Will digital content subscriptions follow the cable model?
Four key branding factors

Four important questions about your brand

Publishers tend to take their brands for granted, especially when they feel it’s well defined and doesn’t need attention. Since the core meaning of a brand needs to remain consistent it’s hard to argue with leaving things as is.

Nevertheless, there are times when every organization needs to take a step back and make sure their brand conveys the right message. This is particularly important for an industry like publishing, which has experienced several years of disruption.

Here are four questions leaders and brand managers should ask themselves from time to time:

What’s the first thing that enters a consumer’s mind when they see your brand?

This is the most important question of all. Regardless of what you want your brand to convey, consumers have their own interpretation. I’m not a big fan of focus groups since they sometimes lead to “New Coke”, but this is a customer survey that’s worth the time and effort to conduct.

Does your brand name have a tight connection to print, making it seem outdated or even obsolete?

Here’s where newspapers really struggle. The word “newspaper” itself implies “static”; you’ll never find news that’s happening right now in a paper. Consumers realize this, of course, and have shifted their news consumption to brands other than newspapers. These other brands imply “dynamic” and “up-to-the-minute”, not coverage of yesterday’s news delivered via ink-on-paper. Yes, every newspaper has a website but that hasn’t changed the core meaning of their brand. Btw, this problem isn’t unique to newspapers. Magazine and book publishers have similar problems since most of their brands were built around a print product that’s quickly losing relevance.

What demographic does your brand currently attract?

There are exceptions, of course, but I’ll bet the majority of trusted brands from the print era are mostly read by an older crowd. Further, that audience keeps getting older…and dying. What demographic does your brand appeal to? More importantly, what demographic do you want your brand to appeal to?

Do you have a household brand name or an industry brand name?

This is a significant issue some publishers misinterpret. There’s a huge difference between a brand that’s well-known within the industry and one that’s actively sought out by consumers. Book publishers are the best example of this problem. Nobody goes into a bookstore looking for the next Random House title, for example. In fact, few book publishing brands are household names; authors, and some book series are household brand names but consumers typically don’t know the name of the publishers behind these authors/series. Those unknown publishers will have the hardest time creating a direct-to-consumer relationship and channel. 

I’ve had the benefit of working in a couple of organizations with successful consumer branding campaigns. The tactics behind a great branding strategy aren’t exactly new. In fact, many of them have been around for a long, long time.

Al Ries and Jack Trout have written several great books on the topics of branding and marketing. I highly recommend their classic, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. Another terrific book is The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, by Al and Laura Ries. They’re both very quick reads and valuable resources to help recalibrate a branding strategy.


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