A Times Man’s Advice to Print: Go Digital

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 7, 2000. All rights reserved.

What’s in a Brand?

Email: MelindaSherwood@princetoninfo.com

Branding is not about having a snappy name, distinctive

logo, or anything on the surface; it’s about the experience a company

provides its customers, says Thomas Sullivan, president of Princeton

Partners, an advertising agency at 2 Research Way. "It’s amazing

how a dotcom will create a web interface and not think through the

customer’s experience," he says. "Are they truly creating

loyalty or manipulating them through deals? The dotcoms have just

thrown tons of money into marketing but when you have a powerful product

that matches the desired experience, you don’t need as much time or

as much resources to go through word of mouth marketing, and the viral

nature of the Internet."

Sullivan speaks on branding at the New Jersey Technology Council meeting

at Fairleigh Dickinson’s Lenfell Hall in Madison on Thursday, July

13, at 4 p.m. Call 856-787-9700. Cost: $40.

Founded in 1965, Princeton Partners is a marketing communications

agency serving consumer, business-to-business, health care and retail

clients through regional, national and international marketing programs.

The company was selected by Anne Klein Factory Stores to provide strategic

marketing and advertising services and support to 46 locations, and

last year, Princeton Partners worked on one of the state’s largest

ad campaigns, "Exits to Opportunity," touting New Jersey’s

contributions to the world and to business. In addition to full-service

advertising, the agency also has divisions for public relations and

new media.

An alumnus of University of Vermont and the College of New Jersey,

Sullivan joined the company in 1989. He worked for Weightman Advertising

in Philadelphia from 1980 until 1986, and then at Gillespie. Everyone

has a brand proposition, says Sullivan; it’s at the core of what they

do. "The brand is paid off in the user experience," he says.

"Even without marketing you begin to build a brand."

Two years ago, Princeton Partners started its own branding effort,

adopting the gargoyle — an imaginary figure often seen lurking

around Princeton’s centers for higher education — as its new mascot

(see www.princetonpartners.com). The gargoyle was a natural

choice, says Sullivan, because it embodies many characteristics of

Princeton Partners, particularly the notion of "historic tradition,

intellectual integrity, and visionary thinking." "We’re a

stable, service-oriented marketing and advertising firm with a tradition

of strong account service," says Sullivan, "but at the same

time we have a creative personality."

Branding is about making a promise, says Sullivan. Problems begin

when a company confuses its brand; they make a brand promise but the

customers’ experience falls short. He offers as an anecdote an experience

he had taking his car to a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week garage, where

it sat for days on end. "They haven’t managed my expectations,"

he says. "They claim to be a 24-7 operation, and you expect with

that comes fast turnaround. The expectations that were set in my mind

are not being reinforced by the delivery. But if I go to a STS, I

know what I’m going to get. That’s your goal in a brand — to have

a core audience — but you’ve got to do it from the experience.

A great ad campaign can only get you to experience the brand one time.

If it’s not paid off, you’ve wasted your money."

Since a brand is about an irreplaceable, fundamental experience, price

and promotional strategies aimed at driving business are inadvertently

going to pull the value of the brand down. "It commoditizes the

brand," says Sullivan. "The delivery is always more important

than the promotion of the brand."

Once a successful brand has been built, marketers have to resist the

tendency to over-extend it; you can dilute the potency of a brand

by trying to apply it to new products or markets. Take Disney, for

example. "Creativity, imagination, and fantasy are the core attributes

underpinning their brand," says Sullivan. But how does this image

fare in the other markets, as pertains to the nightly news, for example?

"Disney is probably fragmenting itself," says Sullivan.

Once you develop a brand you can engineer the company culture around

it, says Sullivan. "I want people to connect the dots between

their business plan, company promise, value proposition, and delivery,"

he says. "Envision where you want that brand to be in three or

five years, look at the reality today, and then plot the differentials.

Where are you falling short of the brand promise? That’s your roadmap."

— Melinda Sherwood

Top Of Page
A Times Man’s Advice to Print: Go Digital

The man responsible for bringing color to the New York

Times is now bringing his publishing expertise into our neighborhood.

The former vice president and CIO for the New York Times and one of

the founding members of USA Today, Ray Douglas, has launched

a home-based consulting firm in Princeton Junction, Douglas Group

Associates (www.dga2.com, E-mail: ray@dga2.com). It provides

information technology, business, and publishing expertise to the

print media industry. He’s also offering consulting to technology

companies that serve the publishing industry.

A former computer programmer, Douglas is serious about getting his

print clients to make the transition to digital news sources, but

he’s not writing off the old-fashioned, coffee-stained rag either.

"I think newspapers that serve the community and value have a

good future ahead of them," he says. "Clearly people are spending

less time with a newspaper, but those that have a mission and a brand

that people recognize, there’s a market out there."

Portable devices with LCDs capable of transmitting a lot of information

are going to play a big role in the next generation of reporting,

says Douglas. "Financial information, stock information, and business

headlines could be transmitted to you so you no longer have to carry

around multiple devices," he says.

Sending news stories by satellite was the novel technology when Douglas

broke into the business back in 1981 when Gannett launched its USA

Today. "Back then, transmitting a newspaper in the middle of the

night via satellite to be printed in remote locations was something

new and untested," he says. "It being a color newspaper just

added a whole new level of complexity."

At the time he joined USA Today, Douglas was a computer programmer

for ATEX, but ready to leave the business. "You get tired of programming

after awhile," he says. "When you’re a programmer you sit

in a cubicle and write code all day and you don’t get a chance to

see how the applications affect people’s lives. Working in the publishing

business and acting as an integrator gives you chance to see those

tools actually used, and it’s a bit of a rush to see the copies coming

off of the press."

The son of an Air Force pilot, Douglas grew up in Virginia and has

lived with his wife in Princeton Junction for the past 10 years. He

has a degree in computer science but declines to provide his college

and class year for fear of credit identity theft. "A lot of that

personal information is being used to track you down on the Internet

and steal your identity," he says. "It’s business publications

like yours, full of information, that end up being a resource for

these people."

At USA Today, Douglas designed all of the initial publishing and color

systems. He left in 1990 to join the New York Times as its vice president

of systems. "They were about to undertake a 10-year plan to fully

rework the design and the technology behind the production of the

newspaper," he says. In 1998, he was named CIO for the company

and led implementation of its share services initiative, i.e. centralizing

the major functions, such as payroll, for the Times’ 42 separate papers.

He was also responsible for Y2K remediation and, of course, the introduction

of color in the newspaper.

Shortly after being promoted to CIO, however, the Times offered Douglas

a buy-out that included a two-year salary. "I’m 51 years old and

I thought this was the right opportunity for me personally," he

says. "I had done everything in the company that a technologist

could do. I had essentially managed and implemented all of the company’s

largest projects over a 10-year period."

After rising to one of the highest technology roles, Douglas felt

he still had a lot to give to the technology business. He’s now a

one-man show but has a second office in St. Augustine in Florida,

where he likes to spend a lot of time golfing. "It’s an opportunity

to get people out of the office and give people an opportunity to

open up," he says. Douglas has people from around the country

chiming in on certain projects. He already has about a dozen. "I

was hoping not to be as busy as I am, I still want to get to Florida

to play golf," he says.

Working with print and digital publishers alike, Douglas wants to

show how to add value to their business by tailoring information to

the needs of their audience, and making it available on a real-time

basis. "I like to tell people you have to move at Internet Speed,"

he says. " There’s an advantage to a first mover. I help people

move quickly."

— Melinda Sherwood

Douglas Group Associates (DGA), 56 Reed Drive South,

Princeton Junction 08550. Ray Douglas, principal. 609-799-5575; fax,

609-799-5575. Home page: www.dga2.com.


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