The Economist's Marketing Strategy


“Great marketing is eliminating friction so that your customers just come along with you,” said Susan Clark, managing director of The Economist Group for Continental Europe, Middle East and Africa and group marketing director, who addressed the Darden School of Business yesterday as part of the Leadership Speaker Series. “It’s about making it easy for people to do business with you."

Since joining the group, Clark has improved The Economist’s renewal system, has “teased out the essence” of the publication (which calls itself a “newspaper” instead of a magazine because it publishes to newspaper deadlines), and has promoted a “relaxed approach” by encouraging the employees and writers to “own” the brand - and to have fun with it and its red and white logo.

“Yet, a global brand is not about the logo,” she said. And to prove it, she demonstrated how many times Hilton and Coca-Cola have changed their logos over the years.

Clark brings extensive marketing experience to The Economist Group. Previously, she served as senior vice president of marketing and sales at Le Méridien Hotel & Resorts, was a founding partner of the marketing and strategy consultancy The Phineus Company, and worked at American Express for 15 years.

Now immersed in the world of media and publishing, Clark finds herself in a struggling industry in which publications are disappearing at an accelerating rate. Yet, The Economist’s circulation is up 6.5 percent.

“Newspapers have been clobbered by bad business models,” she said. “But we’re about analysis, not just breaking news. We can’t be as easily substituted by online content.”

With one editorial edition in English and 1.4 million readers around the world, The Economist has taken a different path than its competitors by avoiding discounting or cutting its rates.

“The core is positioning, even more so for a global brand,” said Clark. She explained that The Economist aims to provide value to its community of readers, who are curious and want to engage in a global conversation about the world. The publication’s mission is “with objectivity, clarity and wit to present a well-considered analysis of the world’s business, political, scientific, technological and cultural affairs and the connections between them.”

Once you have defined a brand’s essence, she said, achieving a global brand in a local world means providing a consistent experience, understanding customer’s needs and how they vary from market to market, and striking the right balance by aligning the company to reach the audience.

“Marketing is like skiing. You want to find the fall line,” said Clark. “A brand signals all of a customer’s experiences with a product or service.”

And that experience is changing by the day. The Economist’s readers now find one another through Facebook groups. The newspaper and will soon merge into one brand, and a new audio version makes it possible to download the publication onto an MP3 player.

One of The Economist’s most recent advertisements sums it up, said Clark: “The world is crazy. But at least it’s getting regular analysis.”

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