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National Geographic Brand Strategy Analysis
National Geographic
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Category:
Media & entertainment – TV channels, magazines; Non-profit organisations; Kids productspublishing & media; Education & art – educational resources; Travel & transportationtour operators; Retaile-retail

Owner of the brand:
National Geographic Partners LLC (a joint venture between 21st Century Fox – 73% and the National Geographic Society – 27%)

Key competitors:
Discovery, Animal Planet, History Channel, BBC Earth

Brand essence

Furthering the knowledge and understanding of the world.

Brand values

Science, exploration, adventure, sustainability.

Brand character

Expert, adventurous, inspirational, passionate, premium, credible.

Dominating archetype
EVIDENCE
Comments
1

National Geographic’s brand purpose has not changed since the launch of the brand in 1888 and is still defined as “furthering the knowledge and understanding of our world”[1]. The National Geographic brand continues to stand for science, exploration and adventure and prides itself on being “the world’s leading multimedia destination for the best stories”[2] in these three areas. Gary Knell, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society (which still owns the National Geographic trademark[3]) summarized the brand positioning in the following way: “We believe in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to inspire, to illuminate, to teach and to change the world[4].

2

For 127 years, all National Geographic products and services (magazines, educational resources, travel business, consumer products, etc.) were owned and managed by the National Geographic Society, a non-profit organization that reinvested all proceeds in its statutory goals (science, education, exploration and others). The only exception was the National Geographic Channel and its sub-brands, which were operated by 21st Century Fox. In 2015, the National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox created a for-profit joint venture company called National Geographic Partners, with Fox owning 73% of it and the National Geographic Society, still classified as a not-for-profit, owning 27%. The main two objectives of this agreement were to rescue the declining National Geographic publishing business and provide financing for the Society so that it could, among other things, build two new education centres[5].

3

As a result of ownership changes, National Geographic’s brand architecture was unified and visible efforts were made to strengthen the umbrella brand (e.g., there is now only one logo for all National Geographic assets and platforms). Declan Moore, CEO at National Geographic Partners said: “We feel we’ll be able to build an extremely attractive National Geographic experience that combines television, video, news, photojournalism, long-form storytelling, short-form storytelling under one brand umbrella[6].

4

Interestingly, both Fox and the National Geographic Society believed that TV business was not helping the overall brand in any way than financially. In a sentiment similar to what Discovery executives felt about Discovery TV stations, National Geographic management came to the realization that their channels had become too sensational and too focused on short-term TV ratings, and that with this approach, they would simply become irrelevant and “disposable”[7]. Courteney Monroe, CEO of National Geographic Global Networks told Variety: “The content strategy that we were pursuing was discordant with the National Geographic brand. We were very focused on chasing the audiences of Discovery and History and other factual-entertainment channels in a volume game — a  lot of lower-cost, male-skewing reality shows, [which led to] lots of survival shows, lots of shows in Alaska[8].

5

In line with the sentiment expressed by National Geographic’s management, the channel went through changes designed to elevate its image and to align its content strategy with the overall brand strategy. The company started investing in content of a higher quality and with a longer shelf life (which was thus more expensive) and stopped prioritizing volume over quality. For example, previously, National Geographic would pay about $300 million a year for 600 hours of content; now the plan is to spend $400 million for 150 hours[9]. It invested in the scripted drama genre (e.g., “Genius”, a series about the life of Albert Einstein) and more titles that are “on brand” (e.g., “Mars” or “One Strange Rock”). The channel was renamed from the National Geographic Channel to just National Geographic, new idents were commissioned and a new tagline, “Further”, was introduced to emphasize the brand’s in-depth approach. Courteney Monroe explained to Adweek: “‘Further’ is a rallying cry, an ever-shifting marketing of progress (…) It knows no bounds [and conveys that] we embody a relentless pursuit to go deeper.[10]

6

National Geographic is mainly an Explorer brand promoting travel, adventure and exploration of the world. At the same time, because it focuses on science and educating people about the planet, it is also a Sage brand.

Tagline
Most important campaigns

1. “Genius” (Super Bowl 2017 Commercial)

2. “The Long Road Home: (2017)

3. “Anthem” (2013)

4. “Live Curious” (2009)

Official brand statement:

National Geographic gets you closer to the stories that matter. Through the world’s best scientists, photographers, journalists, and filmmakers, National Geographic captivates and entertains a global community through television channels, magazines, children’s media, travel expeditions, books, maps, consumer products, location-based entertainment and experiences, and some of the most engaging digital and social media platforms in the world. A joint venture with 21st Century Fox, National Geographic reinvests 27% of proceeds to help fund the conservation and education efforts of the National Geographic Society.[11]

Interesting facts:

National Geographic actively promotes education with regard to global warming and supports actions against it.[12] However, Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox (now co-owner of National Geographic) is a self-proclaimed climate change sceptic.[13]

One of the National Geographic TV sub-brands available in Italy, Portugal and Latin America is Nat Geo Music, which plays world music and programmes about diverse cultures.[14]

Must-reads

1. Variety on the changes in the National Geographic Channel’s strategy
D. Holloway, “With ‘Genius,’ National Geographic Channel Makes Big Play For Cable Primacy”, Variety, Apr 2017,
http://variety.com/2017/tv/features/genius-national-geographic-channel-cable-primacy-1202394217/

2. Adweek on the National Geographic’s rebrand
J. Lynch, “In Global Rebrand, National Geographic Drops ‘Channel’ From Its Network Name”, Adweek, Oct 2016,
http://www.adweek.com/tv-video/global-rebrand-national-geographic-drops-channel-its-network-name-174265/

3. National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox partnership explained
L. Parker, “National Geographic And 21st Century Fox Expand Media Partnership”, National Geographic, Sep 2015,
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150909-21st-century-fox-media-partnership/

Sources:
References:
  1. National Geographic Grows Travel Business”, National Geographic, Apr 2017, http://press.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/27/national-geographic-grows-travel-business/
  2. https://www.facebook.com/pg/natgeo/about
  3. D. Holloway, “With ‘Genius,’ National Geographic Channel Makes Big Play For Cable Primacy”, Variety, Apr 2017, http://variety.com/2017/tv/features/genius-national-geographic-channel-cable-primacy-1202394217/
  4. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/about/
  5. L. Parker, “National Geographic And 21st Century Fox Expand Media Partnership”, National Geographic, Sep 2015, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150909-21st-century-fox-media-partnership/
  6. L. Parker, “National Geographic And 21st Century Fox Expand Media Partnership”, National Geographic, Sep 2015, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150909-21st-century-fox-media-partnership/
  7. D. Holloway, “With ‘Genius,’ National Geographic Channel Makes Big Play For Cable Primacy”, Variety, Apr 2017, http://variety.com/2017/tv/features/genius-national-geographic-channel-cable-primacy-1202394217/
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. J. Lynch, “In Global Rebrand, National Geographic Drops ‘Channel’ From Its Network Name”, Adweek, Oct 2016, http://www.adweek.com/tv-video/global-rebrand-national-geographic-drops-channel-its-network-name-174265/
  11. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/about/
  12. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/climate-change/
  13. https://twitter.com/rupertmurdoch/status/636740873401700352?lang=en
  14. http://www.natgeotv.com/za/music
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