lather, rinse, rebrand
Posted by Abe Sauer on December 11, 2009 04:10 PM
The Harvard Business Review magazine has not changed much since its founding in 1922. Begun as a compendium of Harvard Business School research, the magazine remains data heavy, deep, and long. That is to say, meaningful. Well, not anymore.
Harvard Business Review is sexying itself up by adding columnists and "lighter features." The iconic cover that has always listed the articles contained in each issue is being redesigned to add a sense of mystery and curiosity to the content. There will also be an increased focus on providing content online. Finally, each quarter, the magazine will feature a half-naked centerfold from the business community (not really). But there are big changes afoot, and even bigger risks.
Clearly, the group responsible for this redesign is willing to take chances. After nearly a century of building the magazine's brand into one of the most respected in its field, a few wrong turns could undermine the brand's venerable image. At a time when "sexier" business magazines like Portfolio are on the ropes, the Harvard Business Review has the distinct advantage of offering a unique value-proposition. Too much focus on short term gain could result in long-term brand erosion.
These changes are being implemented the same year the Harvard brand also sustained some fiduciary lumps. In an attempt to elevate the university's portfolio, Harvard endowment managers bet heavily on the kinds of exotic high-return investments that sank the world economy. It's an embarrassing and costly lesson (to the tune of tens of billions of dollars) and has made the staid Harvard brand look foolish and, even worse, just as dumb as the rest of us.