Wall Street Journal campaigns capture changing reader demographic

By Paul Plumeri

The Wall Street Journal

New York


It is no secret the news industry has had to withstand a constant wave of disruption over the last few years. From the quickly shifting consumption habits of customers and the rise of tech giants and their interloping platforms to the mass destabilisation occurring in the world itself, news brands have had to learn to adapt quickly to change or face a slow extinction.

Guiding a 129-year-old brand toward continued growth and relevance is no easy feat. You need to proactively adapt to change while respecting legacy. You also need to choose between a reactive approach to the current cultural milieu, or instead opt for something more timeless.

This has been a key strategic difference between us and our competitors. For us, it was about finding something hardwired not just in our DNA, but our readers’ as well.

An ambitious undertaking

Five years ago, the task for WSJ was clear: Rejuvenate and reposition the brand to elevate perception, regain relevance, and, most importantly, drive reconsideration of the Journal’s value proposition to both the core audience and a younger, more diverse audience in a highly competitive and commoditised market. In other words, we needed a resonant brand platform with the power to connect and engage with a new generation of readers.

So we conducted a global attitudinal segmentation audit of business professionals and unearthed a compelling fact: WSJ readers are not just readers; they are leaders who over-index on a relentless, uncompromising desire to succeed. They are an ambitious, driven group, regardless of their demographics. And they gravitate toward brands that embrace and empower their drive.

“Brand promise” has many definitions in various business texts, but my favourite has always been that it is “a promise your brand makes in the mind of the consumer.” This is important because it shifts the focus from intention to perception and from the concept to the customer.

With that in mind, to build out the “read ambitiously” vision, we had to showcase how the Journal provides the tools that drive our members to success. People read the Journal to get ahead; it is their competitive advantage. Our “Make Time” campaign illustrated this exact notion.

The campaign was based on the premise that the world’s busiest and most successful people don’t have time to read The Wall Street Journal. They make time to read The Wall Street Journal. It featured a diverse range of famous readers and business leaders — from fashion designer Tory Burch and entrepreneur will.i.am to supermodel Karlie Kloss — showing that, despite being extremely busy, they believe WSJ is worth making time for.

Good things come to those who don’t wait

Building off the success of “Make Time,” we dug deeper into some cultural trends and realised the overriding uncertainty and chaos keyed off by Brexit was creating a culture of stagnation. Yet, members of Generation Z and Millennials also had a huge desire to make things happen.

In October 2017, we launched “Good Things Come To Those Who Don’t Wait,” an ad campaign tasked with “fueling the courage that compels the ambitious to act,” empowering the rising entrepreneurial generation who want to be their own bosses. These are the kinds of readers who fit our “read ambitiously” mold.

The mainstay of the “Good Things” campaign was a brand film entitled “The Runner.” In it, we challenged ourselves to break from every convention we thought was keeping the Journal from being accessible to a broader audience. We chose bright colours, an upbeat song, a fast pace, and a female protagonist of mixed race who spoke to our shifting reader demographic.

As we turn our gaze to the future, we plan to practice what we preach by delivering the most ambitious campaigns possible. Our use of data, machine learning, and social media will take center stage while we continue to dedicate ourselves to smart, creative work that transcends marketing channels. The times are changing, and we are changing with them.

About Paul Plumeri

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