Muscular Merchandising

Article excerpt

Muscular merchandising

Think of a dirty word.

That's right: Merchandising. As in "We don't do merchandising." Or "We used to do it, but we were ashamed of ourselves and we stopped."

Too bad. Merchandising is potentially one of the most effective weapons in the magazine sales arsenal.

Some of the hang-up may be semantic, so let's agree on what merchandising is not.

Merchandising is not the TV set that ends up in the product manager's basement rec room. That's bribery.

Merchandising is not some bullying advertiser demanding kickbacks for his own promotional slush fund with each participating magazine getting credit in eyestrain type. That's extortion.

Merchandising is not two-fers or space credits or "$500 for anything you want to do." That's card breaking. And stupid.

That's what merchandising is not. So what is it? GQ's marketing director and master merchandiser, John Brown, lays down these qualifications for merchandising investment. Merchandising programs must be mutually beneficial to both GQ and the advertiser; a natural extension of the magazine's values; and marketing oriented--i.e., it should help everybody move the goods.

Something for everyone

Mutual benefit obviously implies that each party gets something it needs. For the magazine, that something must go beyond advertising pages. Used properly, merchandising is strategic, reinforcing the magazine's prestige and marketing clout. And sound merchandising increases the advertiser's dependence on the magazine. In this arena, the Good Housekeeping Seal has long been the ultimate imprimatur. Sure it has leveraged a lot of ad pages into the book. But its greater value for Good Housekeeping is that it promotes the magazine's credibility in the process of enhancing the advertiser's.

To help either party, the merchandising effort must be built on the magazine's established values. In GQ's case, that means playing off the magazine's fashion image.

The single most valuable asset a magazine has to offer an advertiser is the shining light of its own good name. The proper response to the advertiser's question "What merchandising can you give me?" is "We will lend you our prestige and established credibility in your marketplace."

And merchandising should be marketing oriented; the closer it hits to the point of sale, the bigger the bang. The caliber of activities ranges from the basic "As advertised in ..." counter card to major, multi-spiked events such as GQ's retail fashion shows.

GQ's spring '86 schedule lists 15 retail events ranging alphabetically from Bloomingdale's to Woodward & Lothrop, and geographically from Massachusetts south to Florida and west to California--with stops in Texas, Illinois and Indiana.

The events come in two sizes--tagged GQ Live for big stores, and Tailor Made for speciality shops. GQ provides an editor-spokesperson and on-location coordinators plus access to its local subscriber lists and a GQ Portfolio of product samples and other information. But the stores do most of the work and must run national space in GQ to get the show. GQ's name is the real value here.

These are cross-promotions--the very best kind--involving the magazine, the retailer and manufacturers. About 150 companies have signed to participate in the spring shows. About half of these participants are fashion people, but liquor will be sampled, cars displayed, food nibbled and travel promoted, as well.

And consumers pay to get in. Department stores recover some of their costs with a $15 to $25 tariff--and sell out the house.

The bridal magazines are also heavily into this kind of merchandising, with Bride's spring schedule listing over 100 events including fashion shows, beauty and grooming seminars, and a localized national contest to select "Bride's Couple of the Year." Stores pay up to $3,500 to have Bride's promote itself and they donate their space in the bargain. …