Magazine article Marketing

Customer Made Titles

Magazine article Marketing

Customer Made Titles

Article excerpt

Customer magazines are huge business, not just for the company concerned, but for the publishers. There is still a lot of untapped potential for professional publishers to exploit, writes Ken Gofton

When you look at the customer magazine business, you're reminded of that old story about the shoe salesman being sent to a tropical country. Does the fact that few people wear shoes mean there's no market - or that the potential is huge?

Research by RSGB (see panel) suggests that around 11% of companies have what might be called 'true' customer magazines, although many more have newsletters. Moreover, many of these titles are produced in-house. But are professional publishers stuck with a niche market, or are they facing an enormous opportunity?

The signs are that there is a lot of growth to go for. First, there's a growing understanding of what magazines can do. RSGB's research suggests that those who don't have magazines assume that their main purpose is to raise awareness of company and products and this is the usual reason for launching them. For those who have experience of them, however, they are seen as the best way of building customer loyalty.

More than 70% of companies with customer magazines also appreciate their role in stimulating extra sales. One of the most startling examples comes from department store Harvey Nichols, which claims that no sooner had the first issue of its new magazine gone out this year than customers started phoning for goods to be reserved. Even a John Galliano check jacket and skirt retailing at [pounds]1770 - and most of the rest of the Galliano collection - sold out.

Customer magazines are also a very efficient way of achieving dialogue. The first issue of the Ford Magazine, from BLA, pulled a 30% response from readers through questionnaires and competitions - as well as 25,000 applications to test drive the new Ford Galaxy.

"Investing in customer satisfaction is, in the long term, much more effective than prospecting for new ones. The magazine is now the linchpin of our loyalty programme," says Jim Tyrrell, Ford's manager for marketing communications.

Second, major contracts were once rare events, but are now being placed at an accelerating pace. The Association of Publishing Agencies - representing the specialist publishing houses - lists over 50 contracts awarded in the last year. Prominent examples - apart from those mentioned elsewhere in this article - include: BAA and Mercury One-2-One (Mediamark); Apple Computer, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft (TPD); Saab and Little Chef (Summerhouse); Tesco Recipe Collection and RAC (Forward); Classic FM and Eurotunnel (John Brown); Psion User, Harvey Nichols, Boots and the Sky TV Guide (Redwood) and Nikon (Premier).

Third, both clients and the publishing houses are showing great ingenuity in developing the medium for marketing purposes. Here are four examples:

1. Barclaycard is back in the market, having allowed its original magazine to decline to little more than a mail order catalogue. Research showed that its old magazine was doing nothing for the brand and it was dropped.

But the credit card company has put what is clearly a substantial development into the launch this year of three separate titles aimed at different customer segments - Out of the Blue (A4-size, 1.2 million copies quarterly), Additions (1.6 million quarterly and distributed with account statements) and Merits (500,000 copies, also distributed with statements).

The magazines are being produced by The Publishing Team, whose publishing director Neil O'Brien says that the project is being carefully assessed - by monitoring attitude changes, customer behaviour, responses to cross-selling offers and competitions and so on.

2. Omnicom subsidiary Premier Magazines, responsible for publishing several magazines for British Airways - including High Life - and Marketing Business for the Chartered Institute of Marketing, is about to launch a sponsored book division, Premier Books. …

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