Monday, February 7, 2005

Reuters Chairman Niall Fitzgerald Zeroes in on Branding

The Independent scoops the first interview with Niall Fitzgerald since his taking on the chairmanship of Reuters Group PLC. Fitzgerald, who formerly headed Unilever, a global consumer products company thousands of brands, now finds himself with one highly revered brand and a group of products that seems to have a hard time filling that brand's globally recognized potential at times. Last week according to the Independent Fitzgerald told young Reuters executives that their job and their opportunity "is to make the company as big as the brand". This is certainly a needed exercise, but one has to wonder whether the world of CPG is the best model for a content industry in which branding has become much more ad-hoc and personal, defying the packaging of a factory-driven production model. Understanding one's audiences, how a brand resonates with them and what provides value to them is a key exercise that may point to a manner of brand management that's building upon Reuters' reputation as an "anti-brand", a content brand that gains its value through transparency and openness. Before marketeers run off in dismay, it's worth noting that the transparency of a brand such as Google has been at the core of its content value. Fitzgerald has great opportunities ahead, but it's going to be a different set of opportunities than those that presented themselves at Unilever.
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