April 09, 2010
/ by Katrina M Mendolera
Magazine publishers innovate with brand extensions
Back in the 1950’s, product giant Proctor & Gamble introduced to their cleaning supply division Mr. Clean, a liquid cleaner guaranteed to clean the most difficult areas. Over the years they came out with brooms, mops and Swiffers “that reinforce the original position of the brand,” noted Pete Canalichio, vice president of business development at Licensing Brands Inc. Brand marketing has obviously been around awhile – but not only in cleaning products. Lately, magazine publishers trying to tap into new revenue streams have gotten creative:
In an interview with the Society of National Association Publications, Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism, said that in October alone, there were 99 new magazine launches. Eighty-seven of those launches were brand extensions of the original publication, such as Life’s “Biggest Mysteries of all Time” and Time’s “Obama’s First Year.” This doesn’t count the number of publishers stamping their name on products and services.
“A diverse portfolio is a safer one, especially during tough economic times,” said Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group. “If a publisher can sell booths at a trade show, tickets for a vacation, or even hair dryers with their seal of approval, those are revenue streams that boost the bottom line.”
But what is a brand extension? Canalichio said it is the “essence of the brand.” The extension that “didn’t exist before is reinforcing the original position and strengthening the overall brand, bringing in more connections with the consumer,” he said. If a brand creates an extension that doesn’t fit with the core target audience of a brand, then it can dilute the product.
Take Playboy for instance. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article on how the men’s magazine has devalued their brand by stamping the logo on just about anything. From tanning spray and a mattress, to a line of drinks, Playboy paraphernalia collectors aren’t impressed, noted WSJ reporter Russell Adams.
“Some magazines are being more innovative and some are just desperate,” Bredholt said. “Magazines that understand which products and services are already a part of their readers’ lives will have a better go of incorporating those into extensions. A few magazines are trying to shoehorn their way into a brand extension like one of the stepsisters trying to claim the glass slipper. If it doesn’t fit, it’s just going to be painful for everyone.”
When done right, however, brand extensions can be more valuable than the magazines themselves, Bredholt noted. Advertisers can reach a publication’s loyal followers but with more immediate results. “Selling theater tickets and salon services are direct purchases with hand-to-mouth results,” she said.
Canalichio agreed with the sentiment. It makes sense for a fashion magazine to offer style services to teens, he noted. Echoing the media’s attempts at becoming more niche, Canalichio believes that brands are also narrowing the focus of extensions. “I think that’s actually smarter if you can deliver something that is very unique to that target audience, they’re going to be more satisfied,” he said. “If you want to survive and thrive then you find ways to be more innovative.”
Brand extensions will continue to grow, noted Canalichio, as they are the natural way for brand owners to bring in more revenue and connect with consumers “in a meaningful way that delivers on the brand promise.”
— Katrina M. Mendolera
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