How will Murdoch Affect the WSJ Brand?

Today’s news: Rupert Murdoch is about to acquire Dow-Jones and the Wall Street Journal. He claims there won’t be any change in the editorial approach or content for the WSJ.

OK, I take him at his word.

But in the minds of readers and observers, will the Journal lose credibility just because of the association with Murdoch and his New York Post approach to sensational “journalism”? How can two such disparate publications reside in the same house?

This is why mergers and acquisitions raise such havoc with the brands of the combined organizations, particularly when there’s a leader with a branded personality all his own.

The portfolio components get blurred and superseded by the leader’s brand.

The individual brands have a problem maintaining their brand identity no matter how strong that brand was when standing on its own. They tend to become associated with each other and with the parent.

We’ve all observed respected brands diluted, absorbed and/or deleted from a company’s portfolio after they have been acquired by a company that’s not invested in the brand’s uniqueness. Look to Nabisco and Kraft for instance.

I have no answers that will allow strong brands to reside side-by-side within a combined organization coming from different cultures, serving different markets and advocating different values. If it’s possible, I’d keep the component organizations as far apart as possible in every aspect of their activities. I’d not emphasize any connections. I’d attempt to disassociate my name (i.e. Murdoch’s) from the Journal. I’d bend over backwards to maintain the independent editorial practices of the Journal.

The Murdoch empire – splashy tabloids, Fox News and the Simpsons – just doesn’t align with the Wall Street Journal. Only time – and profitability – will tell if the WSJ brand can maintain its clear and respected identity in the house of Murdoch.  

Let’s hope Murdoch has the insight, expertise and patience to make this seeming mismatch work so the Journal does not diminish in credibility or in brand identification.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

One thought on “How will Murdoch Affect the WSJ Brand?

  1. I think – I hope! – that his arrangement can work. But it will only if they “firewall” the WSJ off from all the other Murdoch properties. Otherwise, the differentiators that have made the WSJ so respected, and created such loyalty, will quickly leak away.

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