the broader media draw conclusions on who he is based on what he was like ten years ago or on what people hear and say about him. He built a strong brand in the 1990s, and he still carries today many of the “brand attributes” that he established then, even though he and the show have changed.
Despite the changes that have taken place, the “Howard Stern brand” that was built around having attractive, naked women in the studio, fart jokes, and in-studio games like “anal ring toss” is cemented in the public consciousness. Cemented to the point that it appears that even Howard himself has found it difficult to modify this perception in mainstream America.
How has his brand shifted since the crazy days of the 1990s? He transitioned his show into one where listeners can tune in and hear the most honest celebrity interviews anywhere. His ability to capture bigger stars for interviews and his honest political and social commentary has (in large part) replaced the outrageous bits and super-hot lesbians.
I’d say that he is now faced with the challenge of transforming his brand to match the transformation of his show and I’m guessing that he is banking on his appearance on NBC TV’s Americas Got Talent in prime-time will help.
Howard is using social media to mold his brand into something more mainstream. His million-plus followers on Twitter follow him because of his years on the radio, but now he is using the platform to pull those listeners into America’s Got Talent.