By: Heidi Kulicke
Marketing is a vital aspect of a thriving business. As such, the newspaper industry as a whole could benefit from a marketing revival. Traditional marketing tactics may have served the industry well in the past, but the biggest areas of growth are in online and interactive marketing. According to the Forrester Research Interactive Marketing Forecast 2011 to 2016 (U.S.), interactive marketing currently represents 21 percent of ad spend (2012) and will grow to 35 percent of ad spend by 2016. And by 2016, advertisers will spend nearly $77 billion on interactive marketing.
Newspapers have an ingrained habit of treating relationships with consumers and advertisers as a one-way exchange. However, interactive marketing provides — and requires — the opportunity for immediate response, ongoing engagement, and relationship management in a world where nearly everything is measurable, said Scott Stines, president of news media consulting company mass2one.
A well-thought-out marketing strategy is imperative for newspapers in order to achieve measurable business objectives. “A business goal is just a dream unless it’s supported by a sound marketing strategy that packages, positions, prices, promotes, and distributes a newspaper’s products and services,” Stines said.
If newspapers fail to establish clear-cut business goals and execute them through the best marketing tactics, it places newspapers in a reactive instead of proactive state, leading to “an endless series of knee-jerk reactions to market conditions, which serves to squander limited resources as well as confuse and demotivate the staff responsible for implementing marketing tactics,” Stines added.
It’s a publisher’s goal to have countless readers enthusiastically talk about a newspaper’s print and digital products, spreading the word far and wide through social media and in person. Authentic recommendations from a friend or everyday acquaintance are powerful forces when it comes to purchases and decision-making, and positive buzz helps set a brand apart from its peers in a crowded marketplace.
Social media’s role is the same as “word-of-mouth” advertising, but with better tools for sharing what someone “likes” with others, Stines said. In a marketing sense, newspapers should be using Facebook as a means to extend the reach of their content and promotions, while providing users the opportunity to like and share their work. “A newspaper’s Facebook page should focus on engagement — contests, events, and offers — and serve to drive social media users to the newspaper’s traditional and online products and services, while rewarding that behavior along the way,” Stines said.
Jonah Berger, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School, and doctoral student Eric Schwartz published a research study, “What Drives Immediate and Ongoing Word of Mouth,” in the Journal of Marketing Research this past October. The study examines the psychological drivers of word-of- mouth for products, based on data from hundreds of social marketing campaigns created through marketing company BzzAgent. The study explores why people talk about products and the difference between on- and offline product discussions, and, importantly, the steps to take to generate more product buzz.
In a digital setting, consumers are more aware of being watched by peers and, therefore, are motivated to post about brands that will be well-received by others — products such as trendy gadgets. Berger and Schwartz call this “motivated transmission.” The study, however, claims behavior in face-to-face settings is different.
“It’s less about motivated transmission and more about what products are top-of-mind at a given point in time,” Malcolm Faulds, senior vice president of marketing at BzzAgent, summarized in a column for AdAge. “Interesting products may generate immediate discussion as novelty items, but that fades fast. Simply being interesting doesn’t give a product conversation staying power.”
Berger and Schwartz found that under the right circumstances, common, everyday products can generate far more consumer discussion than a hot new item. In fact, the study found that the biggest driver of discussion is the accessibility of a product. “People naturally talk about what they see and what’s top-of-mind,” Faulds wrote. The bag of chips, a favorite shampoo, and yes, even the newspaper on the table might not generate as much online buzz as the latest tech gadget, but these everyday products weave their way into common discussions more often than a new, unfamiliar product, the study concluded.
Samples and promotions
People will have nothing to say about newspapers if they’ve never read one. The Berger and Schwartz study found the greatest increase in word-of-mouth discussion is generated through product samples, because customers need to have a firsthand experience with a product to understand what it can do. Newspapers should use promotions as an incentive to attract the target audience to their product.
Broad-based promotions may reach a large (however unqualified) pool of candidates and can still yield results, but usually at a fairly low rate of return, said Bob Provost, marketing director of the New Jersey Star-Ledger. “If you start by first qualifying the candidates most likely to prefer or need what you are offering, you can improve the results of your promotion,” he said. An example of this would be targeting former/ lapsed subscribers or new homeowners with special promotional offers and messaging, which will usually deliver a better response than a generic offer. Likewise, using email to send a travel marketer’s message to subscribers who took a vacation stop during the previous year will likely yield a stronger response than a random subscriber mailing, Provost said.
It takes more than handing out a free copy outside a grocery store or giving away a free one-month trial. An audience needs valid reasons to subscribe. If readers don’t feel a unique connection to the product and the ideas, activities, and suggestions it contains, then newspapers will face an uphill battle.
Branding and accessibility
The strength of a newspaper’s “brand” correlates with an advertiser’s positive or negative response to a proposal, and is what subscribers evaluate when deciding whether or not to renew, Provost said. “It’s the intellectual and emotional association they make with your product and company,” he said. Provost compared newspapers to winning and losing brands. “Each newspaper brand needs to be perceived as a winner, a desirable association, a success. Advertisers and subscribers will invest in a winner, but they will not throw good money after bad if they perceive us as a loser.”
One trick commonly used by marketers to increase the strength of their brand is to create mental links by associating common items with their product, especially if the usage is one that people do not already connect to the brand. Take, for example, the way we now associate quacking ducks with Aflac, or the color green with Starbucks coffee. BzzAgent created a program for Boston Market to help develop a new association for the brand. To many people, the restaurant was associated with lunch, so the chain hired BzzAgent to target specific customer profiles with dinner-related messaging and offers. The efforts ultimately boosted word-of-mouth by 20 percent, according to Faulds.
According to media analyst Jim Chisholm, Coca-Cola spends 14 percent of its revenue on advertising; newspapers spend less than 1 percent. Chisholm is joint principal of iMedia Advisory Services, a global newspaper consulting practice. He presented the findings of his Survey of Editors’ Attitudes at the annual Society of Editors conference held in November in the U.K.
Why would a huge global brand such as Coca-Cola spend so much on advertising? Because it ensures we remember who they are and what they do, Chisholm argued. In turn, newspapers should follow suit as a way to stand out.
One way to become memorable is to make the newspaper useful. The Accrington Observer in the U.K. has done this with its “Shop Local” campaign. More than 50 local stores participate by offering discounts to customers if they present a loyalty card, found inside the newspaper. It’s a win-win for businesses and the newspaper, reminding customers of the relevance of local stores and the local newspaper. The campaign provides a reason to buy the paper, promotes goodwill within the community, and gets the paper’s branding into shops that may have never previously stocked the paper.
Email marketing has the potential to be an effective marketing tool if a target audience has been properly cultivated, Provost said. A quality newsletter sent to the appropriate audience can address just about any objective, whether it’s from a museum communicating to its audience about a new exhibit, or a newspaper informing its subscribers on headlines and top news stories. “The problem is when great newsletters go to the wrong audience or a poorly crafted newsletter goes to the right audience. Both are formulas for failure,” Provost said.
“Email marketing is still one of the most effective channels for reaching customers in a medium they rely on each and every day to conduct business and communicate,” said Robert Payne, marketing director of Saxotech. Email newsletters can be bundled with other subscriptions as a value add-on, giving advertisers another vehicle to reach consumers. Newsletters with compelling subject lines, interesting content, and relevant offers will drive traffic back to the website, a plus for attracting advertisers. An effective newsletter should have the ability to let its creator track the number of clicks, opens, forwards, bounces, and unsubscribes in order to measure success and the return on investment. However, newspapers must be careful not to create customer fatigue and control send frequency by establishing an email marketing distribution calendar, Provost said.
According to Stines, email marketing is the most cost-effective (cost per contact, cost per order) channel for capitalizing on customer experiences and behavior across media channels. He sees it as a natural choice for newspapers to market online and interactive products and services. “With an integrated consumer and business opt-in email database in place, including interactions and behavior across the traditional channels of circulation and classified advertising and interactive channels such as Web registration, newspapers possess the capabilities to target their online products and services to those audience segments and individuals that are most likely to respond, read, or buy,” Stines said.
Stines recommends that newspapers use database-driven email communications to time and target delivery of information and offers as well as to stimulate the dialogue and engagement required to grow the value of relationships with consumers and advertisers over time. He encourages newspapers to create a customizable newsletter targeted to a reader’s preferences as it’s far more effective than using email to “blast” everyone with the same message.
To get the most out of email marketing efforts, newspapers can launch new interactive programs. Developing mobile or social programs will create the need to send more emails. For example, Glamour magazine puts blog content in its weekly e-newsletter. Other examples include British Airways, which created an email campaign to drive downloads of its new Executive Club app; Travelocity increased its bottom line by 12.3 percent by customizing email offers to lapsed customers; and Mint.com generated 8,500 new leads for 50 cents each by emailing existing subscribers with a referral offer that they could forward via email, Facebook, or Twitter, all according to Forrester Research.
There are many lessons newspapers can learn from other industries. The auto industry is a notable example of a marketing reinvention as it faces rising gas prices and fierce competition from within its own industry and other modes of transportation. Auto manufacturers have learned to adapt their products to meet the challenges associated with an evolving society; in other words, “they build their own story of the future,” said Herman Verwimp, marketing director for Belgium-based Gijbels Group. Just as there will always be a demand for modes of transportation, there will always be a demand for news and knowledge of current events. Like the auto industry, newspapers must formulate a plan for future success, not fall victim of circumstances.
In a blog post for the International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA), Verwimp suggested the industry create an independent media lab — a place “where creative minds and specialists in media economics work together to create a vision of how we as an industry will grow and change.” He envisions it as a place where newspapers won’t operate in survival mode, but from a mindset of conquering new challenges and seizing opportunities.
“When you’re under fire in an economic war, the best thing you can do is create your own future. The alternative is staying in the trenches,” Verwimp said.
4 Steps to Interactive Marketing Success
Scott Stines, president of mass2one, has outlined four steps newspapers can take to master interactive marketing.
1. Create an organization focused on implementing interactive marketing strategies, which includes not only the delivery of content across channels, but also establishing new sales, service, and communications channels with existing and non-traditional newspaper advertisers.
2. Address traditional perceptions regarding audience delivery, specifically transitioning from the mindset that “more is better” to an understanding and appreciation of the value of audience (quality vs. quantity).
3. Tackle internal culture or organizational baggage that serves to derail change and exists to reinforce the status quo. Accept market changes as reality and avoid denial.
4. Understand and adopt permission- based marketing practices that recognize and respect the fact that consumers, not content or ad producers, are in the driver’s seat for the foreseeable future.
Newspaper Marketing Tips
Do: Learn to be client-centric in your thinking. Think of the print and digital products you offer as solutions you can bring to bear on your client’s marketing challenges. To do so you must first understand your client’s business and goals. Asking your clients to invest in solutions you have strategically developed to address their needs is much more empowering than asking them to buy advertising. — Bob Provost, Star-Ledger director of marketing
Don’t: Default to buying into vendor “turnkey” solutions for the program du jour. In a fast-changing world the decision to “build vs. buy” should be just that — a decision — hopefully one that does not leave money on the table or share revenue when it is not required. — Scott Stines, mass2one president