MarketInk: Tribune Publishing’s Puzzling Name Change to ‘tronc’

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By Rick Griffin

Tribune Publishing Co., owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other daily newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel, has renamed itself. The new name is “tronc,” with a lowercase “t,” an acronym for “Tribune online content.”

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The name change represents a strategic shift from being a newspaper publisher toward becoming a “content curation and monetization company,” Tribune Publishing said in a news release. “Our rebranding to ‘tronc’ represents the manner in which we will pool our technology and content resources to execute on our strategy,” the company’s chairman, Michael Ferro, said in a statement.

However, the name change has some local marketing experts scratching their heads. Reactions have ranged from confusion and curious to challenging and puzzling.

“Really? That’s the best they can do?” asked Sheila Fox, Fox Marketing Network. “tronc doesn’t sound like a leader unless you’re into war games in a galaxy far, far away. It doesn’t sound innovative. It’s more like the sound you hear when the contestant comes up with the wrong answer or a fog horn at night. You want info? tronc it? Or go to tronc for the story? Doesn’t exactly roll off your tongue when you say it out loud.”

“Not appealing, sterile, mechanistic-sounding, both phonetically and associatively,” said Craig Fuller, owner, Greenhaus. “Just more digitalspeak. These days, everything electronic has been reduced to content, how antiseptic. I like to think of news gathering, sifting, interpreting and writing in more humanistic terms.”

“Humans are wired to be skeptical of anything new,” said Ryan Berman, chief creative officer of The i.d.e.a. Brand. “News used to be about spotlighting stories that showcase or test humanity, but tronc doesn’t seem to mirror this sentiment. It comes off as robotic and a bit unfriendly. Time will tell if tronc sticks.”

“Walking away from any established name and heritage has tremendous implications in both expense and comprehension,” said Gary Meads, CEO of MeadsDurket. “It’s expensive because an entity is basically re-launching itself with all of the associated costs compressed into a very concise timeframe. But beyond that, the trend toward edgy, fresh names, such as tronc, are often un-defining and typically require a great deal energy behind explaining and justifying their meaning until they hopefully gain traction as a new brand. In the case of tronc, it is a case of the acronym making perfect sense to those inside the company, leaving the consumer to figure it out for themselves.”

“A brand’s name should speak to its offering, so I understand the relationship between technology and a futuristic name like tronc,” said Melissa Lopez, CEO of Katana. “Unfortunately, the execution of tronc misses the mark because the word elicits clunky imagery of heavy machinery instead of sleek and innovative artificial intelligence. The name simply lacks enduring luster and relevancy.”

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“The name doesn’t matter, nor does the logo,” said Reid Carr, president/CEO of Red Door Interactive. “I firmly believe that product quality trumps nearly any name and logo. That being said, made-up words are harder to remember than words that refer to tangible objects because people can use a reference point to help with recall, so this name is a bit of a challenge here. As soon as people ask why it is named as it is and they get a story about it, people will begin to remember the name. Then, if the product quality is high enough, it can easily become a household name.”

“Newspaper readership continues to decline, and the demographic of the reader continues to get older. In looking at the future of the company, a name like `tronc’ may at first seem strange, but it can also be memorable,” said Bev Oster, president and creative director of Oster & Associates. “It would appear that the intention is to deliver digital content to a younger generation than current newspaper readers, and by creating a technology-sounding name, it speaks to that younger generation much more strongly. After all, what did Twitter or Mac or Yelp or Google mean to any of us before we got used to the names. Now they’re household words.”

Dr. Mary Beth McCabe, a marketing professor at National University, has 23 years of digital marketing and media experience. “Does the name tronc instill trust and transparency? I think not. This word sounds like `trunk,’ which is not pleasing to me. I don’t seem to get the feeling of trust nor transparency from using tronc.”

Petco Park stairs are decorated for the All-Star Game. Photo by Chris Stone

MLB All-Star Game Coverage Includes Local TV, Radio

FOX Sports will carry Major League Baseball’s 87th annual All-Star Game scheduled for Tuesday at Petco Park. Multi-platform coverage will include the FOX TV network, FS1-TV, FOX Deportes, FOXSports.com and FOX Sports Regional Networks, including FOX Sports San Diego.

Locally, KSWB-TV Fox 5 will air its “FOX 5 Morning News” from Petco Park from 6 to 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, from 2 to 4:30 p.m., FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade will be joined by former Padres player Steve Garvey, a 10-time All-Star selection, for FOX 5’s pre-game show. Game coverage begins on FOX 5 at 4:30 p.m.

Also, XPRS 1090-AM The Mighty 1090, the ESPN Radio affiliate in San Diego, will air the game since ESPN has radio rights.

In addition, FOX Sports San Diego will continue airing “19 Memories, A Tribute to Tony Gwynn” at 8 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Monday, July 11, and 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12. The 60-minute special features never-before-heard stories about Mr. Padre from former Padres stars, including Greg Vaughn, Bruce Bochy, Trevor Hoffman, Tony Gwynn Jr., Barry Bonds and Ozzie Smith. FOX 5 also will air the special at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 12..

SDX Hosts Member Rooftop Mixer

SDX will host its annual member mixer from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 26, at the Nolen rooftop bar at the Courtyard Gaslamp Hotel, 453 Sixth Avenue in downtown San Diego.

The event will include a meet-and-greet with recently elected board members, including Brian Hilemon, 2016-2017 president. Additional special guests will include newly elected officers of Ad 2 San Diego, a networking group for marketing professionals under age 32, and the San Diego Advertising Fund for Emergencies (SAFE), a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance for local advertising professionals during times of life crisis.

Cost to attend is $25 for members, $45 for non-members and $15 for Ad 2 members. To RSVP, visit www.sandiegox.org or call (619) 255-2281.

Founded in 1911, SDX, formerly the San Diego Ad Club, is San Diego’s oldest continuously operating business association. It also is San Diego’s largest local networking and professional group for advertising and marketing executives with more than 250 companies representing about 600 members.

AM Strategies marks 25 years

Advanced Marketing Strategies, known as AM Strategies, is celebrating its 25th year in business. The San Diego ad agency has created memorable advertising jingles for such clients as Mossy Automotive, IKEA and Henry’s Market Place over the past quarter century.

“San Diegans might not know who created the Mossy Nissan jingle, but they can probably sing it,” said Kathleen Cunningham, founder and president of AM Strategies. “My personal mission is to keep the agency on the cutting edge of technology and our team is very adept at using every tool available.”


Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin is a San Diego-based public relations and marketing consultant. His MarketInk column appears weekly on Mondays in Times of San Diego.

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