On Oct. 2, the Hearst men's magazine will launch its coffee-table-book-magazine hybrid, a style manual fit for the successful modern man. With more editorial than most magazines, the black book, void of a celebrity cover or ad back, offers style tips and useful information for the modern gentleman, such as etiquettes of lateness and how to write the perfect thank-you note, as well as stories and histories on luxury brands.
"It's an extension of the brand in a very simple way," said Kevin O'Malley, Esquire's VP-publisher. He then expressed a not-too-immodest-view of the project's future: "The Big Black Book will clearly and quickly establish itself as the leading luxury style manual for men."
The brand extension is, in a way, an advertising party with a velvet rope around it. To advertise in the book, marketers had to receive an invitation from Hearst, and each advertiser could purchase only one of the 74 ad pages (all 74 have been sold). High-end brands that made the cut include Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Bombardier, IWC Watches, Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton.
Big Black Book will sell for $9.95 and have a distribution of 100,000, compared to a rate base of 700,000 for the magazine. Barnes and Noble is the magazine's biggest newsstand partner. The plan is to roll the new project out slowly, with the publication working its way up to twice-a-year distribution -- in the future, it could be released quarterly. Teaser ads have run in recent Esquire issues to market the new product, and a partnership with MSN.com's lifestyle section will make editorial available on the site.
Men looking to spend
Previous ventures aimed at the male shopper, such as Conde Nast's Cargo, the male equivalent to shopping magazine Lucky, have failed. But Esquire sees an emerging market that other male luxury titles are beginning to lay claim to, such as Conde Nast's Men's Vogue. Research looking into attitudes of affluent men by Harris Online for Esquire found that those men often reward themselves through personal luxury. But what those men didn't have was an outlet for that sensibility.
Big Black Book "is as much borne out of research as our understanding of the men's market," said Mr. O'Malley. "What we've been focused on is just execution at the highest level possible and making sure that instead of saying we're the leading men's lifestyle mag, we're showing that."