Staying true to the brand

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Staying true to the brand
Staying true to the brand

When I was a kid growing up in New York, I learned two valuable lessons that I have carried with me for years: always get a tetanus shot before riding the subway, and never compromise your integrity for anything.

While I admit the sanitary conditions on the F Train have become less of a problem since I moved to West Hollywood, the latter issue has developed into an ongoing battle throughout the media world.

Much like myself, many CEOs of print publications have been forced to alter their business models in the wake of the struggling economy. Smart companies have used savvy management, automated technology and web development to help supplement decreased advertising dollars, while others have begun cost-cutting techniques to ensure their magazine's survival. Though I would never be brazen enough to criticize the fiscal paths my competitors take, I do implore other publications to realize that no solution is worth compromising your brand.

I've made my fair share of mistakes since starting 944 Media. I've hired people based on their degrees instead of their character, misallocated a budget or two and even let friendship cloud my better judgment from time to time. But at the end of the day, the one thing I have always tried to do is consider the 944 brand with every decision I make.

There's no doubt that I've learned this lesson the hard way once or twice, but as 944 continues to grow I have become even more protective of the company's brand. There have even been times where I have turned down lucrative partnerships with businesses simply because they were not good fits for the company.

Now, I realize that in today's economic climate, it may seem a tad peculiar to rebuff fiscal infusion, regardless of where it's coming from. And I understand that increased capital can help our company in a variety of different ways. But at the end of the day, taking on partners for short-term monetary gain without considering the brand will almost undoubtedly have long-term consequences.

Publications tend to be blinded by the lure of immediate financial relief and then wonder why they're in a worse position six months after they put a strip club ad next to a two-page spread for Neiman Marcus. Get rid of expensive office equipment, eliminate travel budgets or even cut CEO salaries (only as a last resort, of course), but never sacrifice the brand for a quick buck.

At the end of the day, brand value is the true worth of a company and the most important asset of any magazine. And quite frankly, I'd rather be back on the New York Subway than make a deal that would ultimately hurt the 944 brand.

Marc Lotenberg is the CEO and founder of 944 Media. Reach him through Carly Harrill at carly@944.com.

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