'Hope is Power', The Guardian's first brand campaign in seven years, was editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner’s self-described ‘mission for journalism in a time of crisis’. Now this rallying call fuels the brand’s marketing strategy as it pursues a further one million supporters.
Chief executive David Pemsel was behind a reader revenue model overhaul four years ago that turned a £57m deficit into a £0.8m profit this year.
In 2015, the consensus was that The Guardian needed to restrict access to its journalism and go behind a paywall to ensure its future. It set itself the momentous challenge of converting 156 million browsers (10 million regular visitors a month) into supporters of some description.
Back then, The Guardian had 12,000 members and 175,000 print and digital subscriptions; but by the end of 2018, it had reached the magic one million regular supporters milestone. But that is still just 1/156th of its total audience. So it's set itself a new goal.
"We're now doubling what we thought was an unachievable target," The Guardian's marketing director Sonia Sudhakar said of the ambitious 2022 plan. "Quite steep," she admitted, but possible.
The past three years of developing its reader revenue model have shaped a team capable of strengthening support acquisition and retention. "We keep building, learning and fine-tuning it every week," she said.
"And now we're developing the right functions through experimenting with our method and getting more focused.
"Strengthening our relationship with our readers, combined with award-winning journalism that the world needs right now, along with our huge reach globally is how we'll get the second million."
Sadakhar said editor Viner’s refreshed mission statement is the foundation to get it there and propelled the marketing team to plot the next phase of its advertising.
“We took the purpose essay and worked out what it really meant for us as a brand,” Sudhakar explained. “And from there we were able to put together a brief based on a tight definition of what The Guardian stands for today.”
It hired advertising agency Uncommon, the shop set up by former Grey executives Nils Leonard, Lucy Jameson and Natalie Graeme.
"They came to us and said we've got this new editorial vision," explained Leonard. "They said, now we've proven our business model works, we want to reach one million more, with a view to what we do at The Guardian being too important to lose.
"The Guardian can challenge anybody and can report on anybody because they are owned by nobody," Leonard explained. And it wants is supporters to do the same, using its content as ammunition.
The resulting campaign was called Hope Is Power. In the Guardian's defining yellow shade, the print campaign contained positives quotes to rally its readers to take action against the backdrop of a bleak and turbulent era.
"Somebody like the Guardian saying that to you will make people go, oh shit, now I know," Leonard goes on. "They'll think not only are they going to bring me these points of view so I can be informed, but they're also then saying, well they stop there - go take action."
Building on the relationship The Guardian has with its readers, 'Hope is Power' will continue to be the platform through which The Guardian highlights the crucial role the newspaper plays in giving people information. It wants to enable them to challenge the status quo, to come up with fresh ideas and to develop opinions that hold power to account.