Brand Health Check: The Sun on Sunday
The News of the World has been axed, but what will emerge from the ashes.
Whatever name News International eventually settles on for a successor to the News of the World, it will undoubtedly face a whole host of challenges that no launch brand has before.
It seems that even non-cynics believe that any new paper will simply be a repackaged version of what went before. No doubt, NI will make every attempt to tell a different story: one that will eliminate the 'toxicity' that killed the brand. However, its big ambition will surely be to win back a large chunk of the millions of once-loyal NotW readers.
Therein lies the big question. Will a loyal readership be waiting for this new paper to emerge? Take too long and they will settle on another title. Move too quickly and the new brand will be seen as nothing more than NotW 2.0.
The results of research, conducted for Marketing by OnePoll in the days leading up to announcement that the NotW was no more (Marketing, 13 July), indicated that the paper's readers felt less strongly about the phone-hacking scandal and brands pulling ads than readers of other Sunday titles.
It has since emerged that NI owns the.co.uk domain names associated with The Sun on Sunday, but is the market ready for another NI title?
We asked ex-Guardian marketing director Marc Sands, who is now the director of media and audiences at Tate, and former Telegraph Group marketing director Mark Dixon, who founded sports marketing agency Fuse Sport.
MARC SANDS, DIRECTOR OF MEDIA AND AUDIENCES, TATE
The timing of the launch of The Sun on Sunday (SoS!) will be critical to its future success. After all, the issues currently consuming News International are not exactly conducive to a successful launch.
The Sun brand may be entirely innocent of malpractice, with damage limited to the NotW. But while, technically, The Sun may be blameless, consumers could tar the NotW sister brand with the same brush, however unfairly.
However, should News International get its house in order there is no reason that the SoS should not be a super, soaraway success.
The British tabloids are the best and The Sun is the most remarkable. It has achieved its iconic status by sticking to a simple formula.
At its best, the newspaper is bold, daring and fun and seeks to subject politics, business and hypocrisy to the closest scrutiny.
The mistake that the owners of NI appear to have made is believing that they can live by their own rules.
In launching the SoS, the owners need to reassure us, the reader, that it has addressed this issue while not losing its journalistic cojones.
- Don't launch till the storm has passed.
- Offer readers a cast-iron guarantee. that the title will behave appropriately, possibly in the form of a code of conduct.
- Ensure it has a clean bill of health before the launch. There can be no skeletons in the cupboard.
- Create a fantastic Weekend magazine that is a 'must buy' product.
- Stick to what NI is best at - producing a particular type of muscular journalism that people love and is a key part of the fabric of British society.
MARK DIXON, FOUNDER, FUSE SPORT
The decision to close the 168-year-old paper to navigate the 'hacking/payment to police/assorted other alleged criminal and immoral acts' crises immediately led to speculation that plans for a replacement would be drawn up.
A Sun on Sunday would be the most obvious moniker, with the seamless and cost-effective transition to a seven-day operation. Indeed, sources suggest that redundancy plans had already been drawn up that could now be implemented as crisis-management plans.
However, the 'toxicity' that sank the NotW remains. Wapping is awash with daily rumours of new scandals gripping its entire operation and potentially affecting consumers' views of The Sun and The Times titles. In such a fast-moving story - but one that has the potential to be played out in courts on both sides of the Atlantic for months, if not years - a swift decision is unlikely.
- Don't launch until the crisis is a fading memory. An unsuccessful launch of a Sunday Sun could have a major negative impact on the master brand.
- Make sure the evil in the empire is rooted out with no surprises round the corner for a new title or team.
- Don't take the public for fools by creating a successful successor to NotW too soon.
- 'Do the math': Sky is expected to generate £1bn in cash by 2014; NotW brought in ad revenues of £40m last year.
- Sell The Sun to Richard Desmond and The Times to Russian oligarchs. The past three decades of Murdoch as a puppetmaster to politicians is over. He should turn his attention to what makes commercial sense: Sky, Fox and emerging online brands becoming the firm priorities.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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