Future thinking: What should I use news brands for?

News brands have had a bad rap over the last decade. Newspapers have been written off as old, declining media, out of touch with modern audiences. Despite the huge growth in digital audiences for news brands, they still haven’t been perceived as shiny or new enough. The lure of social media and new types of influencers has been too strong. Surveys show that both marketers and agencies view news brands as low in the pecking order for both brand building and sales effectiveness.

But the tide may be beginning to turn. There’s increasing evidence that overall ad effectiveness is in decline1. Short-termism is damaging longer-term profitability. Too many brands are spending too much targeting people who are already in the market, on the point of buying anyway, and failing to invest in building brand preference among people who might be entering the market further down the line.  

Meanwhile, the canny advertiser will know that news brands have actually been growing audiences and improving their effectiveness at driving both long-term and short-term business results.And it’s not just us that says so.3

While news brands have been out of fashion, understanding of how they work in a multi-media environment has also declined. Many are unsure of news brands’ role in the media mix or what they should expect a news brand ad to achieve. This is especially true for print. If TV does awareness and appeal and online delivers immediate response, what is the job for news brands?

Newsworks partnered with Future Thinking to measure exactly which brand KPIs are most affected by news brands across 14 multi-media campaigns. We wanted to know how both print and digital platforms improve brand health measures, above and beyond the other media used. We wanted to know which media combinations worked best on each measure and how many media platforms were needed to make a difference. We used Future Thinking’s Behaviour Change Model to help predict how including news brands in advertising campaigns will affect people’s behaviour along the purchase journey.

With all this data from real-life campaigns, we could see the average contribution to key brand measures of TV, print news brands, radio and online display (including digital news brands at 14% of total online spend)4.

What we discovered

News brand readers are attentive to advertising and are more likely to take out key campaign messages.

  • Average campaign awareness for the test campaigns was 46%, and this rose to 54% among news brand readers.
  • Key message take-out for the first communication point was 91% for news brand readers, compared to 84% for the total sample.
  • Though TV was pre-eminent in driving awareness, print news brands were second and digital news brands out-performed outdoor, magazines, social and other digital.

But how do news brands affect KPIs? For each of the measures in Future Thinking’s campaign tracking, we examined the differences in brand scores between people who had seen the campaign, but not the news brand elements and people who had seen the news brand elements of the campaignWhat was newsbrand advertising delivering that other campaign media were not?

What do news brands do well?

News brands help to create a brand story by increasing brand knowledge:

  • Knowledge was 18% points higher due to news brand exposure

News brands help to drive sales by increasing purchase intent:

  • Purchase intent was 23% points higher due to news brand exposure

News brands sustain customer loyalty and influence other purchasing by prompting word of mouth and brand advocacy:

  • Word of mouth increased by 29% points and advocacy by 23% points due to news brand exposure

News brands are particularly effective among non-customers. For purchase intent, there was a 27%-point difference – just 30% of non-users who saw other media elements of the campaigns would consider future purchase, but this rose to 57% of non-users who saw the news brand advertising.

News brands are also more successful at closing the competitive gap than other media. KPI scores were gathered for key competitors as well as the test brands. For purchase intent, recognition of non-newsbrand campaign elements did not affect the competitive gap – the test brands on average remained at the same 10%-point disadvantage that we saw among people who didn’t recall any of the campaign. But news brands closed this gap to 4% points, even though this group were also more favourable overall to competitor brands.

All KPIs increase as the number of different media used in the campaign increases. Purchase intent almost doubles when six media are recognised (91%), compared with two (55%). However, if budgets are too limited for six media, a particularly strong uplift in purchase intent occurs when print news brands are one of three media used. For campaigns that seek to increase brand knowledge, print news brands plus just one other medium will create a stronger uplift than other two-media combinations (from TV, OOH, Radio, Online and Social).

Why do news brands have such a strong impact on purchase intent?

Many factors affect why a brand is part of a mental shortlist for purchase. While brands need to be “good enough” rather than perfect, there are certain more emotionally-based criteria that help create preference – and in turn make people feel more confident about their choices.

Detailed advertising responses from the Future Thinking tracking show that news brands create uplifts in the kind of image attributes that build brand preference over the longer-term: brand reputation (+17% points), trust (+21), personal relevance (+23) positive buzz (+25) and being part of everyday life (+31). This very much ties in with Newsworks’ Truly, Madly Deeply research which showed that the trust and identification people feel with their news brands rubs off on the brands advertised within them.

Creative diagnostics also show a strong performance for news brands across more direct persuasion metrics – makes me want to find out more, makes me want to buy, for people like me and enjoyment.

How do news brands change behaviour?

The consolidated findings from 14 in-market multi-media campaigns showed that news brands affect behaviour change at two key points in the buying journey:

  1. Driving purchase consideration at the Preparation stage (when people don’t currently buy but are planning to do so)
  2. Creating loyalty at the Maintenance stage (when people currently buy and intend to continue doing so)

This mirrors the effectiveness research that shows news brands drive business effects over both the short and long-term. By increasing penetration and promoting loyalty, news brands increase both immediate sales and sustained profitability.

Notes and sources

  1. Peter Field and Les Binet analysis of IPA Databank
  2. IPA Databank Study 2019, Peter Field
  3. Profit Ability: the business case for advertising, Thinkbox/Ebiquity/Gain Theory; Re-evaluating Media, Radiocentre/Ebiquity
  4. Although test campaigns also included OOH, magazines, social media, there were too few examples to include in the model