Fake news or brand building opportunity?
The New York Times has come under fire from the current POTUS, who has issued claims of “fake news” in conjunction with one of the world’s most respected institutions of journalism. How has NYT taken it? Not lying down. Rather, they are seizing upon these cries as an opportunity for brand building.
The paper’s current social media ad campaign contains plenty to get jaws wagging. First, there is the bold headline: “Just facts. No alternatives.” This directly takes on the “alternative facts” terminology that has arisen within the Trump administration. Then the post text provides the brand rally cry : “The truth is vital. Our journalists won’t rest until they find it.” This is not just a strong statement about idealism. It is a vow that will be embraced by some and seen as defiant by some.
Leveraging social media as a platform for this messaging is a smart move. Social media has been blamed for the sharing of fake news before, during, and since the presidential election. It has become a forum for espousing one’s views and bashing those of of another. It as caused arguments, hard feelings, and defriending – even of family members. By using social media advertising to proclaim that the NYT provides genuine journalism in a sea of questionable media, the paper is making a big statement. And it won’t be beloved by all.
The current political climate of divisiveness has provided an opportunity for organizations to align with one side or the other in order to strengthen brand their affinity via polarization – if they dare. Of course, that means risking boycotts, social media crucifixion and lost sales from the other side.
Picking sides can be risky brand business. For the Times, however, there is little downside. This bastion of the First Amendment has been placed in the hot seat by the President of the United States, whose claims of “fake news” have questioned its very reason for existence. Through the actions of others, it has become a symbol of a large portion of the population – one who is already at odds with Trump and his supporters.
This ad campaign can only strengthen its stance in the view of those who already support the NYT ideologically – and may encourage many who are not current subscribers to put their money where their hearts are. The newspaper industry has been on the decline for years. Ironically, President Trump may have provided this particular newspaper with a much-needed opportunity for the brand to reverse that trend.
UPDATE: Since writing this post earlier today, I have learned that The New York Times will be running its first ever commercial tonight during the Academy Awards. The spot itself is already causing controversy, as different media have been sharing it to illustrate the country’s divisiveness – which is specifically mentioned in the ad. The president himself has tweeted about it. And the link on the NYT YouTube already has just shy of 3 million views. Not surprisingly, there is quite a split between the video’s likes and dislikes. This is quite a phenomenon we are living through.