Lost in translation
Traditionally the Economist had employed a typographically led approach which, Cripps said, “made people think we were a little bit inaccessible, a bit aloof and not very human.” The brand’s personality was getting lost in translation, its witty headlines not coming through in the external communications.
What the new strategy aims to do however is place the Economist’s content in front of as many people as possible, whether they’re the brand’s core audience of businesspeople, or a newer audience perhaps just trying it out for the first time. For Cripps, he wants to “get people into the habit of consuming [content].” As he believes, “What’s the point in making something if people don’t want it, if people don’t want to use it?”
Cripps started out his career in 1984, desperately trying to get into the advertising industry after watching his father’s career progress in direct marketing. He acknowledges that he was a “precocious teenager” who assumed he’d walk straight into a job. What he didn’t bank on however, was the number of rejections he’d receive in the process. It was only during a recent clear out of his attic that Cripps relived his early disappointments, feeling a mixture of emotions as he did it.
130 rejection letters later and a 30-year career under his belt, Cripps is adamant that for people entering the advertising industry, his advice is “you’ve got to persevere and be passionate about it.” It feels fitting that Cripps has now found himself at the helm of a brand rooted in a desire to inspire people’s curiosity because, he believes, the secret to success is to “make sure you have an opinion [and] care, for god sake care.”
In a world that is ever shifting, the Economist is matching the pace of change. It is a brand that could have easily rested on its laurels rather than pressed outside of its comfort zone to connect with new audiences through new platforms. Yet the brand that so brilliantly predicts our future through its ‘The World In’ series, also acknowledges that this is, to a certain degree an impossible task. “We’re not always right and we admit it,” says Cripps, a refreshing admission from the top marketer at a media company and one that many others could do well to learn from. Humility and humanity remain often the most important, yet under-utilised traits in marketing.