Who among us doesn’t like receiving a glossy free magazine from one of the brands or service providers we interact with? Or being able to find pleasure in a carefully crafted publication that adds value to our life or lifestyle?
Custom publishing is one of the few growth areas in the traditional media sector nowadays, delivering excellent return on investment because they have bigger budgets, are funded by clients in part, have larger dedicated circulations to attract advertisers and attract top notch editors and content because of this.
But custom publishing, or content marketing as it is now known, as it embraces more media and marketing tools, is also a very sophisticated marketing strategy.
Content marketing, whether it be via a glossy magazine – free or for sale – a website, email newsletter, mobisite or mobile marketing, incorporates direct marketing and is a very important facet of customer relationship marketing.
“The keyword is customer engagement,” explains John Brown Media MD Lani Carstens.
For example, retail club members like Edgars Club members, who receive a magazine from a retailer, spend on average more in store than non-club members.
This is obvious from international examples, where retailers track actual individual sales of items seeded directly into retail club magazines and in no other marketing promotions material.
John Brown Media counts as clients, Edgars, including the Edgars Club magazine distributed to club members, as well as the Edgars Club website and associated digital platforms, Pick• Pay’s Fresh Living which is sold in store, Discovery Health’s magazine and a recent win, Spur’s Totem magazine.
Carstens says research indicates that there is a higher level of customer loyalty and affinity to brands from customers who receive a magazine or some form of qualitative engagement from brands.
The 1 million Edgars Club members, for example, perceive their magazine to be the top benefit of club membership. The magazine is a shopping tool and readers use the magazine to inform their purchasing decisions.
Of course, there is a fine line in content marketing regarding the marketing you do give to your customers.
“There is a fine balance with customer loyalty and engagement, in not pushing too much product.
“You need to know if you are a catalogue or a magazine,” she says.
The difference is that content marketing publishers editorialise the content around the product that retailers or brands want to sell, adding value to the consumer’s lifestyle and giving them relevant information to consume.
Much of marketing spend is still above the line in traditional media, so Carstens says she tells brands to give them 5% of that spend and they will show a measurable return.
“Customers spend, on average, 30 minutes engaging with a custom publication during their leisure time – they engage at a deeper level with your brand.
“What would you say to your customer if you had 30 minutes with them in a relaxed environment of their choosing?”
Content marketing channels these days extend beyond the custom magazine, to social media channels, mobisites, email marketing – anything that can channel quality content to the customer.
The larger custom publishers have rebranded themselves as multichannel agencies and it is a growing aspect of media as bigger budgets – paid for in part by the clients – mean bigger editorial budgets for content and top editors.
A growth area is digital content and digital media channels for clients to communicate with customers.
“We focus purely on content, we are the content experts – the media channel doesn’t matter – and part of my challenge at the moment is educating clients to see us as more than print magazine publishers,” Carstens says.
For clients who want to add to their marketing strategy with a custom publication, they must be clear on their strategy: is it an acquisition strategy to get more customers, or for existing clients to spend more in-store, building brand loyalty or rewarding loyal customers?