Despite relentless competition from hi-tech alternatives, books, maps and guides are maintaining their traditionally important position in the incentives market.

GQ’s UK sales rose by 11 per cent in August 1994, when a novel by Tony Hillerman was given away free with every issue. They increased by an estimated 30 to 31 per cent in February this year when James Elroy’s The Big Nowhere was used as a cover mount. GQ publisher Peter Stuart says: “There is no instance where circulation hasn’t increased dramatically with a cover mount.”

The number of subscribers to BBC Magazine’s Top Gear trebled when they were offered a free copy of The Hotel Guide for Great Britain & Ireland, by RAC Publishing.

The benefits of using a book promotion are manifold. One advantage is that books have an on-going usefulness. AA Publishing head of corporate sales and marketing Graham Sowerby says: “People collect and save books, so a corporate logo on the front cover of a free reference book will remain in front of the consumers eyes for a long time.”

Books are an important promotional tool because they are perceived as having a high value. Earlier this year, Transworld Publishers organised a national promotion for the launch of Triumph Manufacturers’ Tendresse range of upmarket bras. With every purchase of 18 or more, the customer was given a free best-seller, appropriately named Brief Shining (worth 5.99). Transworld sales development manager Greg Evaristo says: “Promotions using books will always give high perceived value. After all, when did you last throw a book away? Adding value to a purchase is more effective than offering a discount.”

The Net Book Agreement has helped to sustain the high perceived value of books by maintaining retail prices, without affecting the circulation of free promotional books.

The lower cost of printed promotions is another advantage over hi-tech offers – a free book or magazine costs less than a compact disc. Promotional Campaigns general manager Graham Griffiths estimates the average cost of a CD to a promoter at 3.50. A book can cost them as little as 35 per cent of its face value.

Books, maps and other printed promotions can cover a boundless range of topics, so are more likely to be relevant to the product. In 1993 The Koster Marshall-Clarke Consultancy ran a promotion for Kellogg’s Fruit ‘n Fibre where the Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast Guide, compiled with the English Tourist Board, was offered in exchange for eight on-pack tokens.

Geoff Marshall-Clarke, a partner at KMC, says most Fruit ‘n Fibre buyers are health-conscious and in the 40-plus age bracket. The promotion was designed to further the product’s association with healthy, outdoor lifestyles, at the same time as appealing to the sort of people who would be interested in country getaways and walks. Marshall-Clarke says: “The promotion had to suit the personality of the brand, as well as giving the product a country-life, healthy-living image. A hi-tech-linked promotion would not have matched the brand image”.

Gerri Horan, special sales manager at RAC Publishing, which focuses on leisure and travel publications, believes books are accessible to the majority of the population: “The more we get into IT, the more we lack that human element. Books offer a human contact which people are more comfortable with.” In addition, most of the population can read, whereas a much smaller proportion own a CD player, PC or CD-Rom – which are necessary for hi-tech promotions.

FKB Carlson associate director Sue Day says hi-tech promotions appeal mostly to the youth market, while books are popular across the board – with young and old alike.

Day says young mothers are often attracted to buying goods which come with free books because they feel their children can learn from them. Sowerby says AA Publishing’s titles, which focus on maps, atlases and tourist guides, “are often family-oriented, appeal to all age groups and are an ideal promotion for any fmcg product.”

Printed promotions can be used to create a favourable association with the product. Last autumn, a promotion organised by Promotional Campaigns for Carlsberg-Tetley’s Elephant Beer gave a free copy of FHM magazine (worth 2.50) with every purchase of two or more bottles of Elephant Beer in pubs, clubs and off-licences. Griffiths says: “FHM is a relatively new ‘trendy’, mature, intelligent men’s fashion and style magazine, and we wanted to create a relevance to the style-conscious through the association between FHM and Elephant Beer.”

Many promotions are designed to carry a direct link with the purchased product, guaranteeing an interest in the incentive. Blockbuster Video’s promotion for Forrest Gump The Movie offers viewers a free copy of the book Gumpisms (with a retail value of 2.99) with every rental of the film, so that they effectively get their money back. Though the promotion presumes that customers who want to rent the film will be attracted to a book associated with it, it aims to ensure that old and new customers do not rent the film from any other outlet.

Although hi-tech promotional tools are becoming more popular, there is still a place for books. This may change as technology develops and saturates homes. Institute of Sales Promotions secretary general Susan Short says that: “The two dominate separate spheres of influence but, as technology develops, they will begin to compete, particularly as it is the young today who are attracted by technology.”

But there is little chance of consumer promotions ever obscuring printed incentives all together. Stuart says: “Technology has progressed so far that GQ is now on the Internet, but the function of a magazine or book as a means of relaxation will sustain the value of the printed product – a relaxing read of a glossy magazine will always be a great luxury.”


    Leave a comment