The magazine as brand

You can't eat it with sliced bananas, or mix it with marshmallows to make tasty squares. If you pour milk on it, all you'll get are soggy pages. In short, there's not much resemblance between a magazine and a breakfast cereal....

You can’t eat it with sliced bananas, or mix it with marshmallows to make tasty squares. If you pour milk on it, all you’ll get are soggy pages.

In short, there’s not much resemblance between a magazine and a breakfast cereal. Save one thing: The magazine title has an identifiable brand, just like Cheerios or Rice Krispies. A brand that needs to be cultivated with loving care.

In this report, we look at how a number of Canadian magazine publishers have gone about strengthening established brands, or creating new ones.

(All case studies by Laura Pratt, except TV Guide, by David Todd.)


‘There are some who would say what we did was radical,’ says Donna Clark. ‘I don’t think it was radical. But there’s no one who would say they haven’t noticed the changes.’

Clark, the vice-president and publisher of Chatelaine, is talking about the March relaunch of this 71-year-old women’s title – a process that she has been responsible for shepherding from its inception.

A marketing veteran with extensive background in the packaged goods business (Mattel Canada, Pillsbury Canada, Campbell Soup), Clark brought a strong brand focus to the job when she arrived at the magazine a little over a year ago.

‘Marketing and treating [the magazine] as a brand is all about being in touch with your target group,’ she says. ‘That means not just your current readers, but also your potential readers.’

Because Chatelaine’s reach of its target group (women aged 25-49) has been in decline over the past several years, the challenge was to get new readers to try the product. To this end, the magazine – which boasts circulation of approximately 800,000 – undertook extensive research, including cover testing and follow-up surveys via the Chatelaine Web site.

In addition to bringing its look up to date, the magazine has made a number of adjustments in response to reader requests, such as giving the health pages more prominence and lightening the tone somewhat. Clark says the magazine will also continue to build on its major strength – namely, ‘issue-focused, mission-based journalism.’

To support the relaunch, Chatelaine mounted a transit campaign in Toronto and a number of other key centres. Promotional efforts also included radio spots, and a major push at retail. Most recently, the magazine has been sponsoring a speaker series at Indigo bookstores.

As for advertisers, Clark says the changes have heightened Chatelaine’s appeal to those targeting women in the 25-49 range, and have generated greater interest among some fashion-oriented clients.

In the months ahead, branding will remain a priority. Clark says the Chatelaine brand is an icon of trust and credibility for Canadian women, and it is in the magazine’s interest to leverage that equity through all the vehicles available, including its book series and Web site.

‘It’s a way, in my mind, of developing additional profit opportunities,’ Clark says. ‘To get those, you have to think of your magazine as a brand.’

That, she adds, is something many publications still fail to do.

‘I think most [magazines] look at themselves more as a tangible property, rather than the intangibles that go with a brand. They haven’t thought about ways to leverage themselves as a business franchise. They may start up a TV show to go with their magazine, but they really haven’t gotten to the essence of what a brand is, nor have they defined it in consumer terms.’


When Maclean Hunter Publishing (now Rogers Media – Publishing) set out to choose a name for its new financial magazine last year, it tested a great many titles.

As far as Paul Jones was concerned, the best pick was More Money.

‘I figured everyone from Lord Thomson down to the squeegee kid on the corner wanted more money,’ explains Jones, senior vice-president responsible for the company’s news and business group of publications.

However, research undertaken to flesh out the new magazine’s brand identity quickly put paid to that idea.

‘People thought it was so American, so crass, so vulgar,’ says Jones. In the end, the nod went to the more polite, neutral-sounding MoneySense.

According to its tagline, MoneySense is a magazine ‘for Canadians who want more.’ Rather than simply present financial information, Jones says, the magazine will endeavour to tell stories.

‘Our philosophy is that with eight or nine feature stories, if you can give people three or four that really hit them where they live, you’ll have a tremendously satisfied reader.’

The idea for MoneySense was first conceived two years ago, when Jones chaired a Maclean Hunter task force charged with figuring out how the publishing giant could gain greater exposure in the burgeoning financial sector. Their research suggested a need in the marketplace ‘for a publication talking about value from a consumer perspective.’

MoneySense had a soft launch in May, with the publication of a preview issue. The full-scale launch is scheduled for September.

Eight issues will be published next year, with a guaranteed circulation of 100,000. The goal is 100% paid circulation by the end of 2000.

Jones says the magazine has spent close to $400,000 on research into its target audience during this start-up phase, including a direct mail test in January, four waves of focus groups and two waves of mall intercept studies.

From the very beginning, the company has viewed MoneySense as a brand that will extend well beyond the confines of the actual magazine. A MoneySense Web site was in place even before the magazine hit newsstands, and there are plans in the works now for both a MoneySense TV show and a MoneySense book series.

Advertising and promotional efforts for the preview issue were fairly limited, but the magazine plans a much larger blitz – including a direct mail campaign – to support the fall launch.

To succeed, MoneySense requires a solid base of financial services advertisers – but it also needs to reach beyond that category. Jones, for his part, expects approximately half of the magazine’s advertising revenue to come from automobiles, computers and upscale consumer products.

TV Guide

Put it this way: If you were giving the Bible a makeover, would you rush into the job?

OK, maybe the comparison’s a little facetious (not to mention blasphemous). This is, after all, only TV Guide that we’re talking about. On the other hand, for those who plan their lives around the prime-time viewing schedule, this weekly digest – with its circulation of 900,000-plus – is about as close to the Good Book as you can get. Which helps explain why the magazine has taken some two and a half years to plan and execute its imminent relaunch.

Admittedly, part of the reason for this unusually lengthy gestation period is a purely practical consideration: As vice-president and publisher Naomi Judith Rose explains, revamping TV Guide’s detailed daily program listings – the heart and soul of the publication – required extensive rewriting of database systems and programs, a lengthy and laborious process.

An equally important part, however, was the inevitable sense of caution that attends the remaking of a magazine brand with such a weighty reputation. Nearly an entire year, for example, was devoted to research and testing – focus groups, one-on-one interviews with consumers, and live, in-market tests with an actual prototype of the new TV Guide.

‘When you’re such an established brand, the risks of being wrong are higher,’ Rose says. ‘I don’t know that we would have taken such a long time otherwise. But I’m glad we did, because we’re pretty confident of the outcome.’

Changes in the broadcast landscape were at the heart of the decision to remake the Canadian edition of TV Guide. (The magazine, which is published in this country by Telemedia, is an entirely separate entity from its U.S. counterpart.) As Rose points out, viewing choices are proliferating, and will continue to do so with the advent of digital cable; to maintain its positioning as the definitive guide to the television world, the magazine must be – and be seen to be – relevant to the needs of today’s viewers.

At the outset, Rose says, the TV Guide team defined the challenge for themselves in the starkest possible terms: ‘We wanted [readers and advertisers] to be able to see, literally the first time they picked up the new magazine, that it was undeniably better than the TV Guide they’d seen before.’

Perhaps the most significant development to result from the protracted process of conceptualizing and planning – which included two week-long off-site sessions, plus countless team meetings along the way – was the decision to move from saddle-stitching to perfect binding. It’s a change that, Rose says, has demanded an investment of more than $1 million.

The switch to perfect binding has one immediate practical benefit: It enables the magazine to move all of its four-colour feature pages to the front of the book, which in turn enhances their value for advertisers. (In the old format, the colour pages were wrapped around the black-and-white listings pages, with half at the front, half at the back.)

The move also has a less tangible, but equally important benefit – namely, it enhances the TV Guide brand by increasing the perceived value of the product.

‘The magazine is stronger and sturdier now,’ Rose says. ‘We’re hoping it will encourage people who’ve never read it before – or advertisers who’ve never used it before – to pick it up and have a look.’

In addition to refreshing its design, TV Guide has made a number of changes to its feature pages. Most notably, it has expanded the content of a number of sections, such as those devoted to sports programming and video releases, in order to reflect the wider range of choices now available to viewers.

Changes to the listings, meanwhile, were dictated by the need to make them more readable and simpler to use. Accordingly, the publication has moved from two columns to three, enlarged the type, repositioned the time slugs, redesigned headers, footers and program grids, and added index tabs to make the individual days of the week easier to find.

The new listings format was introduced in April, and has since been tweaked in response to reader comments. Most of the other changes will be unveiled in the Aug. 28 issue. (Perfect binding will actually be introduced Aug. 21, to allow for an extra week to work out the bugs prior to TV Guide’s all-important fall preview issue in September.)

Rose says the magazine will promote the relaunch with a radio and TV campaign (created by Margaret Kool Marketing of Edmonton), along with point-of-sale materials and a 15-week consumer promotion. The TV Guide sales team has also been meeting with agencies since the beginning of May, to bring the advertising community up to date on what’s happening. And there are plans to kick off a trade advertising campaign in late August.

Looking ahead, Rose says TV Guide will continue to explore opportunities to extend its brand. The magazine has had a Web site since 1996, and has been producing stand-alone publications under the TV Guide banner even longer. The most recent spin-off is a television show, TV Guide Television, developed in partnership with Life Network.

Whatever steps the magazine takes in future, Rose says, must naturally be taken with the same caution that guided the relaunch.

‘We’re a very mature and stable brand,’ she says. ‘We definitely want to find new readers – but our existing readers are terrific, and we don’t want them to go anywhere.’

Flare Pregnancy

They’re expecting!

Today’s Parent and Flare are proud to announce the imminent birth of a new offspring: Flare Pregnancy. The infant will take its first tottering steps into the world this fall, distributed to expectant mothers through doctors’ offices.

Two issues, with a circulation of approximately 150,000, are planned for 1999. If all goes as expected, the publication will shift from controlled circulation to newsstand distribution in year two.

At first glance, Flare Pregnancy would appear to face direct competition from a number of other magazines, such as Fit Pregnancy from the U.S., She’s Having a Baby from the U.K., and even its own sister publication, the Today’s Parent spin-off Great Expectations. But Chris Emery, vice-president, media for Toronto-based Today’s Parent Group, says those titles focus primarily on what’s happening in the womb. Flare Pregnancy, by contrast, will concentrate on the health, fitness, fashion and beauty needs of the mother-to-be.

Emery says Today’s Parent Group first hatched the idea last year, while sorting through letters from Great Expectations readers.

‘They were always talking about the need for ‘more information about me,’ about their hair and skin changes and so on,’ he explains. ‘So we realized: Here’s an interesting market.’

Interesting – and for advertisers, quite desirable as well. After all, as Emery points out, when you’re pregnant, you’re very much in the market for a variety of new products. ‘It’s almost like a point of entry for the Procter & Gambles of this world,’ he says.

From the outset, the Today’s Parent team knew they would need a partner on the project. And by a happy coincidence, the publishers of the Rogers Media fashion title Flare were also looking for a way to address this same market.

‘Our expertise is pregnancy and young family,’ Emery says. ‘Flare’s is fashion and beauty. It made perfect sense to come together.’

Though the new magazine is a joint effort, it is very clearly Flare-branded – something Emery says is by design.

‘Our objective is to reach the marketing community with a publication that is perceived as a good vehicle for reaching women with particular fashion needs,’ he says. ‘And Flare has that brand.’

The editorial lineup for the magazine includes everything from features on the best maternity wear, to expert advice on beauty during pregnancy. And all featured models will, of course, be in the family way.

CMA Management

‘Anybody who goes into a relaunch with preconceived ideas of what they think is right is in for a surprise. It’s amazing to discover just how wrong you can be.’

So says publisher David Fidler. And he should know, having recently presided over the metamorphosis of CMA Magazine into a new and improved publication called CMA Management.

The magazine, which comes out 10 times annually, has been published by the Society of Management Accountants of Canada (CMA Canada) for 75 years. But of its 73,000 current readers, only 38,000 are actually CMA members. The rest are outside of the profession, working in senior management positions at major companies across Canada. Somehow, the publication had to reach out to embrace them.

The magazine sponsored some 36 focus groups in cities across the country, with participation from CMA Canada members, management professionals, advertisers and their agencies. And it was during this process that Fidler learned to ditch any of his preconceptions.

Consider the question of the publication’s name. Fidler and his colleagues thought Financial Management was the perfect choice. But the focus group respondents very quickly quashed that idea.

‘CMAs do not consider themselves accountants,’ Fidler explains. ‘They are management professionals, and finance is a very small part of what they do.’

There was also talk of ditching the CMA Canada name and logo – but again, research suggested the move would be ill-advised.

‘Our readers told us we had brand equity in that name, and that we shouldn’t play it down,’ Fidler says. Thus, in its new incarnation – the first issue of which appeared in February – the magazine features the logo prominently in the top left corner of the cover.

Once strictly a professional journal, CMA Management is now positioned within the larger business magazine category. The editorial content, Fidler says, is ‘snappier and easier to access,’ and the overall look is much closer to a consumer title, with heavier paper stock, more photos and illustrations, more colour and ‘more graphical appeal.’

To herald the relaunch, the magazine ran double-page spreads in trade publications during the month of January, with the headline: ‘Look who’s reading CMA Management.’ The magazine also hosted a luncheon and sent out more than 400 media kits.

Fidler says reader correspondence with the magazine has increased dramatically in recent months. ‘We might not get a phone call more than once a month before,’ he says. ‘Now we’ll get 10 a day. We had high hopes for the magazine – but even we were surprised.’

Next up: investigating the possibility of CMA Management brand extensions. Among the ideas under consideration are a management conference, a cross-country seminar series and perhaps even an awards event – all under the CMA Management name.

‘That kind of thing,’ Fidler says, ‘is what it’s all about.’

Also in this report:

- Spotlight on…magazine creative p.18