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A CMO’s View: How IDG rebranded 100+ media properties
As IDG's first CMO, Josh London led the rebranding efforts for the company's multiple websites, annual events and publications.
Last year, Josh London was named IDG’s first CMO. His inaugural task: overseeing a companywide rebrand that would impact IDG’s complete portfolio of websites, publications and events.
London says he has spent the last year establishing a team, performing comprehensive research and building a foundation to support IDG’s first companywide branding campaign.
“IDG has historically marketed itself through its powerful global brands, including CIO, Computerworld, Macworld and PCWorld,” says London, “That meant that our customers and audiences often only knew us in one context. We’re moving to a master brand strategy, so our new brand architecture will reflect that across all of our properties.”
According to London, the move was motivated by two specific goals: to better communicate IDG’s offerings and to build greater awareness of its full collection of individual brands.
“We know that the new brand voice enables us to better articulate the scope of the company’s media, data and marketing services capabilities and the insights, intent and engagement that IDG has always been known for. We also know that when clients become aware of all that IDG offers, they engage in more comprehensive and far-reaching programs.”
As IDG rolls out its companywide rebrand, London shares the challenges his team faced, and the lessons learned while undertaking such a massive project.
Amy Gesenhues: To start, tell me more about your role as IDG’s CMO and the brands you manage.
Josh London: I joined IDG a year ago as the company’s first CMO. My focus is to lead a global, companywide amplification of the IDG brand, enhancing the company’s reputation as a global tech media, data and marketing services company.
Our team oversees global marketing and the company’s go-to-market strategy to enhance the customer experience at all touch points. Under the IDG brand are hundreds of websites, 700+ events per year and 179 international publications in 97 countries.
Amy Gesenhues: As a CMO charged with leading the rebrand of such a long-standing, reputable brand, what do you think is important to keep, and how do you decide what can be left behind in terms of branding efforts?
Josh London: We started with research to help us understand what was working and what our challenges were.
It was important to us to make sure that our culture and our unique ability to bridge both the art and science of technology media came through in our new positioning. When we say art and science, we are referring to our intimate knowledge of technology media that allows us to create engaging custom content to influence buyer behavior combined with our data-driven approach to reaching the best buyers at the optimal time.
Our new campaign includes the best of what we’ve done in the past, including reinforcing the depth of our relationships with hundreds of millions of tech buyers in nearly 100 countries across IDG’s hundreds of websites, international magazines and events.
Amy Gesenhues: How did the rebrand work internally? What other IDG divisions, beyond marketing, were brought into the process?
Josh London: IDG’s strength comes from our people and our ability to bridge the art and science of technology media, so it was important that we heard from colleagues around the world, from our CEO, Mike Friedenberg, to business leaders and employees at all levels. We heard their insight into what’s worked and what hasn’t for IDG in market.
Marketers have the choice to do business with any company, not just a competitive set that we define. It is critical that we are laser focused on meeting our clients’ needs, wherever they’re based. That’s what will ultimately drive the success of our branding effort.
And because we have operations in 97 countries, it was important to understand multiple perspectives and cultures to make sure that we’re able to address the market as one.
Amy Gesenhues: Can you share the types of research and analytics that went into the rebranding effort? What did you learn about your audiences that you didn’t know before IDG’s rebrand?
Josh London: We spent time getting underneath the hood of the business to understand what we were doing well and what our challenges were. We talked to people inside and outside of the business and conducted research to understand how IDG and our offerings are viewed by our customers and prospects (and former clients).
One message I heard consistently from our clients during our research phase was that IDG is a true partner — one that cares deeply about our clients’ long-term success. We’ve built meaningful relationships with our customers because of the trust and integrity IDG is known for.
We also heard that many had an outdated picture of how innovative IDG truly is. They sometimes thought of us as an earlier version of ourselves, one which seemed like other technology media companies.
In technology media, it can be tough to differentiate one competitor from another. It was important to us to make sure that our culture and this unique ability to bridge both the art and science of technology media came through in our new positioning.
Amy Gesenhues: What have been the major challenges around the rebrand?
Josh London: Historically, IDG was known for marketing through its global brands. Our customers and audiences had strong affinity to our properties but didn’t always know that CIO or PCWorld, for example, were a part of IDG.
Our goal of the new brand initiative is to drive a tighter focus on helping our clients understand how we’re uniquely positioned, across all of our capabilities, to help them reach the right buyer at the right time in the right context to drive increased revenue and deliver more relevant products and services to their end users.
Critical to our success will be ensuring that we put in place processes to enable cohesiveness across the company so we’re all “singing from the same song sheet.”
Paraphrasing what Jonathan Martin, CMO of Pure Storage, recently said at the IDG Marketing Summit, you can take two approaches to promote brand consistency: become the brand police or inspire your organization. We are clearly in the second camp.
We think that IDG employees around the world will be excited by our new efforts and the clarity that it projects to our audiences and our clients.
Amy Gesenhues: What marketing campaigns are you planning around the brand?
Josh London: Digital is a critical part of our strategy, so watch that space. We’ll also promote IDG through social, events, outdoor and, of course, the press.
Amy Gesenhues: How do you plan to measure the success of the rebrand?
Josh London: We’ll measure success through a variety of metrics, including customer awareness of our new positioning, traffic to our external website, leads, earned media, contribution to the sales funnel and social media sentiment.
Amy Gesenhues: How does IDG’s rebrand align with its overall direction as a “modern media” company?
Josh London: The evolution of the media industry and the way marketers connect with their customers has fundamentally changed. So it was important for us to communicate how we’ve evolved our business over time in response to how marketers need to communicate with their audiences.
Our new tagline speaks about technology media that drives “Insights, Intent and Engagement,” referring to the three areas of our business — media, data and marketing services.
We believe that IDG is the new model of a media company: one that combines premium properties and audiences with innovative global platforms. We leverage our intimate knowledge of technology media and our exclusive first-party data to bridge art and science, design and technology to create magic for our clients.
Now we’ll more prominently showcase our global reach and breadth of offerings to continue to build meaningful relationships under the IDG brand.