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Time Inc. Considers a Corporate Rebrand

By Motley Fool Staff - Updated Jul 16, 2017 at 6:18PM

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The magazine company has plenty of well-regarded publications. But its name and identity appeal to its past audience, not the one it hopes to gain.

In this Market Foolery segment, host Chris Hill and Motley Fool Funds' Bill Barker discuss the problems of old-media giant Time Inc. (TIME), which apparently feels a new name might help it make some headway in acquiring new subscribers and a younger audience for a portfolio that includes Sports Illustrated, Fortune and People. On the one hand, the Fools are skeptical; on the other, they do note that Time could hardly do a worse job of its rebranding than the former Tribune Publishing did.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on July 12, 2017.

Chris Hill: Let's move on to media. Senior executives at Time Incorporated recently met to discuss a potential rebranding of the company that could include changing the corporate name. Time Incorporated has brands under the umbrella, including, obviously, Time magazine, Sports Illustrated, People magazine, Fortune. I suppose if there's good news here ... look. This is a really well-known brand; this is an established brand. When I saw this headline, I winced and thought to myself, "Don't do that. Just don't do that." On the other hand, as we've talked about before, the bar is pretty low in terms of rebranding media properties. If you just look at recent history, which includes such winners as --

Bill Barker: I know where you're going.

Hill: Tronc, Oath, and Qwikster, I feel like the brain trust at Time Incorporated, if they're going to attempt to rebrand, I feel like they can beat that. Although maybe not. Who knows? It's going to be tough to beat Tronc, though.

Barker: There's a mismatch of the strength and quality of the brand with where their audience is and where they want to go. That is, you and I remember Time -- although when's the last time you bought an issue?

Hill: I actually have Time delivered to my home, because I think it was one of those, "You have some airline miles that are going to expire; would you like a free magazine? Would you like to trade them in for a magazine?" And I said sure.

Barker: Yeah. OK, so you're a new subscriber over the last decade.

Hill: Yes. If, by subscriber, you mean that I've traded in airline points for it.

Barker: Well, you could have traded them in for something else.

Hill: It was pretty slim pickings. [laughs] 

Barker: So it cleared a very low bar in your mind.

Hill: Yes.

Barker: All right. But, we know what it is, and we know the greatness that it had in American media in generations past, which it no longer really does.

Hill: I would say the same about Sports Illustrated. Those four brands as media properties -- People, Fortune -- there is value there. And unfortunately for the people at Time Incorporated, the name Fortune Brands is already taken. 

Barker: Yeah. They want to go into more of an online presence. But they have a lot of positive names under the umbrella, things which connote more hope than Time, which is somewhat neutral, I think. Between Sports IllustratedTravel + Leisure, Food & Wine, Fortune, these are all things that sounds great, don't they?

Hill: Yeah.

Barker: Let's pick from those. Time is good and bad. Nothing more valuable than Time, really. But also, it's your enemy. I mean, it's a whole existential thing for their brand. They just take it offline and go with something ridiculous like Tronc, and then people don't know what they're up to.

Hill: Do you think they should just bag this idea altogether?

Barker: Which idea?

Hill: The idea of rebranding the corporate company? Because they're not talking about "We need to change the name of Sports Illustrated." Nobody is that dumb, thankfully.

Barker: There are people that dumb.

Hill: [laughs] Well, they don't appear to occupy executive positions at Time Incorporated. But I don't know. I look at this and think, if you're looking to reinvigorate your brands, I feel like they can do more harm than good with this one. Witness: Tronc, Oath, and Qwikster.

Barker: And yet they keep doing it. What evidence do we have, other than mockery, that this is hurting the companies? That Tronc would be having more sales with the Tribune Media than as Tronc? You're not one of the kids that they're aiming for.

Hill: No, I'm not.

Barker: They're don't care about you and your money. You're not online. You're not that hip.

Hill: I'm online.

Barker: You don't know about watching videos online like the kids.

Hill: Yeah, that's true.

Barker: That's what they're after, somebody who's 20, 30, 40 years younger than you. 

Hill: Again, I think they're setting themselves up for a mistake here.

Barker: All right. We'll see.

Hill: We'll have to see how it plays out.

Bill Barker has no position in any stocks mentioned. Chris Hill has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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