According to a survey released in September by Magazine Publishers of America, custom publications generate $650 million in revenue for the magazine industry. That's all because, increasingly, marketers are thinking of custom magazines as a direct marketing vehicle that can foster and enhance ongoing relationships between themselves and their customers.
SELLING A LINCOLN
The marketing team behind Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln LS luxury sport sedan turned to custom publishing when it was looking for a way to introduce the new car this fall. The team saw it as a new marketing vehicle that could directly drive its message to a younger demographic than usually associated with its Lincoln product line.
As part of its marketing campaign, Lincoln LS teamed with Conde Nast to produce CitySource, a 44-page lifestyle and travel guide sponsored solely by Lincoln LS. The magazine, which features 14 custom-created ads for the LS sedan, was mailed in August to 1.2 million select subscribers of 12 different Conde Nast magazines, such as Architectural Digest and Vogue.
It's not immediately obvious that CitySource is a single-sponsor, custom publication. Nothing in the editorial content gives any indication other than supplying plenty of lifestyle and travel tips for young urbanites. It's only when the Lincoln LS-only ads are taken into consideration that the marketing message is driven home.
"We wanted a fun, innovative way to reach our customers, to help them form a new image of Lincoln," says Deborah Wahl, marketing communications manager, Lincoln Mercury Co.
This is the first time Conde Nast has published an editorial supplement for a single sponsor, notes Catherine Viscardi Johnston, Conde Nast exec VP.
"We looked very closely at the marketing objective Lincoln wished to achieve; we felt we had a clear idea editorially of the direction to pursue, and we were able to go through our database to select the subscribers [most likely] to respond to this mailing," she says.
Conde Nast subscribers receiving CitySource were selected based on response to a Lincoln direct-mail campaign sent to nearly 200,000 Conde Nast subscribers last spring.
From this mailing, Conde Nast applied demographic, lifestyle interests and auto ownership information to 1.2 million subscribers that best fit the LS prospect profile.
"Custom publishing too often has been given a bad name. It's looked at as a vanity press with less to do with the reader than the product," says Ms. Viscardi Johnston. "Our focus is the magazine. It has to relate directly to the reader [and] be to the readers' benefit."
Just how much the readers benefit from the magazine isn't yet clear.
"We're just beginning to measure the reaction," says Ms. Wahl, "but all the feedback we're receiving so far is positive."
Readers form emotional bonds with magazines, says Diana Pohly, president of New England-based Pohly & Partners, which produces about 12 custom publications.
This emotional attachment "makes magazines a unique editorial environment in which to showcase a particular advertiser's products and services," she says. "It's an incredibly effective relationship marketing tool."
One publication Pohly produces is Tomorrow, a publication for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler National Training Center. This center oversees 30 programs that provide education, training and support services for more than 75,000 United Auto Workers at DaimlerChrysler facilities in the U.S.
Tomorrow is part of a marketing mix that includes brochures, other printed materials, videos and the UAW-DaimlerChrysler Web site.
"We launched Tomorrow with the help of a custom-publishing partner after extensive research on the most cost-effective way to reach our audience using print media," says David McAllister, NTC co-director.
In recent years, virtually every major publishing house has jumped into the business, with companies such as Time Inc. producing magazines for Sony Corp. (Sony Style) and Starbucks (Joe). At an average cost of $500,000 to $1 million that marketers must pony up to produce a quarterly, custom magazine, there's no question that publishing companies welcome the new revenue stream.
JAGUAR IN THE ACT
Time Inc.'s custom publishing division produces magazines for about 18 clients, including Ford's Jaguar division, and Dayton Hudson Corp.'s Target discount chain.
"Custom publishing certainly is taking direct marketing in a new direction," says Tim Hildebrand, president of the custom publishing division.
One direction custom publishing has moved into is accepting outside advertising. Noise, an 84-page, 3.5 million circulation magazine for teens published for J.C. Penney Co. by Redwood Custom Communications, has a 65/35 editorial-advertising ratio. Most of the ads are from marketers such as Jockey International, Nexxus Products Co., Adidas and others whose products can be found at Penney's stores. However, some of the ads, such as those from NBC and the NFL, do not have a Penney's tie-in.
Redwood Publishing "has always viewed its publications as true editorial," says Noise Editor Nadine Kosho, referring to the practices of its British parent to solicit advertising for nearly all of the 21 publications it produces. "Redwood even uses a different editorial staff for each publication [and] people with a journalism background. That's what makes us unique."
Redwood was the original publisher-about 16 years ago-of American Express Co.'s now-defunct travel magazine. American Express itself operates its own custom publishing unit, which produces magazines that not only serves cardmembers, but other companies as well.
This summer, AmEx began producing a series of Virtually There destination guides for Sabre Group, a travel data provider.
The new travel guides are sent to out-of-town travelers before they arrive at a featured city destination. Only travelers who book their travel through a Sabre-affiliated travel agent receive the pocket-sized publication, which includes ads from such advertisers as Club Med, Sony Imax Theaters and local operations such as art galleries, museums and restaurants that appeal to travelers.
"We feel this brings the brand's image to life," says Bernadette Mahlmann, general manager of the AmEx unit. "It's a way of adding value to the