Penguin pushes 60th anniversary

Penguin Books is 60 this year. To celebrate, the publisher is running its first co-ordinated brand campaign, backed by a 500,000 promotional spend.

All its advertising and marketing for 1995 will be run under a 60th birthday promotion umbrella, which features the anniversary logo – a penguin reading a book.

Penguin has brought literature to a broad audience for decades. The company was formed in the Thirties by Allen Lane, who wanted to take literature and serious, well-printed books to the masses.

Today, the company has worldwide sales of 300m. According to Euromonitor’s 1993 book report Penguin was the biggest but least profitable element of Pearson’s book publishing divisions. The investment in Penguin is also timely. Pearson’s book publishing arm had a disappointing performance in the first half of last year. It made an operating loss of 7m compared with 102.4m profit for the full year of 1993.

Penguin belongs to the Net Book Agreement, which prevents retailers discounting on book prices. However, the agreement is under serious threat after Hodder Headline quit the agreement in September (MW September 30), increasing the pressure on book publishers.

Penguin Books marketing director Andrew Welham claims the Penguin brand reassures consumers enough for them to make a choice from about 70,000 different titles launched in any one year, he says. "We have built up a trust over the years," he says. "It is confusing for consumers because there are so many titles and authors on sale. But the Penguin brand triggers quality in people’s minds."

Penguin publishes 1,000 new paperbacks and 300 hardbacks a year, for both children and adults. The anniversary campaign is designed to reinforce the heritage of the brand and stress its relevance to the Nineties. The campaign will include press advertising using photographs of famous people such as Jimi Hendrix reading Penguin books.

There will also be Penguin taxis, done up in a black-and-orange livery of the books and featuring the 60th anniversary logo.

The push will include public relations, plus a separate tie-up with The Times. The newspaper and Penguin are running a fiction festival in March, which will feature Penguin authors.

Book marketing is a unique activity, given that each of Penguin’s 1,300 new titles a year is a separate brand. Not to mention individual authors.

Penguin has few plans to extend the brand, except in specific niche areas such as science-fiction and horror. This spring the firm is launching a fantasy horror imprint called Creed. The company did try a literary sub-brand called King Penguin, but scrapped it. "We were creating a ghetto. For 60 years Penguin has brought literature to a broad audience, and we want to keep it that way," says Welham.

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