Brands flourish via multimedia mastery

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Mary engelbreit, artist and greeting card maven, is not simply the queen of Midwestern-sensible cute cards. She's the head of a $100 million business that encompasses everything from fine art to gift books, journals, mugs, photo albums, towels and teapots, monthly newsletter, retail stores, a Web site and a couple of cable TV segments. Oh, and she has her own magazine as well.

Every two months, Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion brings to life Ms. Engelbreit's "art and sweetly upbeat sensibility," says Publisher Deb DuCharme. "But the magazine itself is very different from other things she does."

As Ms. DuCharme and other publishers readily attest, it's not enough in today's fragmented media world to be a stand-alone magazine. One has to be connected to readers in other ways, whether it's a TV show, a Web site or merchandising. In brief, call it "the Oprah Effect."

BRAND FOOTPRINT

"A lot of magazines launching today are really brand extensions of other things that are not always related," says Cyndi April, senior VP-group media director, BBDO Worldwide, New York. "A magazine is one part of the brand footprint, but increasingly today, it's only one part of a larger brand picture."

"Business models all point to extending the brand's voice in as many synergistic directions as possible," notes Vikki Schwartzman, senior VP-managing director of strategic print services, Universal McCann, the media arm of McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.

"In today's media world, it's all about connecting with the consumer," she says. "A celebrity comes with a cachet that people know, and they know what to expect. When you have TV show, Web site and magazine, you have several ways of connecting with the audience. Martha Stewart does it the best from an advertiser and consumer standpoint because she gives her audience various ways to connect with her based on [the consumers'] lifestyle."

Another master of this new multimedia strategy is Oprah Winfrey, say some executives.

"There's no way to talk about the magazine without talking about Oprah and everything else she brings to the publication," says Amy Gross, editor in chief of O: The Oprah Magazine. "This magazine began with a person who made her mark in other media, and now brings that persona to a publication. They're so intertwined, one couldn't possibly answer whether the magazine would be as successful without Oprah's brand recognition."

While not every publication is blessed with a stand-out, established brand and star along the lines of Ms. Winfrey, publishers admit it would be a foolhardy business model to publish a magazine today without some other form of media footprint.

"No, it's not enough to be a magazine, you have to have as many other media associations as you can possibly develop," says Steve Fox, publisher of the 69,000-circulation Minnesota Monthly, which began as a publication for Minnesota Public Radio 33 years ago but has since branched into custom publishing and sponsored events.

DEVELOP THE RELATIONSHIP

"It's all about building your brand in as many ways as you can," he says. "What you're striving to do is develop a deep relationship with your readers, and come to them with as many ways possible to interact with your brand."

Hearst Corp. didn't even wait for the launch of CosmoGirl before unveiling the magazine's Web site. The year-old publication, aimed at 11- to 16-year-old girls, recognized the importance of the Web to bring readers to the magazine, says Atoosa Rubenstein, CosmoGirl editor in chief.

"I'm a big advocate of Web sites, because that's where our girls' eyeballs are," she says. "They spend so much time online that to even think about doing a magazine without a site is a very shortsighted approach.

"Our studies tell us that CosmoGirl readers are surfing the site while holding copies of the magazine on their laps, going back and forth between the two," she adds. "Our readers expect us to have a Web site, they'd be shocked if we didn't."

CosmoGirl this summer hired online ad network DoubleClick to explore how to intermix online content, the magazine and advertising.

"I can't see that we're making the magazine obsolete in any way," says 28-year-old Ms. Rubenstein, who also serves as editor of the Web site. "If anything, we're giving readers more things to do with the magazine, taking those eyeballs to places they couldn't go without interactivity." Effective with the February issue, CosmoGirl will raise its rate base to 750,000.

"We think of Cosmo and CosmoGirl as brands, they're not magazines," says Donna Kalajian Lagani, publishing director of Cosmopolitan Group. "Do you have to do all of this [multimedia] to have a successful magazine? Perhaps not. But I think that it's the way to build a global brand."

While the initial subscribers to Home Companion were Mary Engelbreit fans, many of the newer subscriptions are coming from readers who pick up the magazine due to some other form of contact with Ms. Engelbreit's art, such as the Web site maryengelbreit.com, says Ms. DuCharme. "We're giving Mary fans what they want, which is more Mary, but it's also bringing more women into the Mary fold."

RATE BASE INCREASE

Launched with a circulation of 100,000 in the fall of 1996, Home Companion's rate base steadily climbed to 350,000 in 1998 and 450,000 in 1999. The paid advertising base for the magazine now is 525,000; effective with the February/March 2001 issue, the rate base will be 575,000. The four-color open rate will be $33,350.

The Engelbriet Web site is undergoing some "enhancement," Ms. DuCharme says, with the magazine portion of the site hosting an archive of food articles and craft ideas from the magazine.

A line of Home Companion branded books is selling well, and subscriptions to an advertising-free newsletter, launched in August, already total 15,000 at $18.95 each, Ms. DuCharme says. "We are giving fans more of Mary in every way we can."

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