Corrections or additions?
Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 7, 2000. All rights reserved.
What’s in a Brand?
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
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
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
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
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
— Melinda Sherwood
Princeton Junction 08550. Ray Douglas, principal. 609-799-5575; fax,
609-799-5575. Home page: www.dga2.com.
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