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Managing the Newspaper Brand

Brands management is colorless. It is indiscriminate in scope of application; largely free of any form of constraints in as far as marketing is concerned. For practitioners in marketing and advertising, it is simply a way of lie. Most times when definitions are put to this concept, all such presentations say same thing the product, its name, the promise(s) it makes and its delivery on such promise(s).

Imperatively, therefore, every such product that assumes all the key characters stated above becomes a brand and must of essence be taken nurtured through the product life cycle. To that extent, a brand is a brand, no matter the segment of “its market”. Following from the definition and the characteristics of a brand, are some imperatives for any brand’s success or survival.

A successful brand must attract returns on investors’ investment. To achieve that, it must attract consumer engagement profitably. To profitably engage its consumers, the brand must deliver on its promise. To deliver on its promise, it must essentially be true in its formulation, quality and all such other production qualities that will enable its competitive advantage over its competition.

All of the above are very a brief mention of a whole course of study. But for the purpose of this article, we shall do plenty of summarization. However, the big picture is that for any brand to succeed in the marketplace it must be properly managed along the lines of professionalism, going through the strategic imperatives derivable from looking at such assignment from a professional point of view.

The launch and management of the then Universal Trust Bank’s (UTB) Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) brand of instant money transfer in the early 1990s was one very interesting experience for me and my colleagues that worked on that brand. This was a time when funds transfer was still in its traditional form, when any such transaction would wait on inter or intra bank transfer process. The challenge then was that there was no process fast-tracking to meet the desire of then traders who would require cash for quick buying and selling.

Then UTB’s EFT was borne out of a careful market research that indicated the market need that was to engage the highly mobile big volume/value traders who requires large sum of monies for instant business transaction, without having to carry large amount of money with them when they travelling.

To effectively and efficiently meet that need, the bank developed an innovative electronic device the aided instant money transfer. That was one of the innovative money transfer services that gave birth to today’s e-transact that now runs as a common bank service in modern times banking. Complemented by the articulated integrated marketing support at that time, the brand was a huge success.

The lesson to learn from the above is the systematic application of all the imperatives for brand birth and support, for market success. There was a proper and purposeful research, planning and development, there was a proper brand development and launch (introduction) and there was a deliberate effort to connect the brand with the identified target market. In doing all of that, the focus was on its target market.

Add to that strategic focus for the success of UTB’s EFT is the sense of purpose and commitment to achieving set-marketing objective for the brand and its owners. Nothing was given to chance, and that is why adherence to marketing and brands management discipline is classified as ARTICULATED.

Brands management discipline is precise, assuming a level of precision of near-military exactness. Perhaps that is the reason marketing is described as a form of warfare.

My days as a student of Mass Communication in University of Lagos left so much with me on issues of journalism, especially with print journalism. When I decided for print journalism for specialization, I came face-to-face with the grand rules for a concerns that included prose writing, sub-editing, news editing, editorial writing,, news gathering and writing and news beat manning. One that excited me most was news story lead writing, for news reporting. Hmm!

I will always remember the day my teacher then, Dr. Olatunji Dare, first dropped the words STACCATO LEAD! It did hit my course mates and I with all the freshness and revelation a new and interesting learning would deliver, but far beyond that, it became a work tool for us all, since we were committing to news writing. Our lecturer, Dr. Dare took his time to get us connect with the concept of news writing because among other reasons, he knew news sells the newspaper in a competitive world of newspaper journalism. Some of us actually got hooked.

The other very important lesson Dr. Dare taught us in our journalism class is prose writing. The man almost killed some of us with his emphasis on getting it right. For him, there was no in-between. He did not waste his time with lazy students, as if he was in a hurry to build the next generation of good journalists. So the day he challenged us to writing a complete prose using only one full stop, came as the end of the road for all of us!

But I tagged along because I was committed to becoming a well-read news reporter. I was so well equipped by the time I came out of school, to appreciate well-written news report, opinion piece(s) and editorial page. The choice of newspaper I patronized way back was determined by those elements I picked up while in school.

It follows, therefore, that newspapers are brands in the competitive market of newspaper(ing). Industry players such as Dele Giwa and his likes, way back, thrived on understanding the consumer needs and satisfying those needs. They also took the competition a step further by creating niche markets for the brands they represented by evolving new and innovative product usage pattern within the brand world they played by introducing ‘modern day” investigative (journalism) reporting. Efforts of news reporters in that league changed the face of journalism in our local market.

The unfortunate thing, however, is that newspapers/magazine are not seen as brands.

Newsroom glamour, individual stardom, struggle for survival and all such interference tends to veil the newspaper as a brand, frontal. Practitioners see themselves as all sorts of powerful society influencers, users of the ever-powerful pen mightier than the sword, third estate of the realm, the all-powerful commentators that can bring down political leaders, that they miss the point of brand building and development for optimal return on investment. Unfortunately, the glamour time is over, and it is time for business. With the advent of modern news sources including the internet, all sorts will unveil in newspaper management as businesses. We know that with the new media environment and habit, competition for readership (consumers) will get keener, and advertisers are watching. May we just quickly let it out here that advertisers are already looking at target marketing as the new face of media engagement for brands marketing support? What will you offer to attract advertisers if your newspaper or magazine does not post a fairly large size of readership to support the profitable investment in form of advert placement?

So, it is time for brand building in the newspaper business world. Presently there are very clear hazards any growth-driven newspaper brand must look at, as follows:

1. Market. Newspapers as brands must begin to define their markets along the line of identified needs or void within the market it tends to operate. I know most operators will easily take position as general interest newspapers, but clearly, that will not work in the emerging market

2. Brand Parkaging and Building. Managers and/or owners of newspaper brands must begin to see their offering from the perspective of the target-readers and not their board-room thinking. Therefore, special attention must be on how to be seen to fit into the expectation of the target market. Of course such thinking will affect use of brand colors, nature and character of brand name, logo, masthead, etc.

3. Product quality. This is the very interesting part of it all. The basic and primary essence of a print news source is news reporting. Given as basic, therefore, the quality of news judgment and presentation, therefore, become key in the fundamentals of a newspaper or magazine’s success.

It is therefore forbidden for ill-trained reporter to be permitted in the business of news writing. Truth is so many people today are reluctant exposing themselves to the offerings of many newspapers because of the quality of on offer. Stories run through several paragraphs, only as repetition of the first and opening paragraph. Stories now come as imagination of a reporter because beats are not properly covered, journalists do not read and so are themselves lacking in literary prowess, general information and exposure.

Spellings are most often wrong!

Add to product quality is brand involvement in experiential marketing support through Corporate Social Responsibility. If all a print medium do is sell news, such newspaper/magazine automatically disengages from the public as fast as the need for news is satisfied. So, with several other sources of news (most of them are even free, less stressful and trendy), survival is keener for the prints. Therefore, as brands, newspapers/magazines need to engage readers (their consumers) at such value touch-points that will build a more enduring relationship.

On the whole, newspapers and magazines require the services of professional brand managers to survive in the business world, as indeed all brands. It is time for re-think!

By Bernard Okhakume

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