When to extend

Brand extension is more than just pasting a daily’s label on another product.

Marketing Magazine, November 10, 1997   

As a mature medium, newspapers seem ideally suited to brand extension. They need the new revenue, they need to revitalize their core brand, whose public image may have become moribund through familiarity, and they can capitalize on decades of brand equity; in many cases, more than a century’s worth. Canadian newspaper publishers aren’t as far along the brand extension road as their colleagues in England or the United States. But the latter ntions boast newspapers that have leveraged their reputations into new products, and in some cases entire new businesses.


The New York Times Company, for instance, continues to follow a long-established strategy of concentrating on its core strength — disseminating information — and making that the basis for new products that offer information to new audiences or in new ways. The company that started with a newspaper owns Manhattan classical station WQXR-FM, keeping with the Times’s upscale audience and its probable tastes. Many of the paper’s contributors provide features for the radio station. WQXR is just one of a stable of Times Co. broadcast properties. (The Gannett newspaper chain also owns a number of television stations.) In the case of the Times, there’s also Times Books, using the instantly recognizable stamp of a preeminent newspaper as a means of instantly communicating the gravity and thoroughness of nonfiction volumes.


Similarly, Dow Jones and Company uses its flagship paper, The Wall Street Journal, as both product and marketing engine, mostly for books — often investment or corporate career guides. Both the Times and the Journal have elaborate sites on the World Wide Web. The Times’s is free; the Journal’s isn’t.


The newspapers in Canada’s largest market are also using their Web sites as a means of both advertising their core products while adding luster to the Web site by positioning it as another — electronic — version of the daily paper.


“We are launching a product called Globefund,” says Globe and Mail marketing vice-president Darcia Joseph. “It’s Canada’s only comprehensive mutual fund Web site. It’s repurposing the original mutual fund data as provided through Report On Business. But it’s also got all the interactivity that you’d want in a Web site; for example, the ability to analyze your portfolio, to look at archival or other people’s opinions of the performance of a certain fund. It’s got all kinds of really neat features. That’s a perfect example of brand extension in new media that is a combination of the equities that exist in the parent brand. Those equities are both The Globe and Mail and our equities in Report On Business.”


The Globe and Mail has been particularly aggressive on the print front, launching some younger companions for the 12-year-old Report On Business Magazine. Quarterly titles focusing on food and fashion are just two examples. Clones of the daily Report On Business have helped, too. Report On Telecommunications, Report On Mutual Funds, Report On Network Solutions — every one of them takes something Globe readers already know and trust and aims it at a new area, thereby widening the scope of the parent and reinforcing the paper’s reputation as the prime source for rock-solid information, especially for business.


The Globe has it easy in that respect. It’s always worked to maintain the regular paper and the ROB as two discrete entities. As such, it’s got two brands, either of which can exist on its own or be extended independently.


That might make it seem easy. But extension isn’t simply a matter of pasting the paper’s logo on another product. Brand-management questions have to govern the decision. Is the new product going to find its own audience and reflect well on its parent? Has the proposed new product got enough reason to exist that there’d be a need for it even if it weren’t spawned from a newspaper? Are the core values that built the parent’s brand equity expressed in the new product? If the answer isn’t “yes” to all these considerations, the extension’s probably a bad idea.


“Do it where it’s smart and where it clearly establishes the identity of the new product for your audience,” Joseph says. “It’s got to work for both your advertisers and your readers. And only link the new product and the parent when it is of benefit both to the parent brand and to the new product to have that association.”


Brand extension is not the same thing as partnership. Joseph says the linkage between the Globe and computer push-technology news service was mutually beneficial. And while many of the brand extension considerations govern such alliances, “I don’t think of partnerships as brand extensions, really. From a marketing point of view, I’d consider that pure, classic marketing as opposed to product launch.”


“We’re conscious of how we do it and how often we extend brands,” says Joseph. “You don’t want to jeopardize the integrity of the parent brand by diluting it in any way. We work very hard to protect the values that people associate with this brand name. They’re quite powerful, so we’re quite careful with how it’s used.”


The Toronto Star has worked to protect its brand identity even as it branches out in direct-response television. Toronto Star TV, which launched Oct. 17 (Marketing, Oct. 27, p. 40), offers many of the same things the paper’s readers look to the print version for: timely information they can use immediately. They’re not looking for an explanation about what Asian currency exchange rates will do to their mutual funds. They just want to know what movies are playing and what time they start.


The Toronto Sun is also taking to the Web as part of its extension strategy. As co-owner of the CANOE Web site along with BCE Inc. of Montreal, the Sun makes certain its logo is prominently displayed, along with subscription ads.


Another Sun Media paper, the outfit’s national flagship, The Financial Post, has its own site as part of the Canoe array. There’s also The Financial Post Magazine, a mature brand extension that serves much the same purpose; it’s got a trusted name, sells advertising, and offers another way for eager advertisers to reach established Post readers and for Sun Media to make some money to offset costs.


Toronto Sun marketing director Lynda Schwalm maintains will boost readership of all the company’s papers.


“I would hope that people would read information on the Web site that came from the Toronto Sun and think, ‘Hey, I might start buying the Sun every day,’ “ she says. “It’s not something we’ve tracked yet, but it definitely happens. Not only is the Sun an information provider for CANOE, it can attract new readers to the paper. Certainly we would look for opportunities to use CANOE to attract more readers for us and more subscribers. It’s something we haven’t developed to the extent that we can and will.”