It's the thought that counts: Jamie Credland on the Economist Group's new positioning

Jamie Credland

The Economist is a globally renowned publisher whose articles and predictions stimulate powerful conversation on our streets. However, independent research suggests that while many clients are aware of its media company the Economist Group, they lack awareness of the full range of marketing services the group can offer.

To encourage people to embrace the company as a whole, it has launched a powerful new market positioning called 'Thought That Counts', brought to life by its communications agency TVC Group.

Jamie Credland, senior vice president of strategy and marketing for the Economist Group, talks to The Drum about the why the campaign has been imperative for the company and the journey that led them there.

Why did you feel that the entirety of the Economist Group was not getting across to customers?

One of the biggest advantages we have is the strength of The Economist’s brand, which is still absolutely our flagship brand and product. But when your core product is so well-known, many of our potential customers felt they knew what The Economist Group offered, when in reality they were only aware of a fraction of our services.

Our offering has increased dramatically over the last few years, from the acquisition of TVC back in 2012, through to the launch of products such as Espresso, Economist Films, Snapchat Discover, and most recently our acquisition of SignalNoise and the launch of EBrandConnect. All of these together mean that The Economist Group's offering is much more sophisticated and therefore comes across complex compared to a few years ago; I think awareness in the market has not kept up with those changes.

What was present in the well-known departments of the Economist Group, that wasn’t present in the other branches of the company?

Most of our best-known departments benefit from having a bit of a head start – the Economist itself has been published since 1843, our Economist Intelligence Unit was founded in 1946… So there is an element of simply reminding the market of all the new products and services we have. Beyond that, our Economist branded products (Economist Films, Economist Events, 1843) have always benefitted from the close brand association, but not everyone is aware of the relationship with TVC, SignalNoise and EuroFinance.

‘Thought that counts’ is a simple but powerful marketing positioning. Why did you decide on these particular words? What do you want it to provoke in readers?

We were looking for a phrase that reflected our commitment to quality thinking, from our editorial teams, our marketing strategists and our delivery teams, and our belief that content and marketing can make a real impact on the world – it counts. You see that every day, from something as simple as a recruitment advert finding the perfect candidate for a job through to our editorial team campaigning consistently on issues such as legalising same-sex marriage since the early 90s. The Economist Group’s thinking really counts and makes a difference.

The campaign video covers everything from developing an article to devastating news reports. Can you talk us through the process of video creation and why this was chosen to target both agencies and clients?

We wanted to create a video that highlighted the range of marketing capabilities we now have within The Economist Group, but we also wanted to make something that engaged with the audience emotionally. Too often trade marketing forgets that the target audience, the agencies and clients we deal with every day, are people too. Hopefully the film reflects some of the excitement and challenges of creating really great marketing solutions, in a way that is a lot more engaging than just a list of the awards we’ve won (although that certainly helps!)

The film was created by TVC, who are both an award-winning video content agency and part of the Economist Group. All the footage shows various parts of the Economist Group in action, whether that’s our presence on Snapchat, data visualisation agency SignalNoise interacting with a beautiful new tool, the TVC team in an editing suite or the beautiful Oceans VR film created by Economist Films. Also all the cast are staff at the Economist Group – I think it’s nice for clients to see some of the people who will be working on their briefs in the film.

How are you hoping this positioning will impact knowledge about the Economist Group’s range of products and services?

On a basic level we hope that the new positioning will help us increase awareness of the group’s offering, particularly the wide range of products. But more than that, I’m hoping it helps to differentiate us in the minds of clients. A lot of publishers are moving into marketing services, and there is a lot of smoke and mirrors around what makes a really great content strategy and how you should choose a provider.

Thought That Counts is not only about saying we produce some of the best content in the market, but that we do it with a seriously considered strategic approach and proven business results. Our research suggests that those are the things that clients really care about.

How are you guiding clients to this insight – can you talk us through the sales materials and case studies?

The launch film and initial sales materials are only the first step in a broader marketing effort. We are starting by creating the emotional engagement, and then using case studies across a wide range of categories to demonstrate the impact our campaigns have. We believe that the best way to demonstrate Thought That Counts to our clients is by highlighting the quality of the work we have done already, and the expertise we have within the group. To that end, we have a range of research projects planned, led by our internal experts, to demonstrate our knowledge of the market. The first of these, on ‘Economic Purpose’, was launched at Ad Week New York and talks about the economic imperative to have a social purpose to your business activities. It is classic Economist Group stuff, cutting through the PR quotes and getting to why this stuff should really matter to clients. It follows on nicely from our work on millennials two years ago and Thought Leadership Disrupted last year.

What affect are you seeing in clients’ and agencies’ knowledge of the Economist Group so far? Are the results what you expected?

It’s early days but so far the results have been overwhelmingly positive. We have had both the expected comments from clients (“I didn’t know you could do that…”) through to the slightly less expected (“Your film made me feel warm and fuzzy…”, rare for a trade marketing film), but everyone we have shown it to has found it engaging and a great prompt for further discussion.

It’s also been very powerful internally – for the first time in several years we have an overarching statement that ties together all our sales, editorial and production teams, making cross-department collaboration easier than ever.

Thought That Counts was created by the Economist Group and its communications agency TVC Group to bare the powerful voice behind the company and the services it offers. The video can be viewed on their website, which provides daily news and insight articles and an outline of the services it provides.

The Economist Group is a multinational media company headquartered in London and is the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs.

Jessica Davis

Jessica Davis works with Drum Network members to create stimulating online content and grow their agencies.

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