CBC.ca leverages mother corp’s equity

What is it?...

What is it?

Duh. This is the online home of Canada’s national public broadcaster. It offers current news and information, plus an advertising-free kids’ site (CBC4Kids) and a guide to CBC programming. And it does so on a relatively modest budget, commanding less than 2% of the corporation’s annual expenditures.

What does the brand stand for?

Adrian Mills, managing director of CBC.ca, says the site’s mission is to do online what the corporation already does in broadcast – namely, to serve the entire Canadian public.

Because Canadians generally recognize CBC as a reliable source of news, the site has made this the core of its offering. And, in keeping with its mandate to be truly national, it provides as much local and regional content as possible.

‘The way we are positioned is to take the same rationale for the Internet that the CBC has for radio and television,’ Mills says. ‘We hope that what users come away with is the same value they receive when watching CBC Television or listening to CBC Radio.’

How has the site branded itself?

Being able to leverage the CBC’s considerable brand equity has, clearly, been a major advantage. ‘People identify very readily with the CBC brand,’ says Mills. ‘It has made the crossover from television and radio to the Internet smoother.’

One of the keys has simply been ensuring that CBC.ca is, in every way possible, true to that CBC identity. That’s done through a variety of means – from the design of the site, which gives suitable prominence to the CBC logo and employs the familiar red, white and blue corporate colours, to the use of the broadcaster’s TV and radio journalists as online hosts and moderators during the recent federal election.

At the same time, there’s also been an ongoing effort to build profile for the CBC.ca brand.

Strategic alliances are key to this. For example, CBC.ca serves as the news centre for AOL Canada’s portal site. (All pages are co-branded.) Similarly, CBC.ca is a content distribution partner for Rogers Communications-owned Excite@home.

Advertising – both online and off-line – has also figured in the plan. Most notable is a year-long campaign launched in February 1999, aimed at promoting the site to news junkies. The campaign included banner ads with the tag line ‘CBC.ca – Up to the minute.’ The ads, which appeared on sites targeting urban professionals and other online news enthusiasts, featured current news headlines, followed by the question ‘Want to know more?’ Users who clicked on the banner were taken to the CBC.ca home page to get the full story.

In addition to banners, the campaign included print ads in the National Post, The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s, along with a series of TV spots. The latter employed a concept similar to that of the banner ads, opening with snippets of video news footage, and then explaining to viewers where they could go to get ‘more.’ By the time this campaign ran its course, page views had nearly tripled.

Further evolution of the site is in store. As Mills points out, the CBC brand isn’t defined solely by the ability to deliver news; the broadcaster is also known for strong entertainment, sports and children’s programming – and the focus of the site will be expanded to reflect that.

The CBC4Kids site, for example, will increasingly provide opportunities for youngsters to interact with and participate in the shows they watch. The forthcoming series Action Agents is a case in point: the show will set challenges for kid viewers, and then send them online to find the clues they need to solve them.

A relaunch of CBC.ca is planned for the spring. Mills says the first step will be some cosmetic changes aimed at making the site easier to navigate. That will be followed by a series of database management improvements over the course of the coming year, designed to help track the demographic breakdown of visitors and make it possible to target different user groups.

‘We’ve become so big that we want to make changes that will allow people optimal access to what they want,’ Mills says.

What have the results been?

Impressive, given the limited budget. In February 1999, CBC.ca was registering 1.1 million page views per week. By December 2000, that figure had increased to six million-plus per week. Media Metrix Canada reports that in the month of August 2000 alone, the site was visited by 1.2 million unique at-home users.

Also in this report:

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- Grocery Gateway builds ‘total brand personality’: Online grocer communicates consistent image at every point of customer contact p.18

- Sympatico makes itself useful: Relevance a key point of differentiation p.21

- Chapters.ca plots category domination: Book retailer uses partnerships and blanket buys to carve cyber-mind share p.22