Monday, February 22, 2010

Is a new Gannett branding campaign in the works?

I doubt many consumers could identify the parent company of Gannett's newspapers and TV stations. And if they could, they might struggle to pronounce it correctly. (As we know, the accent is on the second syllable in "Gannett.")

Now, I've been told, Corporate is considering a multimillion-dollar campaign to turn Gannett into a true brand name. The tag line, I'm told: "Gannett ... connecting you to your world."

I have precious few details, and this tip is from just one source (albeit one who's been spot-on before), so treat this with a grain of salt. If true, any such brand campaign would be an unexpected challenge to USA Today's role as Gannett's public face in the more than 27 years since the paper was launched. So, why would Corporate back any such initiative?

Within the newspaper industry, it could turn around Gannett's reputation for being a low-cost, low-quality operator of newspapers and TV stations -- an image created despite the hard work of generations of employees on the front line. That would help in recruiting talented workers, when and if they company returns to significant hiring mode. It also could enhance efforts to sell advertising.

In the consumer market, a branding campaign would strengthen the company's network of websites, as younger customers show less allegiance to the older, existing brands: the newspapers and TV stations Gannett has bought or established over the years. In other words, consumers would think "Gannett'' when they look for news and information in their local markets.

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.

[Image: the cover of Gannett's 2008 annual report to shareholders]


  1. Oh on the contrary. The consumers know full well who the parent company of their local newspaper is, and they don't think well of Gannett.

    The tone of distaste in a voice and wrinkled up faces when they simply utter the name "Gannett" speaks volumes.

    If Gannett believes the consumer doesn't know who they are in their own communities proves just how out of touch with the communities they do business in they really are.

  2. Yep. Just like Gannett to continue this focus on young people when in just a few years, one person in four will be "old." People--- Demographics just don't support anything that nears the hugeness of the babyboomers. We're a heterogenous lot, too. Brand for us by giving us honest news. If Gannett continues to knock aging and if it continues to offend boomers (yes, I'm not the only one offended by fluff and book report style reporting) it won't last. That's my opinion.

  3. Who cares whether people think of their local newspaper/station or Gannett? Until and unless the company puts a serious effort toward hiring people, getting rid of the no-talent, lazy managers who populate the company and commit to cover their communities on various platforms, this company is doomed, whether it's branded or not. Yet another Band-Aid to cover up the real issues.

  4. LOL. This one is bound to backfire big time. People I know cringe when they hear Gannett.

  5. Let's do a Letterman-esque list:

    We could have a lot of fun with this!

  6. I'm with Anon 2:01. People who know what Gannett is (even if they can't pronounce it) and their impression isn't good. Dare I say the Yugo of media only without the charming quirks.

    They should spend the multimillion dollars improving the products and journalism instead of a branding exercise.

  7. The Yugo of media!!!!!!

    If a newspaper had plaid seats, it would be a Gannett!

  8. A few suggestions for Gannett's branding slogans:

    • Comforting the comfortable, afflicting everyone else.

    • We'll suck the life out of you.

    • Right-sizing your news.

    • Media Lite.

    • Real life, real lame.

    • Muthafuckas like me.

    • Corporate America's newspapers.

  9. Yeah, people in Louisville are quite aware of what Gannett is.

    The top-down push for homogeneity made this type of branding exercise almost inevitable.

  10. Gannett serves no purpose other than to suck the life out its newspapers and TV stations. The individual papers and stations are condemned to pay Gannett a medieval "king's tax" and are loaded down with worthless initiatives, software, and petty managers in return. The Gannett "chain" adds no inherent value to the component properties, only serving as a reminder that readers' local paper and station isn't so local after all.

  11. Agreed. The people who do know what Gannett is don't like it. So spending millions to make people more aware of the brand makes a lot of sense, especially when the company is cutting its talent left and right.

    This way in four years, the following conversation will be able to occur.

    Husband: Do you want to subscribe to the Detroit Free Press?

    Wife: Maybe. How much is it?

    Husband: I'm not sure, but it's run by Gannett.

    Wife: Oh! God no, then. They ran that horrible New Jersey paper we used to subscribe to.

    In short, name recognition is only valuable if people respect the name.

    Failed slogan #1: Gannett: We're not as bad as Singleton.

  12. For my money, I'd let Jack Williams come up with something. That way, it's sure to be a complete failure.

  13. New Gannett Slogan:

    - All the news that will fit in our web-reduced, page count limited, smaller type, section-combined editions. Almost every day.

  14. I thought "good enough is good enough" was the Gannett brand.

  15. I chuckled at the band-aid solution remark and thought of the sad situation hammering one Japanese auto maker, replacing floor mats last year when the acceleration pedal was the real problem, "saving the company millions." From a Manage Smarter site on effective branding (March 2009): "Toyota effectively satisfies one’s need for safety. Their cars are known for reliability. There is little worry about untimely breakdowns and costly repairs. Toyota vehicles are a safe choice."

  16. Clear Channel insisted on branding itself as the owner of all its radio stations, and all it did was make people hate Clear Channel. Even Congress hates Clear Channel.

  17. "Gannett: Where small minds run even-smaller papers."

    "Gannett: The accent is on the second syllable - just like 'incompetent'."

    "Gannett: If it's news to you, it's news to us!"

    "Gannett: Paying millions to former executives is just our way of creating a Stimulus Package."

  18. Gannett? What's a Gannett?!

  19. Gannett has become nothing but a curse. The more people learn about what's truly going on inside and the more word gets out, the less respect it's getting, and the more disliked it is, in the outside, real world. Its stellar reputation faded along ago, thanks to management and the Board.

  20. Branding? This tells you how out of touch newspaper owners and their managements are. No one cares about the brand of a monopoly or near monopoly product. They spend 15-30 minutes a day with us. They want the product available when they are ready to consume it, and they want it to deliver value for the price. And then, they don't want to think about it until the next day.

    I preached, to no avail, to my execs that all we need to do is our jobs, every single day, and never lose sight of the customer. Instead, we kicked the customer to the curb, and occupied ourselves with branding, and committees, and awards, and crossfunctional teaming, and change management, and all the other organizational bullshit.

    And you know what? People who had always been
    willing to pay full price told me to stick my paper up my ass, because it had less in it, and it was always late, and they didn't like talking to someone in another country.

    Brand away, assholes. Brand away.

  21. The USAT Brand Marketing department decided to contribute to the trendy "green" branding revolution years ago, along with fellow corporate giants worldwide. Our product was on newsprint, however, and some managing heads at least admitted the irony of printing on dead trees, 100% recyclable or not; the staff was to come up with "ideas."

  22. 1:31 PM
    wrote my all time favorite post.

  23. Wow, I love these comments and they are so true:

    "Gannett: Where small minds run even-smaller papers."

    "Gannett: If it's news to you, it's news to us!"

    "Gannett: Paying millions to former executives is just our way of creating a Stimulus Package."

    And this poster needs a President's Ring:

    Instead, we kicked the customer to the curb, and occupied ourselves with branding, and committees, and awards, and crossfunctional teaming, and change management, and all the other organizational bullshit.

    Both posters rock!!!!!!!! Still laughing!

  24. "Gannett: If it's news to you, it's news to us!"

    C'mon now, that was our slogan in Fort Myers for years.


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