How salmon saved De Morgen

De Morgen young and progressive shift to modern multi-channel news touches radio, online and newspaper.
De Morgen young and progressive shift to modern multi-channel news touches radio, online and newspaper.

De Morgen was once the most progressive and outspoken newspaper in Belgium. But somewhere along the line, we got lost. We lost track with our customers, lost our young and edgy attitude, and got stuck with a Web site and news app that were hideous and not at all user-friendly.

De Morgen was no longer talk of the town and was certainly not future-proof.  So in 2014, we decided to turn form and content around so we could reposition De Morgen as a progressive and young newspaper with a healthy, against-the-grain attitude.

We developed a new product proposition, with De Morgen as a modern multi-channel news brand. A new app and Web site, a freshened print version, and DM+, a new online member area with exclusive offers, free tickets, and extra content of De Volkskrant and The New York Times. To design our new product, we brought in Polish design-guru Jacek Utko, whom many know from his famous TED Talk, “Can design save newspapers?”

Together with our agency Boondoggle, we launched a two-phase brand campaign, which first had to reposition De Morgen as a progressive newspaper. We then launched our renewed newspaper, Web site, and app.

And that is where the salmon came in.

To reclaim our territory as progressive media company, we came up with the claim, “This country needs more salmon.” In this outspoken mission statement, the salmon stands for a healthy going-against-the grain attitude and to look at the news from a different perspective. Not to disagree at all cost, but to give disagreement a chance.

With the salmon as mascot, we wanted to show that De Morgen was the other voice, someone who firsts looks at the facts and then offers a clear opinion. To reinforce this statement, we combined our salmon with a screaming graphical style, which is quite atypical for news brand campaigns and underlined the young, edgy character of our brand.

We launched our salmon statement with a cross-media campaign, containing TV and radio commercials, double-spread ads in national magazines, in-store communication, online display advertising, and a very atypical campaign Web site.

We allowed our salmon to take over our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube-channel, and let our most important journalists explain in their own words why this country needs more salmon.

These editorials were very important to empower our salmon, to make our mission statement less artificial and more comprehensible. In this way, it was clear that the entire editorial staff supported the salmon statement and that it was not just another marketing campaign. Eventually, after two intensive “salmon-weeks,” we invited people to try our new newspaper, Web site. and app for free.

Thanks to our salmon campaign, more than 35,000 new readers signed up for the new De Morgen, 135,000 people tried the first new print version of De Morgen, and traffic on increased with 35% and has remained at this level.

Our post-test showed that in our target group, 70% spontaneously attributed the salmon campaign to De Morgen. The overall campaign reached a likeability score of 7.2, which is remarkably high for a selective newspaper with an upscale target group. 

So long live the salmon! Not for its Omega-3, but for its open-mindedness. 

About Ward Cannaerts

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