World: Media Analysis - Maxim's partnerships give it successful brand extensions

Maxim's brand extensions reach hitherto elusive male audiences.

In 1999, Nicholas Coleridge, the UK managing director of Conde Nast, predicted how consumer magazine brands would innovate over the coming decade: "GQ will covermount a Viagra pill, Wallpaper will start a sushi bar and Maxim will lend its name to a massage facility behind Euston station."

To date, Maxim hasn't teamed up with such an establishment, although it has many other partnerships. With 23 editions and a four million-strong global circulation - 2.5 million in the US alone - the brand is as fit as its cover stars. Earlier this year, it launched in Hong Kong and China and it plans to crack Croatia, Singapore, Thailand and Argentina in the autumn.

As well as spin-off magazines, such as the US music title Blender and Maxim Fashion in Russia and Germany, the Maxim brand graces hair colour, CDs and DVDs. Bath mats, shower curtains, duvets and towels also went on sale in the US this year.

Maxim is now venturing into broadcast media in the US through the wholly owned Dennis subsidiary, Moving Pictures DPI. Fronted by Peter Jaysen, Moving Pictures DPI will create content to appeal to the readers of Maxim and its associated titles. This builds on its existing TV credentials, including The Maxim Hot 100 on VH1 and Blender's 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever.

Jaysen says: "Maxim, Blender and Stuff dominate the 18 to 34 male demographic in print and that's the ultimate goal of all TV advertisers and people who want to market films."

The magazine has also hooked up with Sirius Satellite Radio to launch a subscription-based, round-the-clock, Maxim-branded station.

"US radio is generally a disastrous medium," Andy Clerkson, the editorial director at Dennis in the US, says. "We want to create a radio culture for people where they don't feel they're being screamed at or sold to."

Robin Kent, the chairman and chief executive of Universal McCann Worldwide, thinks that TV is a natural brand extension for Maxim, although he is less convinced by radio: "There are a lot of TV channels here looking for content and TV has lost young men, so this is a great opportunity for Maxim because it will offer the type of content that will bring them back to TV. But subscription radio is difficult. I'm interested to hear content so good that it would make me want to pay for it."

He adds: "We're great supporters of Dennis because it's reaching the target audience that we want for clients such as Bacardi and Sony." And he supports the magazine brand extensions: "You've got to give Felix (Dennis) and his team immense credit for what they've done. To take on Rolling Stone is not an easy task, but Blender is doing phenomenally well."

Blender's circulation is 630,000, more than half that of Rolling Stone's.

And Ed Needham, the former Rolling Stone editor, has been named editor-in-chief at Maxim, replacing Keith Blanchard, who is now the director of programming at Moving Pictures DPI.

Between Maxim, Blender and its other big US title, Stuff, Dennis has managed to capture an elusive audience. As Clerkson says: "We have three formats that have ring-fenced one of the most attractive consumers in the world: the young American man."

Georgina Hickey, the international business director at Carat, says that Maxim is also a strong option for targeting men in multi-local campaigns in Europe. Carat used Maxim to run a promotional campaign for Vodafone across five markets via its relationship with Hachette. Hickey sums up the position of Maxim: "In the UK, FHM is probably stronger than Maxim, but Maxim has more international editions. We've looked at FHM, but its lack of countries means it doesn't have as much experience."

As Maxim has more resonance around the globe than FHM or Men's Health, brand extensions have to be chosen carefully. So how does the team at Dennis decide on them? Barry Pincus is the director of brand development at Dennis US and a former chief financial officer at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The domestic doyenne's empire blazed a trail for magazine brand extensions.

However, at Dennis, caution governs any decision to extend the brand.

"There have been lots of things we've ruled out," Pincus says. "We've built up a great brand here and we don't just want to put our name on to any old product."

Maxim also can't afford to tread on its advertisers' toes. "There are lots of products that would sell well, but which would be in conflict," Pincus states. "Even though a Maxim fragrance would be great, we're not going to compete with an advertiser such as Old Spice."

The question for Maxim now is whether it will launch some of its US success stories into other markets. All eyes are on Blender. Kerin O'Connor, the international publishing director for Maxim, says: "Blender certainly has international potential. We wouldn't rule out anything at this stage."

Perhaps that massage parlour is just around the corner.

MAXIM AROUND THE WORLD

Biggest-selling editions:

US: 2,569,172

Germany: (Axel Springer) 260,500

UK: 243,341

Spain: (Futura/Hachette) 150,000

Brand extensions: media

Blender (circulation: 630,000); Satellite subscription-based radio; TV and film content through the Dennis-owned Moving Pictures DPI

Other brand extensions

Hair colour, CDs, towels, bath mats, shower curtains, duvets

Source for circulation figures: Dennis.

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