Monday, March 07, 2011

Apple questions 'ungodly sum' for new branding

Widely read newspaper page designer and Des Moines Register alumnus Charles Apple did a deep, deep dive yesterday into Gannett's 100-page guidelines for using the new logo and tagline. He points to some early red flags, then offers this conclusion:

I don't mind a corporate branding campaign. And in terms of design, the basic framework here seems fairly attractive.

I do think the tagline -- It’s all within reach -- is going to invite all sorts of unflattering comments. And some of those comments might even be accurate.

The timing of all this, though, seems poor. Given continued furloughs and the additional — and perhaps unexpected — layoffs, is this the right moment to spend an ungodly sum of money for a team of consultants to develop a branding campaign of this scope?

I’d rather see the money spent on something that might directly result in better journalism. Something that might benefit the readers.


  1. Way to go, Charles Apple. You'd do better reigning from the 11th floor than the current nitwit occupants, or would you like Pence's job? They could learn plenty from you.

  2. A Voice in the Crowd3/07/2011 12:53 AM

    Apple's comments reflect what a lot of us have been saying on the blog. Is this REALLY the best use of resource when Gannett is doing things such as the "reorganization" of the three dailies in NJ that cut newsroom staff by 50% and could be the blueprint for similar actions at papers in other states?
    But of course the brain trust in the Crystal Palace would never listen to its worker cogs. Maybe Apple's words will carry some weight although I doubt this bell can be unrung.

  3. Spot on analysis.
    This is one Apple that wisely fell far from the diseased tree.

    If anyone needs an example of just how out of touch the Crystal Palace royalty is with the USCP, this is Exhibit A.

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  5. Amen, brother Apple.

  6. "Is this the right moment to spend an ungodly sum of money for a team of consultants to develop a branding campaign of this scope?" RIGHT YOU ARE, Charles!

  7. Gannett - or should I say - G A N N E T T - is no longer just a journalism company. Gannett has many other "brands" and money needs to be spent on those too. If a national marketing campaign can potentially help the finances for the entire company, perhaps there will be more financial support for the journalism operations and reduced need for lay-offs. Just sayin'.

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  9. You know, I think Apple is wrong.

    The old '50s-style Gannett logo and corporate-branding mishmash were long overdue for a change.

    Fuddyduddy graphics and an unfocused corporate identity do indeed undermine media professionals' assessments of a media company. The question becomes: "If you can't get your own marketing act together, how are you going to sell my brand?"

    Like the Odyssey redesign, this rebranding catches us up with the 21st century to a great extent.

    PS: All branding initiatives are accompanied by detailed style guides. It's pretty unsophisticated to be amazed by that.

  10. True, that Gannett logo should have been retired back when Star Wars came out, if only to avoid unflattering comparisons between it and the Death Star.

    But to do it now?

    Debow is quoted as saying it was "a substantial sum." With his warped sense of financial entitlement, substantial to him can only translate to stratospheric and prodigal to us mere mortals.

  11. Hello 9:29 a.m....You gotta be kidding! Gannett put money back into the newspapers? Never gonna happen.

    It's entrenched corporate behavior to pull money away from the newspapers and stash it elsewhere, particularly in bonuses, options and perks for the corporate execs.

    Gannett will never put money into its newspapers. Dubow and Co. have a schedule to kill off the papers, no matter that they make up the lion share of revenue at this time.

  12. It's troubling to spend so much in the midst of layoffs and furloughs. But nobody has commented on the larger issue, which is that national branding does absolutely nothing to help sell ads for individual papers or TV stations. Am I wrong?

  13. All I know is the national advertisers the papers depend on have gone elsewhere, like to their own Web sites.

    Ditto real estate companies and auto dealerships. Craigslist did a job on classified.

    That said, the focus has to be on digital and away from print. But digital will never pay like print, and it will never employ like print.

    The operation is going to get leaner, and the competition is going to get meaner.

    Yet Gannett still lacks digital vision, innovation, and a division chief who has not worked within the Gannett "culture" for decades.

    Branding may be the first step toward marketing the company as a multifaceted communications gem - not bad, huh Craig? - or a huge for sale sign - we have all sorts of things you could buy! - but all the branding in the world is meaningless without substance.

    And that's what's lacking: substance.


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