Magazine article Marketing

Why the Nationals Are Focusing on SP

Magazine article Marketing

Why the Nationals Are Focusing on SP

Article excerpt

Newspapers are employing promotional tactics in order to attract and retain readers, writes Andy Fry

During the past decade, sales promotions have become as important to the national press as to any other mature FMCG sector. Yet in most cases, newspaper circulations continue to slide.

Clearly, if the offer is good enough, there will be a circulation spike for the duration of the promotion. But history tells us that this improvement is rarely sustained.

In recent years, the only titles to have dramatically improved their circulation performance are The Times and Sunday Telegraph--both of which bought their current positions through aggressive price cutting and intense cross-marketing with their stronger sister titles.

Nevertheless, promotional activity such as enhanced editorial packages have come to be regarded as an essential part of the national newspaper proposition.

Part of the reason for this is every title's instinctive fear of not appearing to reward readers as well as its rivals. But there are some very sound reasons for maintaining a steady stream of offers.

The most obvious is alerting nonreaders to changes in the paper's format which they might find attractive. Mike Bowen, managing director of sales promotion agency Eleven, is impressed by The Times' 'Feed Your Mind' campaign, which is currently supporting the relaunch of the paper's second section as a tabloid.

"You need to ensure that any promotion runs for long enough to let new readers become familiar with the layout of your paper," he says. In this case, a door-drop invites people to trial the paper for a two-week period at 45% of the usual price.

Diverting traffic

This trialling technique can work at a variety of levels, adds Bowen. Modest promotions (garden seeds, restaurant vouchers, days out) can drive non-traditional readers into specific areas of the paper which have been added or improved. But huge giveaways can also be used to signal a radical transformation in editorial positioning.

The Daily Express is currently offering its readers the chance to 'Change Your Life Forever'. In a partnership with British Gas, this promotion will reward one reader with a house, car, dream holiday and [pounds]10,000 a year for life.

It is no accident that the competition coincides with efforts by editor Rosie Boycott to halt the paper's long-term decline by attracting a younger, more liberal readership.

The use of promotions is also a vital way of nurturing a paper's relationship with its existing readers. In April, Independent on Sunday head of marketing Duncan Eaton ran a competition which offered hundreds of readers the chance to fly to New York and back with United Airlines for [pounds]10.

"The Sunday market is so competitive you need to find an edge," claims Eaton. "This sort of promotion works for us because it says the right things about the paper. Our readers are young, affluent and aspirational. Their number one destination for a weekend blowout is New York."

According to Eaton, the New York offer is about both customer retention and acquisition. While it is designed to reward existing readers, a national ad campaign on Channel 4 and radio is clearly intended for all 18- to 45-year-old ABC1 adults. The TV campaign, through Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, showed a couple who had partied so hard in New York that they overslept and awoke to discover that the plane had already arrived in London and was being cleaned for its next flight.

But he stresses that this deal should not be seen in isolation. "We run regular offers for restaurants, videos and CDs which reinforce the message about what the paper stands for. If this consistent activity encourages a casual reader to make the Independent on Sunday their paper of choice, then it

has to be seen as a success."

Hooked by an offer

And having made that initial promotion-driven purchase, readers may find themselves locked into buying consecutive issues in order to collect the necessary number of coupons to access the offer. …

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