Has marketing reached its Renaissance phase, with customer magazines cultivating consumer loyalty? Ken Gofton looks at their effectiveness and, on page iv, how publishers have responded
Will the big brand manufacturers be the next to move into customer magazines, following the lead of airlines, financial services, hi-tech companies and retailers?
Mark Jefferson, new business development manager with Redwood Publishing, thinks so. "We'll see more magazines, not just for companies which have traditionally had them, but also around brands. We are talking to lots of people about keeping segments of their audience loyal."
Certainly finding ways of curbing the fickleness of consumers is a problem vexing many manufacturers, faced as they are with constant price promotions by rivals, the appearance of "killer" brands, and more and more look-alike own-label products. And Jefferson's comments have added significance, given the fact that Redwood has just been bought by ad agency Abbott Mead Vickers in a deal that could be worth as much as [pounds]12m.
"Ad agency clients are increasingly looking for customer magazine solutions," notes Jefferson.
AMV is not alone. The acquisitive advertising and marketing services group Omnicom owns Bristol-based Specialist Publications, and a year ago bought a controlling interest in market leader Headway, Home & Law, formerly owned by Robert Maxwell.
But the fallout from this deal became apparent last month with the departure of chief executive Terry Humphreys and managing director Duncan Grant. Control of the company's contract titles transferred to sister publishing company Premier Magazines.
According to Premier chairman and one-time Punch editor Bill Davies, the logic is that the two contract publishing businesses may be merged.
"We are assessing HHL's contract titles," says Davies. "Losing contracts (including the AA and Abbey National) raises questions," Davies adds. "But it was a loss-making company, and you have to look at why it was losing money on the contract side."
These moves -- the shakeout at industry leader HHL, instigated by its new owner, and the acquisition of second placed Redwood by AMV -- are big news in a sector best described as small but sturdy. According to research from Mintel, it has grown steadily through the recession at more than 10% a year. It is expected to hit a turnover of [pounds]80m this year, up from [pounds]80m last.
TOP 15: THE BIG PLAYERS 1993 Rank Company Total Contract Share of turnover publishing market [pounds]m turnover [pounds]m % 1 Headway, Home & Law 25.5 17.6 22.0 2 Redwood Publishing(*) 29.7 8.9 11.2 3 Harrington Kilbride 23.8 6.7 8.4 4 Premier Magazines(*) 6.2 6.2 7.8 5 Forward Publishing(*) 5.5 5.5 6.9 6 Centurion Publishing(*) 5.2 4.4 5.5 7 BLA Group(*) 2.5 2.3 2.8 8 Specialist Publications 2.1 2.1 2.7 9 Dewe Rogerson 17.7 2.0 2.5 10 TDP Publishing(*) 1.9 1.9 2.4 11 John Brown Publishing(*) 7.6 1.8 2.3 12 Brass Tacks 2.2 1.8 2.2 13 Mediamark Publishing(*) 1.7 1.7 2.1 14= Illustrated London News(*) 2.2 1.5 1.9 14= The Publishing Team(*) 1.5 1.5 1.9 * denotes APA member Source: Mintel, including some estimates. …