Case Studies in Custom Publishing

Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, July 2008 | Go to article overview

Case Studies in Custom Publishing


Defining the mission is always critical for a custom publishing project. Is the project about brand exposure? Customer conversions? Maybe even sales? As custom projects take on more of a multimedia flavor, the overall mission of the project typically stays the same but now there is potential for much more involvement from the client side and much more direct feedback from the target audience.

The case studies presented in this feature reflect how three custom projects evolved from standalone print efforts to a new mission and a new target audience for the client. Rodale's custom unit talks about how it enabled Little Brown Book--a magazine for the 175,000 high-spending Bloomingdale's credit card holders--to break through the clutter for a heavily-targeted audience with award-winning design. On the b-to-b side, Everything Channel and Ingram Micro discuss how they've gone beyond the typical publisher-client relationship to become true partners in a multimedia, revenue-generating project. And Hammock Inc. repositions a 116-year-old brand for perhaps the biggest challenge for a consumer magazine right now--the newsstand.

Breaking through the Mail Clutter

How an 'uber-branded' custom magazine helped Bloomingdale's connect with its top-spending shoppers.

Project: Little Brown Book | Launched: 2005 | Circulation: 175,000

Objective: To create an ongoing dialog with Bloomingdale's most valuable customers, and to drive them to the store.

Magazines are all about community, leveraging the common ground that links a group of people. So when Bloomingdale's decided it wanted to take its "Insider" credit card program to the next level--to create a unifying culture for its most loyal, active and fashion-conscious customers--a new custom magazine made perfect sense as part of the solution. And what better way to brand that magazine than to draw on the upscale retailer's iconic symbol, its "big," "medium," and "little" brown bags.

The partnership between Rodale and Bloomingdale's developed from an existing relationship between the store chain and Rodale Custom Publishing's director of publishing Duncan Milne, who previously worked with John Brown Publishing, a UK-based company that published a custom magazine for Bloomingdale's called B. For the new publication, the store sought to reach its highest-spending shoppers. Milne and his team hatched the concept for the Little Brown Book, a custom magazine that is direct-mailed quarterly to the 175,000 highest-spending Bloomingdale's "Insiders," or credit card holders, and draws on the store's iconic branding tool--the brown bags that can be recognized in the hands of hundreds of men and women in cities and shopping districts around the country.


One of the most important features of Little Brown Book is its exclusive offers--tickets to Broadway plays or the opera, private meet-and-greet events with artists and designers, extra credit card rewards points for purchasing certain products, and so on. According to Rodale, every offer in the magazine--there are usually 6 to 10--has sold out within a week (and sometimes within an hour).

Bloomingdale's' objective for the magazine is not just sales but engagement. "If you're a regular Bloomingdale's shopper you get a lot of mail," says Valerie Valente, vice president of custom publishing. "We wanted this product to break through the clutter."

With that goal in mind, Valente says, from the start, her team wanted the covers to stand out. Now, each cover is illustrated by the designer whose product is featured as an exclusive offer in the magazine. For example, designer Chris Benz illustrated the cover of this year's spring issue, and inside is an offer to attend his private show and take away a sun hat.


Other elements of the design draw on what Valente calls the "uber-branded" shopping bag theme--the sidebars are fashioned to resemble a little brown bag, and the magazine is printed on coated paper intended to feel like a shopping bag. …

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Case Studies in Custom Publishing


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