Dissecting FT Weekend’s New Branding

Two months ago The Financial Times refreshed FT Weekend. This was introduced through an integrated marketing campaign “aimed at a growing readership who favour the immersive experience of print on the weekend while remaining highly engaged with digital journalism during the week.” That is an insightful and challenging objective.

What piqued my interest was the print component. The campaign’s tagline grabbed me (isn’t it great when that happens?). The three lines are compelling. “World-class writing” is sharp and smart. I can see how they arrived at it and am grateful they did. The cornerstone of journalism is a free press. That means possessing honesty and objectivity and marrying them with insight. Those are lofty ideals to sell a paper. Perhaps too lofty and I expect FT and their advertising agency thought so too.

Instead they now focus on global reach and fresh perspective along with how they write and communicate. The three words in the tagline are absolutely power-packed. The line represents the core skill-set of journalism and what must be the overriding differentiator of any publication online, off or both. That is quality of writing. As far as I know no other publication is landing on that notion or boldly claiming it even though it is fundamental.

FT Weekend covers culture, arts, travel, style, comment, food & drink, and property. If FT Weekend is a brand then those areas are the products and brand architecture. You never rebrand without substance and The Financial Times understood this so when it launched, it did so with tangible changes:

  • a redesigned front page highlighting the variety of journalism
  • a redesigned magazine “that probes the private passions of public figures”
  • favourite food and shops around the world
  • columns by leading writers
  • content focus on technology
  • and a complementary video component

Lots going on in this print ad.

The marketing spans “print, digital, and social media, at events, retail, and out of home.” The subtle brilliance is using print to promote print. I still love the tactile feel of paper. Living in Canada I look forward to the weekend edition of The Globe and Mail. When I worked on Madison Avenue I lost half the weekend reading the Sunday The New York Times. The has shrunk but when it was huge it was like carrying a briefcase.

The Financial Times and its marketing agency, Founded, have tapped into a similar smart vein employed by The Economist for years. A sensibility that is pithy, intelligent, succinct, topical, clever and entertaining. The Economist’s communications have long implored its audience to become more informed and ‘worldly’ so they make better decisions and be good global citizens.

FT Weekend wants its readers to be entertained, educated, pleasantly surprised, and to leave behind the stress of the workweek. This is where there may be a hiccup in the strategy.

The lifestyle content in FT Weekend is incredibly aspirational. To “live” a small component of it takes healthy account balances at Lloyds, HSBC, Barclays or Bank of America or BNP Paribas or Deutsche Bank.

Perhaps that is the point. To afford ‘the good things’ brought to life in FT Weekend readers have to read The Financial Times Monday to Friday to be more successful and wealthier. In essence, FT Weekend is the goal and The Financial Times is the means. Smart marketing indeed.

1 reply
  1. Maria McHugh
    Maria McHugh says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to review our campaign for the FT Weekend. It was really a privilege to be given this opportunity by the Editor Alec Russell and his team. The challenge here is to build awareness and trial for the FT Weekend among a broader audience than its current readership. We spoke to a cross section of its current readers and found that it appeals to those people who have a compelling need and desire to feel plugged into what is happening in culture, the arts and the world at large. They enjoy the pause that the FT Weekend represents, after a busy week at work. It’s arrival on a Saturday morning signifies two days of a deliciously immersive and stimulating read – as they described it, the FT Weekend is about “relaxing without switching off.” We chose a visually telegraphic idea to convey this – perhaps counterintuitively for a publication that is synonymous with superlative writing – but we wanted to give an intelligent target audience something to de-code that reflects the contemporary, classy and cool values of the brand. Two days of stimulating relaxation are metaphorically portrayed, through the various sections of the paper. We hope that the advertising is worthy of the brand it represents. Maria McHugh, Planning Partner, Founded London


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