They talk about "momfluentials" and "the woman within the mother" and "Generation Mom." They rhapsodize about how there's "a kind of sisterhood in motherhood" and hype "word of mom" as one of the most influential marketing currencies out there. A slide in the ad group's PowerPoint presentation proclaims: "This is not your mother's motherhood."
But there's more than buzz behind those words. The Condé Nast Publications magazine has evolved from a glimmer of an idea -- "a different kind of parenting magazine" was the working concept -- to a genuinely unique parenting-lifestyle title.
If you weren't aware that a parenting-lifestyle magazine genre existed, well, you're not alone: Cookie is the segment's only occupant, a sly, savvy positioning that's fueled the magazine's growth. Launched in December 2005, Cookie has come into its own over the past year, hiking its rate base 33% to 400,000 from 300,000; a further climb to 500,000 already has been announced for February 2008. In January, the title will increase frequency from every other month to 10 issues per year.
Cookie ran 428.2 ad pages in its first four issues of 2007, up an eye-popping 35.4% over last year, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Even more impressively, it's lured luxury advertisers including Prada, Lexus and Neiman Marcus, which have never advertised in a parenting title. In September's issue, Cookie's most ad-packed since its launch, such marketers sit alongside mom-mag mainstays such as Kraft, Playtex and Huggies.
LAUNCH OF THE YEAR
PUBLISHER: Conde Nast PublicationsWHY IT WON: Bid to "embrace the chaos of the modern mother's life" resonates with readers -- and upscale advertisers new to parenting books
That speaks volumes about the job Cookie has done making its content both easily accessible and high-end.
"We're not going after this mass, generic mom," says Cookie VP-Publisher Carolyn Kremins, who succeeded launch publisher Eva Dillon in April. "Our readers are educated and affluent. They're employed in professional and managerial positions. They're continuing their successful lives but with kids."
From a friend
Pilar Guzmán, brought over from Time Inc.'s Real Simple to serve as Cookie's first editor in chief, describes the audience and approach slightly differently: "Cookie is your most well-informed, least judgmental friend whispering in your ear, 'I've heard about this thing; it might be good for you.' That's how women get their information in this age."
There appear to be a lot of readers in search of such a friend. Cookie's first-half 2007 circulation stood at 385,306, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Ms. Guzmán is also quick to play up the more service-y aspects of the book, not to mention the ones that often get glossed over in other women's magazines. "People are very lonely in this culture of motherhood," she says. "Everybody thinks they're supposed to naturally, miraculously know what to do the minute this baby is born. Suddenly, we're supposed to magically shed our ambitions and walk into this like Mother Nature. 'It takes a village to raise a child' -- where is this village? Cookie is this village." Fairchild Publications (at the time a sibling of Condé Nast and now a division of the publishing company) birthed the idea for Cookie at a "dream up a magazine concept"-type day, Ms. Guzmán says.
From the start it was envisioned as modern and upscale, devoid of the information about developmental stages found in other parenting magazines. It would "embrace the chaos and imperfection of the modern mother's life," in Ms. Guzmán's words, but also cut moms a little slack and tell them that it's OK to indulge themselves.
Validation through an SUV
Condé Nast knew it was onto something early on. Ms. Guzmán says that when the idea was floated past potential readers, it received one of the best responses of any publication in Condé Nast history. Ms. Guzmán's "Eureka!" moment came when she learned that Porsche had rolled out its first sport-utility vehicle. "I thought, 'The midlife-crisis-mobile-maker has an SUV?' That's an absolute embrace of the women who are driving these [purchasing] decisions," she says.
Advertisers responded almost immediately. Given how Cookie walks the tightrope between lifestyle and parenting, almost every ad category can conceivably be deemed endemic. The magazine has taken advantage of this, capturing fashion/retail advertisers (its biggest category), and travel, automotive, food/beverage, home and technology marketers in about equal measure. Liquor advertisers sit atop Ms. Kremins' get list. "Cookie readers drank 7 million glasses of wine in the last 30 days -- we added it up," she says.
Cookie has a fair share of fans in the ad/marketing community. "It's one of the only magazines I personally use. It recognizes the pace of motherhood today," says Deborah Wahl Meyer, VP-chief marketing officer at Chrysler, a Cookie advertiser.
She's especially impressed by the way Cookie communicates with its readers. "In the auto category, men and women talk about and express their enthusiasm about cars very differently," says Ms. Meyer, mother of a 5-year-old son. "Cookie knows how to shape a dialogue."
Some skeptics, of course, remain. "There's a little bit of buzz about it, but [Cookie] may be the one really weak thing in [Condé Nast's] arsenal. They keep saying it's really strong, but to me it feels a little frivolous," says Peter Gardiner, Deutsch chief media officer.
Cookie faces the challenge of dealing with its increased frequency, as well as an expected digital upgrade. "Maybe we'll do some kind of social networking," Ms. Kremins says.
The magazine will soon embark on an ambitious initiative, tentatively dubbed "Mom the Vote," designed to help educate female voters on the upcoming elections. In addition to a pullout section in the magazine, the initiative will feature a handful of discussion-type events and culminate right before the 2008 presidential election with a "Hot Momedy" event that may include a handful of Hollywood mother/comedians (momedians?).
"It's hard to dissect and demystify what these candidates stand for," Ms. Kremins says. "What we'll try to do is find out how they might affect our readers, both as a woman and as a mother."
The bigger question for Cookie in the months and years ahead may be managing growth -- namely, the temptation to go even bigger and broader. Almost as an aside, Condé Nast President-CEO Chuck Townsend says: "I just don't know whether [Cookie] is going to be a behemoth or just continue to be a simply precious magazine. ... I continue to question whether or not we shouldn't keep it really tightly focused on that consumer that Pilar sees so well and is so essentially attractive to advertisers."
Told of this, Ms. Kremins is noncommittal: "I want what's best for the brand. Honestly, there are a lot of Cookie moms out there we haven't reached yet."