Why do brands still advertise in “traditional” magazines

Posted by on February 23, 2017

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As a publisher of a “traditional” magazine, clearly my opinion on this is going to be little self-interested. On the other hand, after a long career in advertising and packaged goods marketing, I can say that every medium has the potential to play a role in the marketing mix and I’ve always been a big believer in magazines. Some media are more efficient than others in creating brand awareness; others do a more efficient role at seeding emotional benefits for products.  Here are the key reasons why modern brands who know how to market still use traditional media, including print advertising.

1. You need to actively manage your brand

To the shock of many of us trained in advertising, many modern marketing managers no longer manage their brands. They buy media or send materials to bloggers and monitor brand mentions, tweets, and appearances on The Today Show. While the value of an explosive PR event can never be minimized when it turns an unknown into a blockbuster over night, most brands are not built that way.

Great brands are created by finding a target market with a defined need and by doing a better job at filling that need. This requires dogged discipline to messaging and consistent imagery over time so that customers (not bloggers) can repeat what a brand stands for. You shouldn’t confuse the role of advertising, promotion and PR.

  • Advertising lays the groundwork of a what a brand stands and it’s the part of the marketing mix where you, the marketer, completely control the marketing message.
  • With PR (or blogger outreach for that matter), you send out your message and product and hope that someone says good things, all the while repeating your copy points.
  • In promotion, you try to stay on brand message (consistent taglines, images), but you are really focused on the sale rather than positioning your brand in the marketplace and against competition.


2. Brand managers need to reach their target with the same message a critial number of times to change attitudes

When I worked in advertising and we planned a media budget, we’d always provide numbers for what is called “effective reach.” Effective reach reflects the percentage of the target market reached by our message three times during a flight or week of advertising. If you dole out money on different platforms without ensuring consistency of message, you may create awareness of your brand but you are far less effective at making sure consumers internalize your brand’s message. Magazine advertising provides a consistent way to get your message to an interested audience, whether they are into fly fishing or auto racing, or happen to be in that intense interest period of pregnancy.

3. Magazines provide a context of credibility

There’s a reason Google has said that they will increasingly be giving SEO weight to print media. Even they know that print is held to a different standard of accuracy if only because we can’t delete and hide our mistakes the day after we commit them. While it may seem silly, readers also trust magazines because they are in print. You should also partner with established brands when you can for the same reason. Being seen in the pages of a magazine that has established trust means some of that trust wears off on you.

4. Magazines target specific readers when they are focused on the subject

In the case of most magazines today, save the few remaining general interest pubs, readers pick up an issue because they are choosing to read about a specific subject and focus on it. If you read Men’s Health, you aren’t there to choose a stereo. If you’re reading Pregnancy Magazine, it’s not because it’s the only thing left in the doctor’s office. For that reason, if you’re marketing products for men’s health (or pregnancy and new babies for that matter), you want to be talking to people focused on that subject. The tighter the targeting gets, the more you can be assured that the reader will be open to hearing about your products with less wasted reach.

5. Magazines provide editorial adjacency

Marketing cord blood services? You want to be talking to new moms when they are reading a story about whether and how to store cord blood. Marketing a new stroller that’s just coming out? Then you want to be found opposite an article on how to choose a stroller, even (and maybe especially) if that article was written a month before your new product came out and only talks about your competitors.

6. Magazines today are available in paper and digital versions

Marketers can often choose whether they want to use one or the other. However, most advertisers I see, are completely ignoring the benefits of digital facsimiles of regular magazines. A recent walk-through of Wired Magazine, a leader with Conde Nast in the “digital print” space shows a dearth of advertisers who integrate anything more than a URL in their ads. Modern readers of magazines on their tablets or phones want to use their fingers to interact with advertising, includign clickign for more info in the form or a webpage or video.

7. Magazine publishers and salespeople are untapped resources for your business

Finally, you’ll often find that publishers “get” your business. They aren’t trying to sell you tonnage impression buys in automated programs. They actually want to hear about your products’ benefits and how you are trying to market to pregnant women so that they can find better solutions for you. We too are students of our category and watch what is going on in our market. You may find that we market opportunties in a different way than you do because we are looking at entire categories as interested outsiders. Too few marketers think of niche media as potential sources of market intelligence. Ask us some time about what we think of your category and competiton and you may be surprised.

I’d love to hear your comments. Is the modern magazine dead? Do you still use print? Why?

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