Monday, July 25, 2011

Smart is the new sexy, but is this smart?

The newspaper industry decided to take their 'career' into their own hands.

Instead of allowing everyone else to tell them who they are they took control and are telling us via a new slogan.

For decades, I worked for a newspaper and never liked any of their marketing slogans. The first one I endured, was, "Hey, Clark County, we've got you covered!" The mainstay of the campaign was billboards touting winners of local bowling 'tourneys' announcing you could read their achievements in the paper.

First of all, no one I knew called a bowling tournament a tourney. And who wants their community portrayed as a bunch of bowlers? Lastly, any slogan that starts out with 'hey' needs to be retired to the pasture.
Lastly, any slogan that starts out with 'hey' needs to be retired to the pasture.

A more recent and more memorable slogan was, "It's your paper." For me, that conjured up images of the board of directors pointing fingers at the readers and trying to convince them they were the owners. If it's yours (or did you mean mine?) then couldn't I (the reader) tell you what to print? Not really. So, in reality, it felt like the paper was driven by the directors.

Yours, ours, mine. The pronouns are all fairly confusing in a slogan. But the fact remains, newspapers have never been confused about their role in the community as a source of information. They continue this mission into the present day, which has delivered not a competitive landscape but a devastating landslide of losses. External forces pummel the industry -- competition for potential readers' time, complete decimation of the classifieds, disruptions in acceptable modes of delivery, rivals or even non-rivals siphoning talent away from every department.

Amid the challenges and chaos, newspapers have organized around a central rallying point, agreeing they need to protect their content, monetize it, build a presence in the mobile marketplace, and communicate their value to the potential audience. That communication comes in a the form of a new marketing campaign.

Talk to anyone in the sales or survival departments, and they'll flood you with stats. The local newspaper reports 1.7 million pageviews. That is awesome.


There isn't ONE advertiser who receives 1.7 million pageviews. That's right. Newspapers have exerted a lot of effort over the years to tout how much better their stats are over any other media, and now they have an astounding online audience. But it's their audience. When it comes time to buy advertising, the pageviews are portioned off into smaller dollops that may or may not reach the advertiser's preferred target.

This campaign is less about numbers and more about perception. The newspaper is throwing the numbers to the sidelines and getting cozy with a new slogan that tells us  staying informed is smart and smart is sexy.

I'm having a hard time imagining that tactic will grow their audience.

Let me rephrase it and illustrate why I think that.  "Read my blog--stay informed--you'll look smart--everyone will think you're sexy." What do you think? Will it grow my audience? Maybe as much as dying my hair green like the illustration above.

Good or bad, what is most irksome about the slogan is that the concept is neither unique or original.

It's not original to groups. There is a Facebook 'Smart is the New Sexy' page with 100 plus members. I actually think it is incredible there are 100 people who want to promote themselves that way. How do they prove it?

It's not original to websites. 'Smart is the new sexy' is the subtitle of Max Kaizen's website.

February 2010, it was used in a YouTube video.

September 2009, devilishly handsome, attorney Adel Tamano was said to have coined the phrase.

As cute as he is, Tamano can't own the phrase. It was already out there in an April  2009 YouTube video.

And even farther back to August 2007, where the phrase was used in a blog post, Smart is the new Sexy! (The evolution of behavior and the brain).

If you truly love the phrase it can also be purchased on a zazzle t-shirt.

Bottom line, the critic has the advantage every time. We can punch holes in the concept, but can we come up with a better slogan? What do you think -- how would you save and sell the concept of newspapers?

Editor & Publisher ® | The Smart and Sexy Story of Newspapers
Redoing Media | Smart, sexy, stupid…or shameless? You decide

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have nothing against bowlers. My daughter participated on her high-school bowling team, and I like her a lot.