I’ve been contributing to magazines in one form or another for 15 years (my first piece was published in when I was 14 in The Kennel Gazette) plus I’ve undertaken stints as Editor and Creative Director on both B2B and B2C publications.
So recent research findings that branded content publications are gaining significant traction in the market place really come as no surprise…
With brands undertaking a lemming-like rush to online, it seemed for a time that the humble promotional magazine was going to undergo somewhat of a decline.
I mean, why would you want a copy of your local supermarket chain’s branded rag when you could probably read the information online, comment on it and then share it on without slaughtering trees in the process?
In a world where we want things lighter, faster, more convenient, the poor publication started to seem somewhat anachronistic.
However, the fightback is on, and Publicis Blueprint’s research confirms this.
The link above makes mention of the increased benefits of customer loyalty, deeper engagement and improved trust that come with a magazine.
Once again, not a surprise to anyone that’s worked in the industry.
Having your own publication helps you to reach your customers effectively (once they’ve opened the pages, there are no competitor messages to distract them), gives them incentives to return to your business (special offers, coupons, ideas on how to use your wares in a different way) and gives you a platform to talk about the things that matter to your brand.
Importantly, it gives you an opportunity to ensure that your story is heard, lifting your brand above commodity status.
However, there are risks.
It can be very easy to lose sight of your customer in the excitement of getting your story out there, of pushing the new product line or generally talking about why you’re so wonderful.
The consumer doesn’t really care about you or your magazine. What they care about is themselves.
The content provided by the branded publication has to satisfy this desire.
The publication has to be focused not on sales, but on helping the reader to improve their lives – whether that’s through trying new tastes, saving money on funeral care or linking up their household bills to get an energy saver plan.
The clever magazine Creative Director will structure the publication to achieve those sales, but without the consumer feeling like they’re being sold to.
it’s a very fine balance to achieve – but companies such as Cooperative, Waitrose and Tesco are doing a pretty good job in my opinion.
The other important thing to remember with branded magazines is how they’re consumed.
A well designed magazine gives the reader an opportunity for ‘me time’ but without being cut off from the world around them.
A quick read of a few paragraphs can be like a power nap – highly refreshing.
Think about most people using a PC or phone – it’s all head down, intense concentration while fingers fly across keyboards or mouse wheels are rolled up and down.
With a magazine, it’s simpler.
Hold, read, turn the page, read and so on.
It’s therefore easier to keep an eye on the kids, keep an ear on a conversation or get back to your place if interrupted.
You’ve got the pick up/put down factor as well – something that online media hasn’t quite cracked. While you can save a webpage for later or switch in and out of your favoured e-reader apps, it’s not quite as easy to read a few paragraphs, go away to do something else and then come back to it. Because, in the mean time, someone will have sent you an email, pinged you a text or generally given you something else to interact with there and then, rather than returning to what you were doing.
My final point is probably the most obvious, but the most fundamental.
Magazines have visibility.
Close a web browser, put your phone down and the online publication disappears.
Sling a real, paper, magazine on the coffee table and it’s there to remind you of its existence.
The printed publication brings the brand into your home in the way that electronic versions don’t.
So there we have it. Long live the printed, branded, magazine. Looking at the Publicis Blueprint research, the future’s definitely bright and I’m genuinely excited to see what the sector can bring to increased consumer/brand integration, interaction and involvement…