OPINION: MILLS ON BUSINESS

There will be many who see Heinz’s decision to pull out of customer magazines (Campaign, last week) as a sign that the market has finally overreached itself.

There will be many who see Heinz’s decision to pull out of customer

magazines (Campaign, last week) as a sign that the market has finally

overreached itself.



That, however, would be to jump to conclusions. For the right advertiser

with the right product, a customer magazine is a fantastic marketing

tool.



Some of the best examples demonstrate this: Tesco and Sainsbury’s, the

AA, Dulux’s Colour magazine, Hot Air, High Life and so on.



It’s sometimes a question of changing your perspective. From the

advertiser’s point of view, the logic of a customer magazine can be

irrefutable.



Collectively, however, if you look at it from the consumer’s point of

view, it can be madness. After all, you don’t have to be a shopaholic to

find yourself on the mailing list for a dozen different customer

magazines.



Broadly speaking, a middle-class family in the UK could find itself in

receipt of titles for at least one car brand, a building society, a

bank, Sky’s listings magazine, a supermarket, a holiday company and so

on.



With that kind of volume it isn’t long before receiving a customer

magazine stops being a bonus and becomes a chore (or a bore).



In these circumstances, customer magazines not only have to be damn

good, they also have to be relevant. Heinz’s At Home looks to me to fail

on both those counts. Two cover lines on the last issue illustrate the

point.



If ’Beans on toast with a twist’ and ’Have a pizza romance’ (and let’s

shoot whoever came up with that pun) are the two best features they can

come up with, then killing off the magazine was undoubtedly a

humanitarian gesture.



The chances of two companies in wildly different sectors - one a bank,

the other the 7-Eleven convenience store chain - picking the same name

to launch a sub-brand must be tiny. When Barclays and Budgens happen to

pick the same offbeat name - b2 - the odds must lengthen

exponentially.



What a mutual sense of shock there must therefore have been when each

realised what the other was planning. Mind you, while I can see that b2

is a great name for a Barclays sub-brand, I can’t see that it’s an

improvement for the 7-Eleven name which, if nothing else, is a good

descriptor.



But the fact neither company is planning to sue the other is a welcome

sign of grown-up behaviour in a corporate world where people litigate

first and ask questions afterwards.



I wish I could say the same for Burda, the German publishers of Focus

magazine. Burda has been threatening to set m’learned friends on Ford

over its new car, the Focus. Were there any chance of consumer

confusion, we might have some sympathy, but the gap between a magazine

and a car is as wide as that between, well, a bank and a convenience

store. On that note, Can we expect the publishers of Fiesta and Escort,

classified in Brad as ’erotic’, to take action against Ford - or vice

versa?



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