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Tacoma, WA is 30 miles south of Seattle, yet, they are often lumped together, making it more difficult for the Tacoma News Tribune to differentiate itself from a larger Seattle competitor to build readership and advertising. Our mission: help build market share for the News Tribune, strengthen its brand, and develop compelling marketing messages and programs.


We started with research by American Opinion Research (AOR), our wholly-owned global research firm, focusing on lifestyles, shopping habits, work locations, recreational activities and how people identify with the communities in which they live.

Using highly-sophisticated statistical analysis, AOR identified a line between Tacoma and Seattle, south of which people were much less likely to identify with Seattle, and more likely to identify with the Puget Sound.

We claimed this area for the Tacoma News Tribune. Working with the newspaper, smartworks created an entirely new geographic designation, “The South Sound,” and positioned the News Tribune as The Newspaper from the South Sound, still part of its masthead today.


The News Tribune broadened its appeal, build its image and strengthened its position in the core market. Soon, other companies began positioning themselves as part of the South Sound, including stores, other companies and institutions; even a community college. Our “South Sound” campaign has been used as a case study on branding in classrooms, at conferences and seminars.