LIVE ISSUE/MEN’S MAGAZINES: The pros and cons of launching brand extensions - How can Loaded underwear really improve the brand’s image? Mairi Clark reports

Imagine the scene. You take someone special back to your flat for a ’coffee’. Things progress nicely. You’re just removing your jeans when she catches sight of your Loaded-emblazoned underpants. She turns white and leaves you half-naked and wondering why you ever believed that brand extensions worked.

Imagine the scene. You take someone special back to your flat for a

’coffee’. Things progress nicely. You’re just removing your jeans when

she catches sight of your Loaded-emblazoned underpants. She turns white

and leaves you half-naked and wondering why you ever believed that brand

extensions worked.



This could be the scene in bedrooms all over the UK following Loaded’s

decision to launch a range of underwear (Campaign, 21 August). Its

arch-rival, FHM, also entered the brand extension game last week with

the announcement of a more grown-up credit card. Both magazines want to

make use of their thousands of readers while recruiting more - a concept

that the women’s magazine market cottoned on to three or four years

ago.



Judging by last week’s ABCs, the men’s magazine market has passed its

adolescent stage and is ready to take advantage of booming sales. FHM

has pulled off a 53.6 per cent rise in readers - totting up more than

775,000 - making it the top-selling magazine, bar the TV listing

guides.



With 456,000-plus readers, Loaded may be lagging behind the runaway FHM,

but it’s still a good distance in front of GQ and Esquire, reaching a

circulation level only tasted by the likes of Cosmopolitan, Good

Housekeeping and Marie Claire.



Simon Greves, FHM’s business development manager, explains the thinking

behind the credit card: ’FHM is now very front of mind with people. It’s

amazing that when we do research, people come back to us and say that

FHM to them is sexy, funny and useful - exactly what we say.’



But Philip Thomas, FHM’s executive publishing director, says: ’We are

not just going to stick a credit card out there and watch the money

coming in. The benefits offered have to be significant - such as

discounts at retail outlets or restaurants or cinemas.’



While FHM’s foray into the credit card market doesn’t seem surprising,

the connotations of Loaded underwear could be a bit off-putting. People

associate Loaded with the grubbier side of male behaviour and, to many,

a range of underwear conjures up images of men in dirty macs going into

dodgy cupboard-sized shops in Soho’s sleazier side streets.



Mark Whelan, a director of the creative consultancy, Ideas Exchange,

agrees. ’I wouldn’t buy Loaded underwear. It makes me think of soiled,

dirty Y-fronts and something like underwear should be seen as clean and

fashionable. If it was GQ then, yes, it would work. Loaded is funny,

witty and self-deprecating - do you want a pair of pants like that? To

make brand extensions work, you have to have a core offering and know

your readers,’ he says.



Conde Nast is one publisher you might have expected to have leapt on the

current trend for brand extensions. It has launched a range of books and

the House and Garden show, but it has shied away from wider branding for

fear of alienating advertisers.



Nicholas Coleridge, managing director at Conde Nast, says: ’We’re very

cautious when it comes to brand extensions because I think there’s a lot

of danger in going into competition with your advertisers. Our job is to

be an upmarket publishing company and support our advertisers.’



While a magazine offering its own credit card or underwear may not

alienate any of its advertisers, FHM’s future plans to launch a travel

service could. The magazine has in mind tailored holidays featuring some

of the activities that appear in the magazine, such as white-water

rafting, canoeing and abseiling.



The Daily Telegraph’s venture into the world of PEPs, in February 1996,

was scuppered when financial advertisers protested over potential

advertising conflict. Although it has since managed successfully to

launch other Telegraph-branded goods, such as clothes, books and health

insurance, the incident serves as a benchmark for how much advertisers

will take.



FHM’s Greves insists that advertisers won’t be bothered. ’We’re

certainly not going to damage our relationship with our advertisers in

any way.’



Whelan thinks FHM’s travel idea will work. ’Most people create their own

holiday after seeing something like white-water rafting in a

magazine.



All FHM is doing is taking the leg-work out of it.’



Cosmopolitan is one of the success stories when it comes to brand

extensions.



The National Magazine Company estimates that around pounds 10 million in

revenue is generated by its publishing spin-offs, including

Cosmo-branded CDs, a fruit drink, bed-linen, jewellery, lingerie and

nightwear.



David Shields, group director at NatMags, explains: ’We look very

carefully at all areas in our licensing business. We would not, for

example, ascribe the name of Cosmopolitan to something that would be

detrimental to the magazine. The brand doesn’t benefit from making a

quick killing.’



So certain magazines can move into certain areas - with caution. The

general consensus is that any branded product or service should have

added value. Good Housekeeping’s TV show on Granada Breeze, for

instance, wouldn’t work if it just repeated what was in that month’s

issue.



Whelan concludes: ’The downside of going into brand extensions is that

if it goes wrong, it feeds back very badly on the brand itself. You need

to increase your audience, not cannibalise it.’



Leader, p17.



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