Brands with cover-star ambition

Brands from Sky to Asos, Asda and Orange are producing magazines to broaden their scope for customer interaction, boost sales and bolster their online strategy.

Brands are tapping into this new demand for content, says Publicis Blueprint’s Richards. She says: “Clients are realising that you can engage with your customer to a greater extent through editorial content because you are telling them you understand them, and are talking to them in the right tone at the right time.”

Magazines can be used to encourage people to visit the brand online and take part in social media discussions, suggests Maxine Briggs, head of publishingtmw and former editor of Sainsbury’s magazine. “Because the internet is awash with content, a lot of companies are realising that to get their customers’ attention they have to do something different, that conveys value for money and is almost like a luxury product,” she says. And when consumers go online, their behaviour provides insight that can be fed back into the magazine.

One magazine Briggs works on is for Flora Pro Activ spread, and while some may struggle with the concept of talking about one product each issue, she says it is about “extrapolating” the brand’s values into consumers’ lifestyles.

She explains: “The content is about 60% product driven, where we talk about cholesterol, and recipes featuring Flora Pro Activ that are written by nutritionists. Then around 40% is lifestyle, such as gardening and ways to keep fit. So it’s not just any content we have thrown in there, it has been highly considered.”

While using online multimedia to complement magazine content remains the immediate future of customer magazines, brands shouldn’t be rushing to invest in content for technology such as the iPad just yet, Brigg advises. “The iPad will help brands reach more consumers but they shouldn’t get too carried away as not that many people have one yet. If I were a brand marketer, I would wait for a greater uptake before investing too much in this.”

But it doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t keep their eye on iPad developments and which consumers are adopting the technology as part of their daily life, she adds.

And even if the iPad reaches saturation point, printed customer magazines will still

have their place, she says, as consumers will continue to value them as “free gifts” from their favourite brands.

Top ten customer publishing magazines    

Total average net circulation/distribution figures

1 Sky Magazine            7,041,602

2 Sky Sports Magazine (UK)   4,200,369

3 Sky Movies Magazine (UK Edition)   3,478,534

4 Tesco Magazine        1,998,767

5 Asda Magazine          1,947,567

6 Sainsbury’s Fresh Ideas         1,487,850

7 Tesco Real Food       1,250,000

8 Morrisons Magazine  1,030,186

9 Sky Magazine Ireland            588.395

10 John Lewis Edition     484,040

Source: ABC Top 100 Magazines – total average net circulation/ distribution to end June 2010

Different approaches to customer publishing

Asos magazine

Online fashion retailer Asos.com has built its brand and customer base through distribution of its glossy magazine. According to statistics from the Association of Publishing Agencies (APA), regular readers of the magazine spend a significant 69% more than non-readers. Purchase intent registers at 90%, and 80% say Asos magazine “provides useful information on the latest trends and products”.

The APA’s Julia Hutchison says the Asos customer magazine is its “single biggest marketing investment”.

She adds: “Integrating online with offline, the magazine has been developed to drive customer loyalty and traffic to the website – and it has done just that. Additionally, the digital team has created the magazine for viral distribution with an application fans can install on their Facebook profile, allowing for further interaction and engagement.”

Asda magazine

Supermarket Asda claims its magazine contributes £260m each year to its business. The brand’s research shows that the magazine delivers an average sales uplift of 1.4% to each store. Sales of specific items featured in the magazine from its clothing line George increase by up to 21% compared with non-featured products.

Chief executive of Asda’s publishing agency Publicis Blueprint, Geri Richards, says: “Back in 1999, Asda was having a problem with quality perceptions and that’s where the magazine came into play, to drive up the quality perceptions around food and fashion.

“We have dabbled over the years in looking at what should be the lead zone of the magazine, and it always comes back to food because that is the primary mission for visiting an Asda store, although fashion fares well too.”

Reflecting the brand’s values of affordability, achievability and accessibility in the magazine’s content is key. For example, the magazine doesn’t publish complicated recipes but instead focuses on the basics such as “how to stuff an aubergine”.

She claims that some people in focus groups say that the Asda magazine replaces their monthly magazine purchase.

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