Debbie Laskey, MBA

Many television shows are successful, but few become brands. Some shows that have attained brand status include the annual Super Bowl, Cheers, The Jay Leno Show (remember the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien dual for NBC’s late night timeslot?), The Today Show, Law & Order, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Survivor, The Dog Whisperer, and American Idol. My addition to this list is Undercover Boss, but my reasons may not be what you expect.

A major reason for the “TV Shows as Brands” phenomenon is due to the excessive amount of advertising dollars to support these shows. With so many commercials on standard television channels, cable channels, and radio combined with billboards and print ads, some shows are destined to become part of the American experience. Ask yourself, how often have you heard or seen ads for American Idol or The Today Show? The answer is too many to count.

But if Undercover Boss doesn’t dedicate the same budget to advertising, why have I added it to the “TV Shows as Brands” list? The reason for the success of Undercover Boss is that it represents an important part of American culture. Its episodes tell the story of the little guy who works hard and becomes successful – and becomes the President or CEO of a big company. That’s the American dream. All viewers wish that he or she were in the President’s/CEO’s shoes – until the President/CEO has to clean bathrooms, wash windows on a scaffold 25 floors above ground, or drive a bus around an airport on an incredibly tight schedule.

This is what makes Undercover Boss such a powerful show. In today’s challenging economy, employees are often criticized for not being engaged or loyal or hard-working. But due to lay-offs, downsizing, and cut-backs, employees often work the equivalent of two or three jobs with the same or sometimes less pay. So when people see the top leader of a large well-known company acting like Joe Everyman and actually doing Joe Everyman’s job, they pay attention. They wonder if their top leader could do their particular job.

As a brand, Undercover Boss represents leadership, authority, and power, but it also represents employee engagement, dedication, and hard work. As quickly as the show opens the door to the executive suite, it slams it shut and opens all other doors within a company. The bottom line is that all positions are critical and play a part in a company’s success. The people who appear on Undercover Boss understand this, and the companies that are profiled on the show have the incredible opportunity to implement the insights that the bosses learned from their experiences.

Luckily, viewers of Undercover Boss can benefit from the insights too.