So, magazines are now a ‘non-traditional’ form of marketing. I first read about this development in a blog I stumbled across recently by content marketing guru and all round good egg Joe Pulizzi that he wrote back in October 2012 (he’s always ahead of the curve). Digital content, whether that’s blogs, web articles or social media, is now the default position for many marketers. But in any content marketing campaign it doesn’t hurt to throw in a curve ball every now and then. That’s where a print magazine can be a powerful addition to the content marketing mix.
These days a magazine is unexpected and deliciously retro. In fashion terms, a magazine is the equivalent of the Dr Martens and oversized jumpers I used to love wearing so much as a teenager – de rigueur in the early nineties; part of a grunge revival at the end of last year. But while I may balk at the idea of revisiting the sartorial choices of my late teens, I remain a massive advocate of magazines. Not just because I still get a kick out of the feel of a new issue in my hands and the smell of the print, but because a niche, targeted publication is a powerful marketing tool.
A word from John Lewis
Unlike its consumer, newsstand cousins who for the most part see their circulations decline every year, free magazines from brands consistently take the top spots when the circulation results, the ABCs, come out. John Lewis Edition is currently the biggest magazine in the women’s lifestyle market according to the latest ABC results covering July–December 2013, recording an average monthly circulation figure of more than 435,000 copies.
According to a Content Marketing Association case study, the goals of John Lewis Edition are to “remind customers of the breadth of assortment, tempting customers to shop departments previously not explored; to encourage reappraisal of the fashion offering, and to create standout against the competition.”
The magazine does not achieve a high circulation simply because it is free. Its mix of high quality writing and original photography is doing the business and meeting those goals: a reader survey from 2011 revealed that respondents spent an average of 30 minutes reading John Lewis Edition; 89% reported doing something after reading it, and 70% said it prompted them to visit more departments either in-store or online.
Giving Shell a Refuel
Print magazines can also foster positive feeling in a B2B space – our own anecdotal evidence about Refuel, a magazine we produce on behalf of our client Shell, shows that the account managers like it because it’s something tangible they can take to meetings that acts as a conversation starter and the Shell fleet customers like it because they see themselves reflected in its content. That’s where targeting comes in – working out brand personas is as important for magazines as it is for another piece of content marketing. Real magazine geeks may remember a title called Carlos, launched in 2003 for Upper Class passengers on Virgin Atlantic (and no longer in production). It was a mould-breaker for many reasons: articles were accompanied by illustration only, but it was way ahead of its time in terms of targeting too. The team had sat down and really thought who their ‘passenger’ was, his likes and dislikes, right down to what his name was – yup, Carlos.
Once you’ve identified your audience, magazines allow for brand storytelling in a more in-depth or even oblique way. Benetton’s quarterly, global magazine Colors was launched in 1991 and is still going strong despite its £14.45 cover price. Its co-founder was Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, who from 1982 to 2000 was also responsible for Benetton’s hard-hitting ad campaigns. He’s said of the magazine:
“We set up Colors as a way of communicating the intelligence of the Benetton brand to an extremely sophisticated consumer,” he says. “That consumer doesn’t respond so well to traditional advertising. Colors is a real magazine about the rest of the world, but it’s also a way of marketing the ideological commitment of the Benetton company.”
The magazine’s remit has always been to tackle difficult or controversial subjects and by doing so it not only complemented the provocative Bennetton ads of the 1990s, but allowed for a more in-depth look at global issues.
Colors is a great example of a magazine supporting a brand’s identity. Publishers of online fashion retailers Net-A-Porter recent magazine launch, Porter, will be hoping for similar success. It’s not a hard sell – the calls to action are very subtle – but it’s reinforcing Net-A-Porter’s reputation as fashion authority, while blending content and commerce.
I don’t fit the fashionista, six-figure salary persona of Porter magazine but I’m still excited that brands such as Net-A-Porter are adding print to their content marketing mix. Maybe I should give Porter another go, it may stop me reconsidering dusting off those Doc Martens….