Changing channels

Are you a channel surfer? Do you constantly click the remote looking for the next interesting program on television? Do you believe people only watch one channel, or are giving up print for digital?

The fact is the human “attention span” is limited. It always has been. What limits it is each individual’s interest, largely, and what they are “hunting” for. If you had only two channels, you’d use two channels. Today, you have lots of ways to follow your interests. So you use them. However, you don’t disregard one for another, do you? True, you might prefer one way, but the fact is, you will use whatever is at your disposal when you are on the hunt for information you need.

The same is true for people on the hunt for product information, and what is clear from our research is that magazines are an important channel for people – perhaps more than manufacturers realize. With all the talk about digital, we tend to forget that.

Take the fashion industry. This industry is using ALL the channels available to it to blast out its branding messages, and they are well aware of the influence of magazines on brands. A recent issue of Harper’s Bazaar we received (we receive over 1,000 magazines each month in our office) was 450 pages. The first 100 pages carried advertising – not editorial! Imagine, page after page of brands pushing out messages to Harper’s audience. The publisher’s statement read like this:

HARPER’S BAZAAR, a print and digital publication, is targeted to modern women who believe that fashion is a fabulous opportunity for self-expression. By featuring clothes that readers can imagine in their wardrobe, that they can see and buy, Bazaar makes fashion less remote and more welcoming. Ignoring general interest trends, Bazaar devotes its editorial solely to fashion and beauty to provide readers with a truly focused environment that is both sophisticated and accessible.

The published page rate for a page of four-color advertising is $113,465. Even with agency discounts factored in, you’re looking at really a lot of money for a brand to push its wares in front of “modern women who believe fashion is an opportunity for self expression.”

Wait a minute: who DOESN’T believe that? Who doesn’t believe that anyone “looking” at this magazine isn’t looking for “ideas” or “content” to express their own self? We are what we eat, and we eat what we are. We wear things that express ourselves, even when we do NOT think we believe we are doing that. An executive at one of our client companies recently pulled me aside and asked me, “Did you see so-and-so’s shoes? He never takes care of them.” The individual he was talking about was the national sales manager, who may not have known that not shining his shoes made a statement of self expression, but it did! And not just to our executive client!

So it is with advertising (are you wearing a Nike logo on your shoes when you work out?). Advertising begins a conversation. People who see and read advertising then have the opportunity to continue the conversation, or telling the advertiser to get lost. Magazine advertising is different than other forms of advertising. As much as a facility manager looking for a solution to a problem goes through a number of sources (reps, peers, magazines, internet), so do all of us as we search for content to solve our problem or just graze for ideas. Consider magazine usage is*:

  • 14% more than the Internet
  • 17% less than Outdoor
  • 11% less than TV
  • 3% more than Radio
  • 13% more than Newspapers

*Source: MRI Spring studies 2005 and 2009

In fact, according to the 2011/12 Magazine Media Factbook, magazine readers are the least likely of all media users to engage in other (non-media) activities while reading. When consumers read magazines, they are much less likely to engage in other media (in other words, less likely to multi-task). Only 13% listen to the radio, and slightly less than one in four (21%) watch television according to that research. Manufacturers or clothing designers seeking to engage and give their audiences what they want need must understand that, and that there is power in giving people what they want, when they want it and the way they want it.

McKinsey Quarterly in July, 2011 published an article, “We’re All Marketers Now” where Tom French, Laura LaBerge, and Paul Magill argued that engaging customers today requires commitment from the entire company – and a redefined marketing organization. They said:

“For the past decade, marketers have been adjusting to a new era of deep customer engagement. They’ve tacked on new functions, such as social-media management; altered processes to better integrate advertising campaigns online, on television, and in print; and added staff with Web expertise to manage the explosion of digital customer data.” Yet in our experience, that’s not enough. To truly engage customers for whom “push” advertising is increasingly irrelevant, companies must do more outside the confines of the traditional marketing organization. At the end of the day, customers no longer separate marketing from the product – it is the product. They don’t separate marketing from their in-store or online experience – it is the experience. In the era of engagement, marketing is the company.”

You can argue that advertising is sort of “push” communications, but isn’t that the point? Don’t many of us have to be pushed into action? Pushing and pulling are what communications is all about (I doubt major brands just push!). So keep turning those channels! And don’t forget the power of a magazine.

For more conversation, or to express your opinion, go to and talk to us. Thank you!

p.s. We know that there are lots of other factors in deciding to use magazines versus other media. If you’d like to have that conversation, we would like to participate. Thanks for your time!

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