How National Geographic is innovating its brand with purpose

CMO shares the bold new vision to make the 130-year old brand relevant to modern explorers

National Geographic's Jill Cress on stage at the Adobe Summit 2017 with Adobe EVP and GM of digital marketing, Brad Rencher
National Geographic's Jill Cress on stage at the Adobe Summit 2017 with Adobe EVP and GM of digital marketing, Brad Rencher


Customer mindset

Alongside work to better understand social audiences, National Geographic has embarked on a global segmentation project. Cress noted TV traditionally had demographic targeting in place, while the print magazine was a mix of demographic and psychographic.

“We’re rallying the entire organisation together to do a global segmentation where we’re building out more of a psychographic profile,” she said. “Our audience is very passionate, they want to be involved in active communities, they’re curious about the world around them, themselves and places.

“We’re inspired by human curiosity and understanding how we can create a more active role in our products for that audience. Understanding our fans certainly in social is feeding into that. The good news is we had a lot of data in place so we’ve aggregated that. By the fall, you’ll start to see this in market.”

National Geographic also launches a big brand campaign shortly. “You’ll start to see the positioning of that campaign and how we’re talking to our audiences, with more focus around that persona we’re developing,” she said.

The challenges

There are significant hurdles to overcome, one of which is legacy technology across the organisation thanks to its channel silos. “Unfortunately, we have different CMS and email systems, so getting those things to talk is the biggest tech challenge we have,” Cress said.

On a brighter note, the intention across business owners to change has been really positive. “Everyone is embracing our common vision and opportunity,” she said. “Getting the technology right to then enable that is something we’re focused on.”

Really great brands have employees who live their values, Cress said, and in this respect, National Geographic staff are no exception.

“Our expression is further, and that’s a mindset that embraces curiosity and what’s possible,” Cress said. “We have put out a bold vision for where this brand is headed and what’s possible. The amount of enthusiasm across marketing, product and different lines of business demonstrates authenticity around figuring that out has been more positive and hands-on than I expected.

“We are driving a change agenda which is not always easy. But I’ve seen this internal explorer mindset, to take what’s possible for this brand and bring it to the world in a new way, so I’m optimistic.”

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Summit in Las Vegas as a guest of Adobe.

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