Wall Street Journal brand is losing focus

I picked up the following announcement off the B2B news alert this morning:

“Wall Street Journal’ glossy magazine renamed ‘WSJ.’
“Story posted: February 20, 2008 – 12:10 pm EDT

“New York—The name of The Wall Street Journal’s glossy magazine, slated to debut Sept. 6, has been changed from Pursuits to WSJ. WSJ., which will focus on luxury markets, will be delivered to 800,000 subscribers of the Journal as an insert in the newspaper’s “Weekend Edition.” A spokesman for Dow Jones & Co., which publishes the Journal, said the name WSJ. resonated with both readers and advertisers.”

Now producing and distributing an insert focusing on “luxury markets” may be a smart move on the part of Dow-Jones. But calling it WSJ. ? (Note the “distinguishing “.” That’s part of the name. Does that save the three initials without the “.” for the newspaper? I don’t think so.)

Their rationale: WSJ. “resonated with both readers and advertisers”. 

Of course it does! Anyone having performed any name preference studies knows people tend to prefer the familiar. That’s why most coined-word names perform poorly in research. So they’re going to dilute the Wall Street Journal brand with a “luxury market” insert with a name that means Wall Street Journal to most readers.  It may be aimed at the right market, but not the right mind-set.

This follows an announcement last month stating that the Journal was going to introduce a sports section to the paper. More unfocus. More grabbing ad revenues at the expense of the brand’s solid reputation as a business barometer and financial advisor.

If this is the direction the Journal is taking because of the Rupert Murdoch influence, then I’ll bet there are editors and reporters anguishing over the fate of the Wall Street Journal as I write this. And though I’ve never been a staff member, I can relate.

I mourn the death of another brand built to mean something significant to its stakeholders, but diluted and rendered impotent by attempting to become everything to everyone with the mistaken idea that growth by any and all means is vital. Greed reigns.

Martin Jelsema

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