SUPPLEMENT: TOP MAGAZINES; Do brand extensions really work?

Magazine brand extensions are an increasingly popular means of attracting new readers. Nicole Dickenson looks at their impact in a crowded and highly competitive market

Magazine brand extensions are an increasingly popular means of

attracting new readers. Nicole Dickenson looks at their impact in a

crowded and highly competitive market

Consumer magazines are developing an expanding range of brand

extensions, from the mundane - diaries, books and exhibitions - to more

exotic fashion accessories, credit cards and sites on the Internet. But

what do magazines get out of these licensing deals?

‘It’s all about enhancing and promoting the brand values of each

magazine, and also about diversifying the way we work commercially,

creating another revenue stream,’ Anne Melbourne, director of brand

extensions for the National Magazine Company, says. ‘However, everything

we do in brand extensions has to support the relationships that the

magazine has with its readers and advertisers.’

NatMags’ Country Living Fair is proof of the potential for commercial

success. The fair has been running for the past five years, has a

turnover of pounds 2-3 million and is so successful that the spring

event is being supplemented with a Christmas fair this year.

‘The fair started as a vehicle to reward our magazine readers and as a

chance to meet our readership, but it’s become more than that. It’s a

way to promote the magazine through a rather different route and build

reader loyalty,’ Brian Whittaker, publisher of Country Living, comments.

He estimates that as many as 10,000 of the 30-40,000 visitors to the

four-day event are new to the magazine.

Simon Kippin, publishing director of the NatMags title, Cosmopolitan,

identifies three benefits of entering the exhibitions market with the

Cosmopolitan show at Earl’s Court, to be held in May this year. It will

help build a direct one-to-one relationship with Cosmopolitan readers,

promote the magazine to potential readers and provide a revenue source

in its own right. ‘There are good benefits for the magazine, but the

project has to be self-funding at least and, hopefully, profitable,’

Kippin explains.

The exhibitors will range from prestigious brands such as Calvin Klein

and Elizabeth Arden to high-street names like Boots No. 7 and Dorothy

Perkins. Kippin describes the show as an opportunity to bring the pages

of the magazine to life. He also sees another spin-off: cementing the

magazine’s relationship with its advertisers. ‘From an advertiser’s

point of view, it’s a great opportunity to get a live relationship with

the readers of Cosmopolitan, rather than just via the magazine’s ad

pages,’ Kippin continues.

New Woman’s annual beauty awards also provide a major pay-off for its

advertisers - if they happen to be the lucky winner.

According to the New Woman publisher, Margaret Leonard, the

manufacturers of recent winning products, such as the Yves Saint Laurent

concealer for unsightly blemishes and the Pantene haircare brand, can

enjoy a tenfold sales boost.

The Internet is a new area for brand extensions. New Scientist launched

its Planet Science site last October. The magazine is an ideal candidate

because its academic readership are established Internet users. The

site, which includes editorial from the magazine as well as new material

that is updated daily, has attracted around 50,000 registered users so

far, which compares favourably with the magazine’s circulation of


‘It’s a standalone product in its own right, but it complements New

Scientist as well. It has heightened interest in the magazine worldwide,

and in the UK. One of the strengths of taking a well-known brand on-line

is that you can reconfirm that people are familiar with it,’ Jonathan

Newby, the new-media publisher at IPC Magazines, says.

New Scientist is the first of several magazine brands that IPC plans to

take online - NME will follow in the first half of this year.

Last summer, Good Housekeeping became the first mainstream consumer

magazine to launch its own credit card with MBNA. ‘A Visa card with the

Good Housekeeping name on it is fun and allows us to get closer to our

readers,’ Liz Kershaw, Good Housekeeping’s publisher, comments. Harpers

and Queen quickly followed suit with its affinity card in the November


Good Housekeeping’s Visa card joins a long list of brand extensions,

from books, CDs and tapes to greeting cards and a bakeware range. ‘Brand

extensions only work on titles with a broad editorial platform, which

ours definitely has. We can do a much bigger range of brand extensions

than a magazine like Vogue, which would find it hard to get consumers to

take a Vogue baking tin or range of saucepans seriously. Equally, people

would, I suspect, find it hard to take a Good Housekeeping-Christian

Lacroix fab new look for autumn seriously,’ Kershaw explains.

The credit cards go a step further than the privilege card pioneered by

Marie Claire, which offers readers special offers and discounts. Heather

Love, publishing director at Marie Claire, is concerned that because so

many other women’s monthlies offer discount shopping cards or special

offers in their pages, the card’s effectiveness has been reduced.

Even Marie Claire’s arch-rival, Cosmopolitan, has got in on the act. The

March issue of Cosmopolitan carried its bonus card on the cover. Kippin

has ambitious plans for it: ‘Each card is numbered and we have various

devices for data capture, so we can build up our own database of readers

and develop more of a one-to-one relationship with them.’

If brand extensions are effective at encouraging loyalty, promotions are

better at attracting new readers - they can boost sales by as much as 30

per cent. Magazine promotions are a highly competitive market and it’s

becoming harder to find a promotion that stands out from the crowd.

Every PC magazine on the shelves of W. H. Smith usually has a CD-Rom or

disk mounted on the front cover, just as every classical music magazine

seems to have to offer a free CD.

Last year, promotions in the men’s magazine market reached saturation

point. In one month in 1995 every men’s title had a covermount,

prompting Esquire’s publisher, John Wisbey, to suggest that they all

agree to pack them in.

But Peter Stuart, publishing director of GQ, which gave away books and

CDs last year, says: ‘We couldn’t trust rivals not to renege on the

agreement.’ And in any case, ‘covermounts are a relatively cheap way to

boost circulation in the short term and get sampling of the product,

although there is a danger they’ve become devalued. The key point is to

ensure that the products given away are relevant to the reader of the


The men’s magazine, FHM, launched its FHM/Menswear Awards in September

last year as a positive gesture to the fashion industry. Mike Soutar,

editor of FHM, says the event failed to sell more issues, but ‘sent out

a very strong message to the fashion industry that we care. Covermounts

and supplements do increase sales and extend the brand, but awards raise

the magazine’s profile.’

But, at the end of the day, the title sells itself. Leonard says: ‘The

most effective promotion is what’s on the cover. That’s the greatest ad

for the magazine. You can have a successful promotion, but if you don’t

increase your base-line it’s a waste of money.’