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How magazines can drive customer relations

How magazines can drive customer relations

By Julia Hutchison, COO, Association of Publishing Agencies

Marketers are terribly fond of their buzzwords, trends and acronyms – all of which when introduced are held up as the panacea to solve all marketing ills.

A few short years ago CRM was introduced as the latest cure-all and while it unsurprisingly failed to make marketing problem-free, its impact on the discipline has been undeniably wide-reaching.

The new focus on the customer has realigned marketing practice, just at the time when ‘push’ media began its current inexorable slow decline and consumers started to have access to technology allowing them to control their media consumption such as PVRs.

Putting the consumer at the core of the marketing proposition and tailoring communications to their needs, rather than what the organization wanted to promote at that given moment heightens relevance and makes marketing overall a much more relevant and effective affair.

This is especially true when you investigate the rise of ‘pull’ media, like customer magazines.

Customer publishing perfectly encapsulates the spirit of CRM. The channel – the second fastest growing in the UK after online, when traditional media such as TV and radio are all experiencing a downturn – has proven itself to be highly effective when it comes into improving consumer engagement with a brand and driving response.

The recent Advantage Study, an ongoing research project by Millward Brown that investigates and benchmarks the power and influence of the customer magazine medium, has proven that they actively engage with readers and answer a number of marketing objectives, including improving loyalty, deepening brand engagement and yes, increasing sales.

Customer titles can directly increase share of wallet by 8 per cent, stimulate brand loyalty by an average of 32 per cent, improve brand image by 9 per cent and perhaps most impressively, 44 per cent of readers have been found to interact with a brand as a direct result of reading the customer title.

The customer magazine method is however not the way of the ‘hard sell’ – titles subtly reinforce brand values and entice readers interest though themed editorial, chosen to not only reflect the parent organisation but also readers’ interests.

In addition, the Advantage Study has shown that customer magazines actively engage the reader on average for 25 minutes – the equivalent of 50, 30-second TV ads.

In stark contrast, online advertisements generally attract the attention for 0.5 seconds. Clearly, customer magazines are getting something right, in a time when consumer attention is increasingly valuable and equally elusive. Few other media channels can boast this level of engagement or potential reach.

The medium even reaches audiences that other media can’t, such as 18-24 year olds, and wealthy greys.

These demographics typically have low exposure to TV advertising and other channels, yet customer magazines can achieve response rates among 18-24 year olds of an impressive 55 per cent, while 61 per cent of AB’s aged 55+ read half or more of a customer magazine.

Wealthy grey readers also spend more time with a customer magazine than the typical reader, clocking in at an average of 30 minutes.

With all of these facts in hand, it is not surprising to learn that customer publishing is flourishing. 2006 alone heralded an increase of 16 per cent in the number of new and relaunched customer titles entering the market.

New organisations are being attracted to the medium all the time, including Butlins which has recently announced the production of its first customer title through August Media and Shell who recently appointed Redwood to produce a title for its V-Power club through our APA Ask new business service.

At the same time, some of those with well-established publications like Sky have taken the decision to increase reader engagement and relevance by diversifying their offering, as evidenced by ‘Sky the Magazine’ generating two new offshoot titles, tailored to appeal specifically to subscribers to ‘Sky Sports’ and ‘Sky Movies’.

In short, focus on the customer relationship is driving customer publishing forward to greater success. Many publishers are looking to extend content online, through podcasts and other media including in-store TV to further improve consumer interaction.

As such titles can integrate seamlessly into a broader integrated marketing drive, supporting and encouraging the other channels, proving that a rich seam of CRM can run, alive and well, enriching a rounded customer experience and most importantly, giving the all important consumer what they want, when and how they want it.

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