Custom communication by lindash


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                   Stuart Evans is a freelance journalist, writer and reporter. He can be
                   contacted via email at:

 Publishing a magazine that addresses the needs and interests of your market can be an influential
 communication tool. Stuart Evans reports on why brands are turning to custom publishing.

 Custom communication.

                  ot every editor or journalist
                  would feel comfortable writing
                  on behalf of brands. But for
                  some writers with a flair for
                  pedalling marketing lingo, the
 world of custom publishing represents a new
 chapter in communication.
     Given that marketers are always on the
 prowl for ways to engage and communicate
 with consumers, custom publishing is proving
 to be a real page-turner in a marketer’s cata-
 logue of choice. It adds a little more weight to
 the scales in favour of the strategist.
     Traditionally, custom publishing has
 paired the ambitions of a marketing depart-
 ment with the information and needs of its
 target audience via a range of editorial deliv-
 ered by print, the internet and other forms of
 media. The objective tends to remain the
 same: to move consumer behaviour in a
 required direction.
     “If the message is reaching an audience               She explains, “(Boost) saw the benefit of having     co-operation with Publications Management
 and the whole brand is targeted to an audi-               a magazine available for its consumers while        – ‘Characteristics Study: A Look at the
 ence, any marketing collateral is congruent               they waited, as well as the opportunity to add      Volume and Type of Custom Publications in
 with the publication that’s being produced,”              value to the brand and convey information           America’ – revealed an increase both in the
 says director of 186Red, Effie Dimitropoulos.              about Boost.”                                       number of custom titles being produced and
     Akin to traditional media, custom publica-                The content of Boost Life features lifestyle,   in the level of spending on custom publish-
 tions are becoming diverse and adaptable. In              health and nutritional information, targeted at     ing by corporate America. In its simplest
 July 2007, Dimitropoulos launched the inau-               an 18-39 year-old (female skewed) audience.         form, the objectives for businesses venturing
 gural issue of Boost Juice’s custom print                     Across the water, a new study in the US         into custom publishing start with brand
 publication Boost Life. Boost wanted some-                reveals customised content is growing faster        awareness.
 thing that consumers could hold onto while                than traditional media. Formed in 1998, the             “In general, companies are looking to
 waiting for their drink. The monthly A6 publi-            Custom Publishing Council (CPC) is the              build a stronger bond with their current and
 cation has a circulation of 160,000 and is                association for the custom publishing indus-        potential customers. Brand awareness is
 distributed to Boost Juice bars nationally.               try in the US. A recent report by the CPC in        increased by providing quality content that’s

                                                                                                                                CUSTOM PUBLISHING 095

targeted directly at the company’s demo-                             an advertorial-based publication for Wizard          mistakes by launching into publications with-
graphic. Companies want to build loyalty for                         Home Loans.                                          out a well-defined strategy.
their products,” says Gretel Going of the CPC.                           The strategy behind a custom publication              “Ultimately magazines drop off if clients
    It is a similar story in the UK. According to                    varies. “Some customers are very tactical in what    aren’t seeing results,” he says. “From the outset,
new Mintel research commissioned by the                              they’re trying to do in driving sales,” says         people have to be very clear and identify what
Association of Publishing Agencies (APA), the                        Stoddart. “We’ve got five or six clients within the   they’re trying to achieve.”
custom publishing industry is thriving and                           travel industry and they’re about bums on seats           A magazine concept straight from a mar-
worth almost £680 million.                                           or filling hotels. Other customers want to set        keting team’s weekly chinwag can appear a
    The expansion of the industry is obvious.                        themselves apart in the market. You can get a lot    moment of sheer brilliance. Yet the pages can
Because companies control content and, hope-                         of information across and build a story which        fade into obscurity and end up as yesterday’s
fully, have researched their target market, the                      can change a potential customer’s perception.”       fish and chip paper if a marketer gets it wrong.
benefits for advertisers are immense.                                     The lucrative custom publishing advertis-             “If the audience is too broad and they’re
                                                                     ing model has been sparked by the arrival of         trying to write from a broad level, or trying to
TARGETED ENVIRONMENT                                                 the internet. But there are many reasons why         communicate information that’s not very tar-
Australia’s infatuation with magazines shows                         companies are reverting to advertising in cus-       geted, these are all massive dangers,” says the
little sign of wavering. According to Magazine                       tom magazines, believes Going.                       CPC’s Going.
Publishers of Australia, the industry body that                          “The advertising arena is changing daily,             “This often leads to overselling products
represents Australia’s leading consumer maga-                        since the advent of the internet really. Custom      when a custom publication should be used as
zine publishers, Australians are among the                           publications often keep companies in touch           a soft sell,” she continues. “If readers are overly
world’s most avid magazine buyers. Sales of                          with their current database of customers and         aware that they’re being solicited, they won’t
Australia’s leading consumer magazines are                           increase loyalty. There’s a correlation between      be as keen to continue reading. While most
independently audited by the Audit Bureau of                         custom publications and increased business,          consumers know the company is providing
Circulations (ABC). In 2005, Australians                             although improvement of return on invest-            these publications to make a connection with
spent an estimated $1.06 billion on audited                          ment (ROI) measurement methods is a                  them, they’re willing to read if the content is
consumer magazines. As such, the newsagent                           constant goal of marketers the world over.”          interesting.”
is a smorgasbord of education, entertainment                             Thus far, results from Australia Post’s busi-         A good magazine is hard to put down. If
and information. Magazines ranging in style                          ness customer magazine Priority have been            magazines engage the reader and deliver worth-
and content litter shelves, however, like most                       positive, says manager of the publications unit      while and interesting content, then in many
magazines, advertising plays an important                            Leonie O’Farrell.                                    cases advertisers are dancing a merry
part in custom publications.                                             She believes Australia Post opted for cus-       jig to buy space. What custom titles have to
     Business development director for Edge                          tom publishing because the medium brings             ensure is that the publication speaks directly to
Custom Media (ECM), Fergus Stoddart, says                            product and service offerings to life for busi-      the demographic it is targeting, believes Going.
one of the reasons marketers are turning to cus-                     ness customers and others.                                “A good custom publication does not
tom publishing is because it is getting harder to                        “We believe the magazine format commu-           overtly spout the virtues of its own product.
cut through the clutter of advertising options.                      nicates in a way a product brochure can’t,” says     Consumers should be interested because the
     “The ability to personalise a message by                        O’Farrell. “It allows us to communicate our          articles are hypothetically and strategically
owning the medium, like custom magazines,                            product and service offering to a targeted audi-     written.”
is becoming more appealing,” he says. “One                           ence via a credible third-party endorsement.”             Dimitropoulos agrees and says Boost’s
of the challenges is that people are getting                                                                              magazine has to provide consumers with
bombarded with different marketing mes-                              IT PAYS TO BE PRUDENT                                something of value.
sages. The success with custom magazines is                          Fail to understand the target market and risk             “The magazine needs to contribute to
that they’ve proved to hold the reader long                          alienating who you believe are your consumers        building an understanding of products and
enough for different sales messages to get                           – that is the message from Dimitropoulos.            the brand. Consumers are trying to do some-
through.”                                                                “(Custom publications) really only work if       thing healthy in their lives by going in to buy a
     ECM’s custom publication portfolio                              the company is fully aware of who it is target-      Boost Juice, so the magazine is advising and
includes e-newsletters for Jetset, a 48-page                         ing and who its consumer actually is,” she says.     informing consumers about other information
tri-annual magazine for St George Bank and                           Stoddart concurs and warns companies make            including lifestyle and wellbeing,” she says.

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                                                     Stoddart is working with a client where
                                                     the brief includes producing three different
                                                                                                        MEASURING ROI
                                                     sections within the overall magazine. The          CLIENT: AUSTRALIA POST
                                                     sections will be tailored to three different       PUBLICATION: Priority
                                                     age groups. “The client has segmented
                                                     the audience and we’re providing three
                                                     different sets of editorial to make sure
                                                     the content, design and editorial are even         From the perspective of its readers,
                                                     more targeted.”                                    Priority’s main role is to provide ideas,
                                                                                                        inspiration and insights by showing the
                                                     FORECASTING THE FUTURE                             relevance and importance of Australia
                                                     Marketing, of course, is changing. In a            Post’s products and services in the
                                                     marketing environment that is forever              practical context.
                                                     evolving and striving to gain consumer trust,      RESEARCH
                                                     many companies are vying to get up close
                                                     and personal with consumers. It has led            To date, Australia Post’s research has
                                                     marketers and publishers to think strategi-        involved:
                                                     cally about how best to spend money. This          ✒ Readership studies conducted by
                                                     means custom publishing is increasingly                independent research companies.
                                                     finding its way onto marketing plans and                These have been qualitative studies,
                                                     forecasts.                                             involving one-on-one in-depth
                                                         “Custom publishing is definitely a big              interviews with business customers.
                                                     part of the marketing strategy. Often defined       ✒ Australia Post also researches
                                                     ‘the ultimate soft sell’, a large percentage of        Priority as part of its annual
                                                     companies finance custom publishing initia-             Major Customer Research study.
                                                     tives through marketing budgets,” says             RESULTS
                                                         “The CPC has measured corporate
                                                                                                        While Australia Post is due to
                                                     America’s spending on custom publishing
                                                                                                        undertake research again this year,
                                                     since 2002 and it’s increased steadily each        results to date have been positive. For
                                                     year. As such, custom publishing only seems        example, in previous Major Customer
                                                     to be getting stronger. I think it’s safe to say   Research studies a large percentage of
                                                     custom publishing will continue to be a core       business customers specifically
                                                     source of print-based marketing in the             mentioned Priority magazine, without
                                                     future, although it will never fully replace       specific prompting, as a key source of
                                                     traditional advertising,” adds Going.              information about products and
                                                         Sceptics prepared to read the last rights      services – often working hand-
 It is a delicate balance. According to the Roy      to print-based marketing may have to post-         in-hand with account managers to
 Morgan Readership Survey October 2005 –             pone the farewell. Australia may be in its         provide information they want to know
 September 2006, one third (33 percent) of           custom publishing infancy but heightened           about Australia Post and the industry.
 Australians aged 14 years and above are classi-     awareness could see the niche player take a        Research has also looked at Priority’s
 fied as heavy magazine readers. According to the     more dominant role.                                role as a strategic branding tool. Results
 survey, magazine lovers are also big spending           “In the last four or five years we’ve seen
 consumers, buying and using more products           the amount of investment in CRM increase,
                                                                                                        ✒ Priority positions Australia Post as
 and services than heavy users of other media.       and custom publishing provides a huge
                                                                                                            a business partner rather than
      An effective custom publication is driven by   opportunity to capitalise on that invest-
 key performance indicators (KPIs) agreed by         ment,” says Stoddart. “I think agencies will
                                                                                                            merely as a supplier: “A partner that
 the publisher and client, according to Stoddart.    get more involved and will see this medium
                                                                                                            looks after mail and logistical
      “The magazines that deliver are the ones       as something which is not kept separate                processes, so Australia Post no
 that are most targeted and where editorial is       from the rest of the marketing decision mak-           longer has to worry about it.”
 designed and tailored uniquely to the audi-         ing process. I see publishers and media            ✒ Priority appears to succeed in
 ence,” he says. “If custom publications are         agencies working closer together.”                     projecting a positive image of
 based on organisations’ marketing objectives            So you reckon you are seeing more cus-             Australia Post as “a modern,
 and brand strategy, the publication must tick a     tom magazines, websites, newsletters and               advanced and diverse business that
 number of boxes that resonate with the              e-zines pop up and compete for attention?              has a lot to offer its customers
 reader.”                                            Get used to it. M                                      besides delivering mail.”


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