ANALYSIS: COMMENT - Will anybody read a magazine about Kotex and Persil?

As I write this column, some 450,000 housewives around the country may be holding in their hands the future of consumer goods marketing: only they don’t know it. And what is it exactly that they’re grasping? Well, it’s a magazine produced by a group of three companies (Unilever, Kimberly-Clark and Cadbury’s), formerly known as the Consumer Needs Consortium but now called Jigsaw. A customer magazine? Is that all? Well, yes, but this magazine could signal a new era for fmcg companies.

As I write this column, some 450,000 housewives around the country

may be holding in their hands the future of consumer goods marketing:

only they don’t know it. And what is it exactly that they’re grasping?

Well, it’s a magazine produced by a group of three companies (Unilever,

Kimberly-Clark and Cadbury’s), formerly known as the Consumer Needs

Consortium but now called Jigsaw. A customer magazine? Is that all?

Well, yes, but this magazine could signal a new era for fmcg

companies.



But let’s stop the clock for a minute to consider why, and how, we’ve

got to this point. At its simplest, Jigsaw is the inevitable reaction to

the three most significant forces currently driving marketing: one, the

power of the retailer and the growth of the retailer brand; two, the

rise of data management techniques; and three, the rising cost and

ongoing fragmentation of media.



The first two are effectively marginalising the manufacturer - with the

result that the ownership of the relationship with the consumer rests

with the retailer. The last makes the traditional line of defence

against the first two trends - a simple increase in advertising weight -

at best expensive and inefficient and at worst pointless.



Which is how we get to a customer magazine and why, in order to build a

large enough mailing list to make such an exercise worthwhile, Unilever

has jumped into bed with non-competing but similarly focused companies

like Kimberly-Clark and Cadbury’s.



So far, it is impossible to fault the consortium’s logic - and, in any

case, they should be given the credit for at least trying to do

something different. But first a small observation. The original name -

Consumer Needs Consortium - suggested the group saw itself as meeting

some as-yet unfulfilled or unarticulated need on the part of consumers

for a bit of direct communication with the likes of Persil or Kotex

This is self-delusion of the highest order - and especially difficult to

dislodge once it takes hold in the marketing department.



In the end, however, this exercise will stand or fall on the response

levels the magazine generates - and the mailing lists that the members

therefore build up. And that, in turn, is a function of either the

editorial or the number of ’bribes’ (competitions, special offers,

giveaways, prizes, coupons and so on) on offer. Judging by the range of

bribes in my issue, I’d say they weren’t very confident about the

editorial’s ability to draw response. And I’m not surprised.



The contract publisher, BLA, has done a sterling job under the

circumstances, but when your raw material is chocolate, Kleenex/Kotex

and Domestos, Persil and Birds Eye, the opportunity to produce a

magazine that readers will give time to is, well, limited. Wouldn’t it

therefore be simpler just to give consumers the money-off coupons? Now

there’s a marketing revolution.



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