Magazine article Marketing

Magazines with Drive

Magazine article Marketing

Magazines with Drive

Article excerpt

Car makers are building better relationships with their clients by writing to them - several times a year and in a glossy format. Robert Dwek reports on how car manufacturers' desire to hang on to existing customers has boosted contract titles

The 1990s has seen a huge increase in the number and frequency of loyalty magazines mailed out by car companies in the UK. According to a recent Mintel report, the automotive sector now accounts for 6% of the contract publishing market, investing [pounds]11m in magazine publishing.

While not the largest user of contract publishing - travel, financial services, retail, business-to-business and leisure and sport all come ahead of it - car makers are increasingly embracing magazines as part of their marketing strategy.

Increased competition has brought the cost of finding new customers into sharp relief against the benefits of retaining existing ones. The recession of the early 90s proved a tonic for car manufacturers in this respect, bloated as they were by the illusion of an all-powerful car economy and ever-shortening purchase cycles.

But along with the recession came a reappraisal of the car culture. 'Banana mould' technology meant more lookalike cars, undermining some manufacturers' carefully established brand values.

But the past couple of years have seen marked change. Car design has improved and with it has come a renewed sense of individuality. Car makers have learned not to brag about the wonders of high-speed, wind-in-the-hair motoring and instead to focus on ways of relating cars to other aspects of consumers' life, such as young children, the environment and surviving the urban jungle.

This can be traced to the arrival of MPVs (aka 'people carriers' such as the Renault Espace) and four-wheel-drives, but today's car marketers are a generation that understands the critical importance of brand evolution and customer segmentation.

Meeting the market's needs

Hence the prominent role now played by loyalty magazines - a marketing tool that creates a stronger sense of family than perhaps any other.

And with purchase cycles retreating from the manic frequency of the late-80s, keeping existing customers in 'the family' will become more important than ever.

According to Mintel's research, almost 40% of consumers keep loyalty magazines for future reference, 38% appreciate the special offers and money-off coupons attached, and 30% find the articles interesting. This helps explain why the average client involved in customer magazine titles now spends 23% of its total marketing budget on contract titles, with more than 40% expecting to increase spend in the future. The 23% figure sounds high, but when you look at the number of loyalty magazines out there - and the high production values involved - it seems credible.

In 1996, the number of car loyalty magazines was just into double digits. Now, there are few car makers who don't have one. The list of those who do includes BMW, Ford, Vauxhall, Saab, Peugeot, Volvo, Toyota, Lexus, Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, Nissan, Land Rover, Renault, Porsche, Mazda, Fiat, Audi, Mercedes, Lotus and MG.

Reaching the top end

Recently rejuvenated Lotus Cars has just launched its loyalty magazine, produced by River Publishing, which also does BMW's magazine.

River marketing director Nicola Murphy believes magazines are "perfectly suited to the car buyer, particularly at the top end of the market. It helps to develop the brand world that the customer has bought into."

It does this, she says, by presenting relevant lifestyle editorial, sympathetic advertising, exclusive promotions and incentives targeted at the needs of the reader. It's important to remember that often this reader will be a prospect rather than an existing customer.

As we move into the last year of the database decade, these kind of publications are being allied more strongly than ever to car firms' direct marketing activity. …

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