Are magazines in fashion again? The hot content marketing trend in ecommerce

Ecommerce Fashion Print Magazine

What’s the one piece of content you look forward to the most?

Think about it…

I’ll bet it’s not a Facebook post.

It’s not a YouTube video.

Sadly, it’s probably not even this weekly blog article.

My guess – it’s part of a series. That's what get you hooked.

It could be the next episode of Game of Thrones. It might be the next Hunger Games film.

If you love fashion, there's a good chance it’s this month's edition of Vogue magazine that you just can’t wait to sit down and read.

People still care about print. Great magazines still make their subscribers excited.

The sensory experience cannot be matched. Particularly for beautifully designed fashion magazines with high quality editorial and stunning visual imagery.

When you read your favourite magazine, you’re in your happy place, latte in hand, tasty treats by your side. How else can you voluntarily get someone’s undivided attention for a decent chunk of time?

The print magazine experience

More and more fashion industry e-retailers are starting to see the audience building value of the print magazine.

It's the physical representation of their brand that is otherwise lacking. It's their way into the living rooms of their customers. It's a cost effective tool that can develop genuine relationships.

If you sell quality designer products online, you're about to find out why a print magazine could be the best way for you to develop loyal, repeat customers.

Now is the time to own your niche in print

As more and more publications ‘transition to digital’ or stop altogether, there’s never been less competition in subscription print. Even in the traditionally saturated fashion industry, more and more mastheads are losing their grip on the advertiser dollars that keep flowing to digital content alternatives.

Mass media is losing control. Consumers are gaining it.

People now have the ability to find super specific content related to their individual interests. Increasingly, readers, viewers and listeners don't have to endure unrelated advertising if they don't want to.

Smart online retailers know that great content marketing can improve customer’s experiences and add value. Regular subscription based content allows you to develop an ongoing relationship with your audience, allowing you to turn customers into loyal brand fans.

So why not create a beautiful print magazine to delight your core audience?

  • You don’t have to worry about generating ad revenue (though you can if you want). You can ‘monetise’ your investment with your products.
  • If you add value for these subscribers with your print magazine, you’ll earn yourself a bunch of repeat customers.
  • If it’s good enough, your audience will pay for it. And they’ll love you for it. You might even make a profit out of it.
  • A beautiful print magazine will bring your online store offline. If it’s coffee-table worthy, it becomes a part of your customer’s life in a way no shop, catalogue or billboard ever can.

In fact, I've already written about print content marketing becoming retro cool.

But we're seeing a particular trend emerging in ecommerce.

Recently, a spate of forward-thinking online fashion retailers are turning to print to reach their own niche audience.

These are 6 of the best.

We'll show you why they do it and why you should think print too...

#1. Frank and Oak

Oak Street Print Magazine

Oak Street is a biannual magazine that explores the interaction between media, culture and community.

It’s all about building something creative. Frank and Oak share the stories of artists, thinkers and entrepreneurs that are trying to transform their great ideas into something special.

With thick paper stock and somewhere near 100 pages each edition, the magazine consists of premium fashion photography and original interviews with influential figures. So far Oak Street has ticked off England and Sunderland footballer; Jermain Defoe, architect and co-editor of the political architecture magazine An Architektur; Jesko Fezer, and world renowned UK stylist; Tom Guinness.

Oak Street has also produced in depth stories on the phenomenon of Lucha VaVoom (a cross between Mexican masked wrestling and comedy striptease), the regeneration of Myanmar, and the success of Canadian lo-fi creative agency, Vallee Duhamel.

Quite a mix.

Here's a sneak peek at the launch party of edition 1. It gives you a feel for the Frank and Oak crowd...

Oak Street is just one part of the Frank and Oak business strategy.

The brand is trying to build a community of shoppers with similar core values. Their 10-strong editorial team are charged with using content marketing to communicate those core values and build that community.

Here’s Ethan Song, Frank and Oak's Co Founder, speaking to Adweek;

“Our goal at Frank & Oak is to always be a trusted advisor, in part by creating immersive and informative content. Oak Street is one way we create and build community, make personal connections with our readers, and depict a lifestyle they might aspire to.”

 

These guys are thinking customer first, products second.

Frank and Oak aren’t just a clothes retailer. They’re a company that sells the right products for the ‘Frank and Oak man’.

Song again, describing the approach to Skyword’s Content Standard:

“From a business perspective, we created a company that’s vertically integrated. We have everything under one roof: we’re a fashion company, logistics hub, and a media and technology brand.

We create all of our own content in-house, from editorial to photo to design, and we build the technology behind the product. This creates a very different experience for the customer.”

 

Primary Objective: Build Trust

The overriding aim of Oak Street magazine is to prove that Frank and Oak are genuine about the craftsman’s lifestyle; that the brand is about more than selling clothes.

Of course, the magazine will help generate awareness. By profiling influencers and sharing their stories with these established audiences of targeted followers, Frank and Oak can grow their fan base.

But the bottom line is trust.

Oak Street shows Frank and Oak customers how serious they really are about their brand’s belief.

Paid or free?

The magazine retails at $12.

Frank & Oak sells predominantly to Canadians, but also online throughout North America. Of course, they also distribute the mag through the channels of the individuals and companies profiled in each edition.

The startup distributed 15,000 copies of the first installment and 40,000 of the second according to CNN Money.

Do they make money out of it? According to Song, yes.

"We do generate revenue from the cost of the magazine. It's not very costly for us [to produce]. We don't see it as advertising. We see it as a product - an extension of the brand."

 

Why Print?

Why would an online clothing retailer go to the trouble of producing a magazine about ‘building something creative’? Why isn’t it about clothes?

Well, it’s about the Frank and Oak man. The brand is about the doing. It’s not about the clothing.

Frank and Oak want to target a certain type of man and prove their products fit into this man’s lifestyle. They want to explain why their readers should buy their products. Song said;

“We found that when it comes to men’s fashion, they care about looking good, but they care more about the context. Especially for guys, contextualizing clothing makes a lot of sense," says Ethan Song, 29, Frank & Oak's co-founder and creative director speaking to Entrepreneur. "Clothing is not just clothing."

 

Digiday defines it perfectly:

“Much like venerated men’s lifestyle publications Esquire and GQ, Frank & Oak’s multi-pronged content strategy is about depicting a certain lifestyle its customers might aspire to. Frank & Oak differs in that it is not as interested in showing the end product as it showing how that product came to be.

The GQ man wants to know the best new barbecue joint. The Frank & Oak man wants to know how the sausage there is made, so he can possibly do it himself.

 

Instead of making a magazine about clothes, Frank and Oak set out to create a lifestyle guide for a certain type of man. They want to talk about the common interests these men share. Like this stuff from Edition 2...

Frank and Oak print magazine lifestyle content

Here's Song, speaking again to Skyword:

“We’re building a community of shoppers with similar core values, and we focus on that customer base as a way to improve our product. We focus on appealing to our core audience and influencers, rather than trying to be everywhere at once."

 

If the magazine proves to its readers that Frank and Oak is ‘one of them’, those readers trust that Frank and Oak has their kind of products.

The print thing is not by chance. A regularly updated blog with this kind of information could still share stories of the Frank and Oak man’s life. So why not go with a cheaper ‘digital magazine’ option that all the cool kids seem to be doing these days?

Song answered this to Digiday:

“Creating (print) content is not a cheap offering, but it speaks to the kind of brand and business we want to create.”

 

It’s all in. Frank and Oak want to show their chops. Their audience is intelligent, and wary of hollow ‘brand messages’ that are really just about selling more stuff.

So many tout themselves as caring about something, but Frank and Oak are following through.

The dedication to a beautifully crafted print magazine with absolute focus on the brand’s beliefs, and absolute absence of salesy promotion makes them seem legit.

Says Song to Adweek;

“Oak Street is another signal to our customers and followers that we care, and we want to continue to build a relationship with them.

We hope that readers of Oak Street will take inspiration both from the creative people and ideas featured, and from the magazine itself and its commitment to quality and design.”

 

Also, the brand has identified that their target audience likes magazines. Song and his team know they still use this channel to consume content.

“We do have to be present where our core audience is, so this requires us to rebuild our marketing team around that demand. We learned how to understand what touch points were most important to our customer base, and how to engage with them on those platforms.”

 

The jury is still out on Oak Street’s impact on sales. But the brand knows that direct revenue is not the objective to be measured for the magazine. Building and sustaining a targeted audience is the aim. Subscription levels are the metric.

Frank & Oak’s number of registered users has pushed above 1.1 million as of February 2015 from 600,000 last February. The retailer now ships more than 35,000 orders per month.

Signs are good. Content marketing is working. ‘Frank and Oak’ men everywhere are becoming loyal Oak Street readers. And repeat customers.

Takeout

Think customer first, product second. Especially with your content.

Your customers don’t want a catalogue — most of the time they don’t even want information about your products. They want to be educated, entertained, informed.

If you sell a high quality, well designed product, your customers will probably appreciate a high quality, well designed magazine.

Your content needs to be interesting for it to resonate. You need to talk to your audience about the things they are passionate about. Show them how your brand fits in to their lifestyle.

#2. Porter Magazine

Porter Print Magazine

If you’ve been to a marketing conference in the last 12 months, there’s probably been a presentation on content marketing, and Porter magazine has probably been used as an example. And you probably sat there thinking “Wow I wonder how much that thing cost. We could never afford to do something like that.”

Well, it turns out Porter magazine is making Net-A-Porter money.

Marketing as a profit centre – that’s the future of content marketing success.

The Worldwide Magazine Media Association reports that after just 6 issues, Porter has grown its subscriptions to 32,000 and secured distribution in 60 countries and 220 cities. With a circulation of 152,500 - Porter is not that far behind Vogue’s 191,000.

Now into its 8th edition, that number is surely creeping closer, putting Net-A-Porter within touching distance of the unimaginable: usurping Vogue to become the most popular high fashion publication in the world.

Content

Porter’s content sits neatly beside Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Harpers Bazaar and other high fashion editorial publications. The mag is made from a premium quality glossy stock, with stunning imagery.

It features products, trends and launches from a multitude of brands (even those that Net-A-Porter does not stock).

Porter's quality content marketing

The editorial/advertising split is around 70%-30%.

But Porter is striving to be a little better than its contemporaries. The differentiator is a focus on telling more indepth stories of the people within the fashion industry.

Natalie Massenet, Net-A-Porter’s founder, described the magazine in a recent #FashionInConversation talk:

“We’re building a physical temple to our brand—like Apple did with stores. Porter is meant to be a lasting, more intimate look into the minds of fashion’s most interesting people. It will be published six times a year and distributed in 60 countries, though consistently published in American English.”

 

Porter is a little different to some of the lifestyle focused ecommerce magazines we profile in this post. Their readers are used to promotional material in fashion publications.

Infact, readers often peruse these mags to find featured products they might like to purchase. Although the content is not sales focused, Net-A-Porter want to make it easy for readers who may want to buy.

After all, they don’t need to jump in their car and drive to a store. The add-to-cart button is just a few clicks away.

In a journey designed to be seamless, Net-A-Porter allows readers to scan the paper pages using a dedicated iPad app (or use the iPad edition) to quickly buy their coveted outfit or accessory.

Image Courtesy Layar

The investment is already starting to pay off. Since Porter launched in February 2014, readers have scanned more than 90,000 products with an 80 per cent click through conversion to Net-A-Porter.com.

If you want a really detailed look inside the pages Porter, this clip from Business of Fashion gives you a super behind the scenes insight.

 

Primary Goal: Increase Sales/Establish Authority

This one is tough, and that’s testament to the quality of Net-A-Porter’s content marketing strategy.

There seems to be two clear goals for Porter

#1. To increase sales

The mag is entirely shoppable, thanks to a simple scan and shop system that seamlessly links the reading experience to the buying experience. As the Business of Fashion suggest, Porter is an attempt to:

“Elegantly integrate content and commerce — shortening the path between inspiration and transaction.”

 

#2. To establish authority

Porter sets out to achieve an ambitious goal to become the number one go to resource for its target audience. Vogue is that now, but the gap is closing quickly.

Paid or Free?

Paid. It’s $60 AUD for a 12 month (or 6 edition) subscription. Porter truly is content marketing so good you’d pay for it.

Combine this subscription revenue with the cash generated from advertisements placed by the company’s suppliers and you have a piece of marketing that must be close to – if not better than – a cost neutral investment.

Why Print?

Net-A-Porter understands its target audience. The people who buy their stuff predominantly consume fashion information from magazines. So Porter was required if the ecommerce brand wanted to deliver on its goal to become the number 1 go-to-resource for their customers.

Mumbrella quotes Publishing and Media Division VP, Tess Macleod-Smith, to explain the Porter content marketing program

“Our publishing mission is to be world-class leaders in content and commerce, any time, anywhere and on any platform.

Print is the highest read form of fashion content for the affluent fashion consumer worldwide and pre-launch research showed us that 88 per cent of Net-A-Porter.com customers cited print as their preferred media for fashion content.”

 

Another reason for the development Porter lies in the brand’s ability to own its audience.

Instead of continually paying a publisher to rent advertising space, why not develop your own magazine?

Net-A-Porter has direct relationships with the suppliers advertising in similar magazines. Said suppliers would rather advertise with a partner who can sell more of their stuff than a publisher who cannot.

But the best bit just might be the data that Porter provides.

Instead of relying on a publisher’s statistics to determine the reach and success of an advertising campaign, Porter allows Net-A-Porter to measure ROI with an unrivaled clarity. Just take a look at what Kraft has done with the insights they gather from their widely popular Food & Family magazine.

Macleod-Smith, has shed some light on the genuine ROI generated by Porter magazine:

“Customers who subscribe to Porter increase their spend on the site by 125 per cent and their rate of frequency on the site by 25 per cent. Recent stats also show that 35 per cent of Net-A-Porter.com's highest spenders - EIPs (Extremely Important People) – called their personal shopper after reading (the magazine).

Porter has been successful as it’s had privileged access to an incredible database of 1.5 million women and NAP’s 6 million customers worldwide, so has a deep understanding of the needs and desires of its audience.

This gives us a unique and sophisticated insight into our reader and means that Porter can evolve as the Net-A-Porter.com audience evolves in a way that traditional publishers can’t.”

 

The prospect of an ecommerce pureplay retailer competing with the 123 year might of Vogue for fashion publishing supremacy sounds daunting. Nevertheless, owning a paid subscription based audience (with some advertisers chipping in) makes things more enticing.

A magazine can be turned into a marketing investment that makes a profit.

The permanent nature of print gives an online retailer the tangible, direct contact with a customer that is so hard to find.

Edge, an Australian content marketing agency, answers Net-A-Porter’s ‘why print?’ question pretty comfortably.

“Net-A-Porter is a shopfront with no shopfront costs, selling large volumes of someone else’s goods without any production overhead. It has printed a ‘catalogue’, which is so beautiful that its customers will pay for it.

Net-A-Porter will no doubt be using its supplier relationships to leverage advertising deals in a way that traditional publishing models can’t.”

 

Takeout

Is advertising really worth the cost?

Do you know what you’re getting for your dollar?

Why not work on establishing an audience that you own yourself?

If you can determine clear metrics that specifically measure the success of your content marketing project in isolation, you can pinpoint ROI and prove the value of an investment like a print magazine.

If the content is genuinely valuable to your target audience, you’ll be able to develop a subscription list of paying customers. Advertisers (maybe even your competitors) will want to pay you to rent space and speak to your niche.

#3. Asos Magazine

Asos ecommerce print content marketing

Asos has built its ecommerce business on the back of a publishing mindset. The brand understood that great content meant improved SEO, improved social media, and improved bottom line.

As far back as 2006, CEO Nick Robertson understood that building an audience on your own media platform was the most cost effective ecommerce business strategy. Instead of placing expensive ads with fashion industry publishers and hoping to sway their readers, Asos wanted to keep their cash and their control.

Robertson nails it in this interview with Flashes and Flames editor Colin Morrison

“The first pound of marketing an online business goes into delivery and returns, and we spend £100m a year on making that free. The second pound goes into how best to represent ASOS.

So we use content: our emails, the fashion magazine, the mobile app. The convergence between retail and media, this is it.

The business model for magazines, that was advertising revenues, is now clothes sales.”

 

The UK powerhouse was the first of the new wave of online fashion retailers to develop a print magazine that establishes the credibility needed to have customers, and suppliers, knocking at their virtual doors.

The decision to produce and mail 400,000 odd magazines into the homes of their customers was one of the keys to making the brand an essential part of their lives.

It also gave Asos the fashion credibility needed to bring onboard the fashion labels who were anxious about the impact that online might have on their own businesses.

Content

ASOS’s circulation makes it the eighteenth largest magazine title in the UK, just behind stalwart Glamour - and its content is relatively similar too.

The Asos mag is split into five core sections of Beauty, Fashion, Interviews, Shopping and Trends.

Asos print magazine content features

This structured approach helps both reader and brand.

For subscribers, there are key segments to look for in each edition. For the Asos marketing team, the five verticals give editorial direction.

Planning is so much easier when you can place ideas into a few big content buckets. You can go back and draw from the well in preparation for the scheduling of production for each new edition.

Primary Goal: Retention/Loyalty

The Asos magazine has been in circulation since 2006. As of 2013, this site had 6 million active users (regular buyers). Cheaper to keep these folks buying than concentrate on searching for new ones.

So why not develop a print magazine that physically reminds these users how much they love Asos and everything it embodies?

Paid or Free?

Free.

The mag is designed to delight Asos customers and keep them engaged with the brand.

This price must certainly help.

Why Print?

By sending the magazine into the homes of their customers, Asos managed to transform their completely online brand into into a physical product that customers could see, feel and keep. The magazine’s quality content expressed the brand’s perspective on fashion. It brought to life what Asos stood for in a way the website never could.

Back in September 2006, when the first issue was launched, ecommerce sites were glorified online catalogues, scarcely repurposed from their traditional form. A visit to an Asos competitor’s site could not come close to communicating their brand’s ethos in the way that the Asos magazine is able to do.

Apart from the branding benefits that allow Asos to clearly differentiate from competitors, the magazine also provides a direct return on investment.

ASOS uses the same Aurasma service as Net-A-Porter to create a Scan to Shop app. This augmented reality technology is used to transform the printed ASOS Magazine into a dynamic shopping experience. Readers can aim their smartphones at images and objects within the magazine and within one click, they can shop the ASOS mobile site, watch behind-the-scenes videos and unlock exclusive offers.

Editorial and Design Director for ASOS Magazine, Duncan Edwards, explained to Ellie Cummins (writing for Power Retail), how the app closes the gap between the offline and online retail experience.

“We know our readers love fashion and the convenience and immediacy of shopping via their mobile phones. Our new Scan to Shop app brings those two experiences – reading the magazine and shopping online – together seamlessly”

 

The Takeout

Asos started the online retailer magazine trend that is building throughout the fashion industry. The example proves that a print magazine can help to increase sales, reduce advertising costs – and in Asos’ case – establish a mechanism that maintains and develops a strong relationship with an existing customer.

Since 2006, Asos has been sharing its brand’s personality with customers every month. A helpful, beautiful, physical magazine reminder could be an ecommerce manager’s most valuable retention and loyalty tool.

#4. The IKEA Print Catalogue

Ikea Print Magazine Content Marketing

The annual IKEA print catalogue scarcely needs an introduction. This year's edition was produced in 38 editions, in 17 languages for 28 countries. For those of you without a residential space to furnish, here's some background. The annual IKEA print behemoth is not your average products-and-prices letter box stuffer. You’re more likely to see it proudly displayed on a coffee table near you.

The chlorine-free paper lookbook crafted entirely from ethically sourced and recycled materials is a mishmash of educational articles, design tips and product features, showcasing Swedish life improvement in action.

Ikea Print Magazine Content

IKEA prints around 200 million copies of its famous publication each year. That’s double the amount of Bibles printed in the same time period. Although, some would argue The Swedish “Life Improvement Store” has developed its own kind of pseudo brand religion, tirelessly evangelised by its fans for which shopping at IKEA is an enjoyable regular pastime.

Sure, the in store experience is at the core of the almost spiritual brand love that IKEA has managed to develop. The utterly affordable quality products, the $1 hotdogs, the vast showrooms that seem to demand their own suburban postcode – these factors give the IKEA brand unrivaled value within its industry. You can add the annual IKEA print catalogue to that list.

Such is the anticipation for IKEA’s annually released design bible. This piece of content marketing adds value. People want their marketing. They look forward to it.

There’s something about the textural, tangible, permanent quality of print that no other marketing channel can match. Clearly, IKEA is a bricks and mortar giant. Most of it’s sales are made with the shop assistant’s swipe rather than a customer’s click. But the retailing giant is getting with the times, and their print content marketing will help them sell more and more online as a direct consequence.

Content

While the print mag is more product catalogue than interior design coffee table dweller, IKEA offer genuinely helpful insights for their readers. Advice on design, storage, lighting, colour choices and maximising space adorn every ‘product feature’. The aim is to add more value by educating readers with design tips and techniques.

This quote from an IKEA contributor underlines the brand's content marketing ethos.

The Ikea Content marketing Ethos

Basically, IKEA contextualise their products. Print allows them to use images and words that show you how to design an entire space with IKEA products and other elements together.

The annual nature of the magazine works.

By developing one huge, highly anticipated edition each year, IKEA prove the value of scarcity. The quality over quantity approach is the best one. One unique print magazine per year is better than 12 mediocre editions.

This clip from Taiwanese designers of the 2015 edition shows you the degree of care afforded to the catalogue's development.

 

 

With any content marketing series that you produce, you need to work within your resources to deliver a truly amazing outcome.

IKEA have also worked out how to integrate educational content that helps prospects research, with promotional content that bridges the gap to purchase.

The 2015 catalogue has been formed into an interactive, digital version with an accompanying app. This gives users an augmented reality feature, called “Place in Your Room,” allowing them to virtually test IKEA products in their own home.

 

 

The shoppable app demonstrates the importance of online. IKEA can see the writing on their walls – and its digital.

More and more regions are offering an online shopping experience, and the reformation of the print catalogue into a digital experience shows that content marketing is central to the brand’s strategy

Primary Goal: Directly increase sales

Unlike many of the examples from this article, IKEA’s print magazine is heavily product focused.

More an extension of a catalogue, IKEA is aiming to educate and inform potential buyers to convince them of their product’s value.

Paid or Free?

Free. The chunky annual extravaganza takes around 10 months and 200+ employees and contractors to develop. You probably can’t even fantasise about developing something on this scale. Don’t despair, your niche is smaller than IKEA (and your competition is probably less fierce). Learn from the concepts here, not the execution.

Why Print?

In this article from Adweek, IKEA US Communications Manager, Christine Scoma Whitehawk, explains their content marketing strategy:

“So, we really start with the customer, and try to see what’s important to them… And then how can IKEA help them so that we are truly partners in making their life better at home every day.

Over the last several years, content marketing has become more important for us in that mix, because it gives us the opportunities to start telling some of our IKEA stories so we can really share with people how IKEA can improve their lives.”

 

That’s the content mission.

Print allows IKEA to deliver on this mission in a way that other channels cannot.

IKEA wants to make their customers’ lives better at home every day.

What better route to take than by wedging your brand into the living room of the decision maker. IKEA’s print content marketing sits proudly displayed in the homes of their customers for weeks, months, even years.

Ikea print content marketing

Blog posts, television ads, discount sales, billboards, friendly customer services attendants – none of these marketing investments have such an ability.

IKEA is able to communicate their brand personality with their content, and print allows them to spend more quality time doing it. This outstanding parody of the iPhone 6 release shows you the value of the IKEA catalogue.

 

 

All Apple-parodying jokes aside, this clip kinda explains why print content marketing works.

Quick Takeout

Print gives your online brand the chance to have a physical place in your customer’s life for an extended period of time.

If the content is valuable enough to your customer, they’ll be continually reminded of your helpfulness.

#5. Acne Paper

Acne Paper Print Magazine

One look at the cover images of Acne Paper and you can sense the feel of the brand. This magazine is different.

Deliberately so:

“Our large uncoated format, delicately embellished with a striking portrait, title at the bottom instead of the usual top, suggested something different, something timeless, something nostalgic yet refreshingly modern. Because of its seriousness in content and originality of style the magazine is being recognised all over the world as an intelligent and glamorous publication unlike any other.”

 

Each issue is created around one idea – a theme big enough to appeal to everyone interested in the arts. Acne Paper has published 15 editions and counting. During this time the magazine has featured and collaborated with some of the most distinguished names in the worlds of photography, art, fashion, and culture.

The content of the magazine is what sets it apart from its newsstand equivalents. Acne Paper uses next to no Acne clothing in their editorial shoots, choosing instead to profile the works of partners and collaborators that fit the aesthetic and standards of the brand. Among others, Lanvin, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel have featured in Acne Paper.

The magazine’s content is about the Acne personality. Anything is fair game in the pages of this paper, as long as it relates to the shared beliefs and values of Acne’s target audience.

Inside Acne Paper's Content

Editor in Chief, Thomas Persson backs me up here:

"We speak about a theme from so many angles. It can be scientific, political, psychological, and that has earned us a certain amount of respect. I'm really happy that people see that.”

 

Acne Paper magazine is a more organic and efficient mode of communication for the brand than traditional advertising. The authentic approach treats their customers and subscribers with the upmost respect and care. To interrupt, irritate or nag their fans would oppose Acne’s brand values.

Rather, Acne see it’s target audience as an intelligent, independent and principled group that makes purchase decisions based on more than just quality and price.

Traditional advertising, spammy promo emails and gratuitous social media content isn’t in the Acne playbook. Acne Paper fits in just fine.

Acne believe integrity is made by association. Acne Paper can increase sales without asking for them.

Persson explains to the Content Marketing Association why there is no need to push product in its own magazine's pages.

"When we launched we were criticised for not being a 'real' magazine. We weren't real because we were financed by one label only and didn't have tons of advertisers. This always puzzled me. Why is a magazine that has to compromise with the advertising department more real than a magazine that does not need advertising to exist? Isn't it the content that makes a magazine real?"

 

Primary Objective: Establish Authority

Acne wants respect. Acne Paper is about developing serious street cred with the arty, creative, fashion crowd that it wants to attract as brand enthusiasts (though I’m sure they’d never be caught using such commercial language!).

Pair or Free?

Paper sells for €12, or about $18. That’s not much for quarterly cultural enlightenment.

The limited print run almost always runs out, but Acne wants to maintain its small scale niche focus.

Why Print?

Founder Jonny Johansson wanted the brand to be known for more than just world class Swedish denim.

Acne Paper helped the Swedish retailer develop a certain reputation as a cultural icon. To shop at Acne eventually meant more than wearing fashionably minimal clothing with sleek Scandinavian design. It meant you were a certain kind of quirky cool.

The brand’s print magazine, Acne Paper, was a large part of making that happen.

The magazine now proudly stands alone, next to the glossy behemoths of high fashion retailing.

However, unlike Asos and Net-A-Porter, Acne Paper has carved out its own (characteristically) well defined niche. To achieve the Acne goal of establishing a core group of avid brand fans, the magazine had to run in stark contrast to the safe tradition of its ‘more commercial’ contemporaries.

Keeping the print run to 25,000 ensured this niche focus could be pursued with sustenance. The scarcity triggered only fans the flames of excitement bursting from the cauldron of Acne's melting pot of followers.

The magazine is not about sales, revenue or profit. At least, not as an immediate goal. Persson contends;

"I think maybe that it's the context that the clothes are in that means people say yes to it"

 

For a company that does not use any traditional advertising, Acne Paper was about how the brand communicated to its customers.

“We are doing this in the format of this magazine to spend money on a project that helps build great creative relationships and at the same time sends out a message that people all over the world respond very positively to.”

 

If Acne could find potential customers who shared their brand’s belief, the magazine would help to turn their interest into long term commitment.

The Takeout

So many ecommerce managers are always looking for the next way to maximise resources, minimise costs and increase sales.

Mikael Schiller, Acne’s executive chairman, has a different idea at the core of his business:

"Acne started the opposite way—let's make a fantastic product, whether it's a gown or a magazine. If we do this, it will be easy to sell, and if they like it, they will come back. We have been perceived as creative and quirky, but we want to become a long-term institution. We want to have even better services, better products, a better online presence."

 

You probably want to do that too.

How are you planning to improve your customer’s experience?

What are you doing to add value for your subscribers?

A print magazine can help you develop genuinely loyal customers

#6. Saturdays Magazine

Saturdays Print Magazine

Saturdays have always been unique. Surf brands don’t start up in New York. And their second flagship store is almost never in Tokyo.

Oh, and no other surf brands have a quarterly glossy magazine (printed in Iceland, of course). True to form, it’s been built with the same unorthodox approach that flows throughout all of Saturdays’ content. The print bi-annual contains no ads, and the minimalist cover is always without cover lines or an image. No fuss, no kitch, no shakas dude, just beautiful design and contemporary style.

As Matt Haber, from Travel & Leisure explains, “Any store can put out a catalog or a little circular that focuses on its brand, but few would dare print a full-color, oversized glossy and sell it for $25. That's exactly what Saturdays, a New York City based surf shop has done with it's massive Saturdays Magazine.”

 

 

Saturdays’ print magazine is a critical differentiator.

Straight away, the presence of a high quality, lifestyle focused magazine puts Saturdays in a different sphere to the rest of their surf retail contemporaries.

Saturdays’ print content marketing raises the brand above the classic surfer sponsorships and catalogues routinely used by the Quicksilver’s and Ripcurl’s of the retail world. These classical surf brands are just about the surf. Saturdays magazine is about as far removed from a Carona commercial that you can get without ditching the beach altogether. The mag gives the brand a meaning that its audience wants to stand for.

The magazine helps Saturdays explain to potential customers that ‘no, we’re not a more expensive Billabong, we’re more the surfer’s niche of Mr Porter.’

(That comparison is more apt than you might imagine…)

Saturdays and Net-A-Porter partnerships

Content

Saturdays is more easily compared with Vogue than Tracks Surfing Magazine.

Inside you find striking multi-page spreads of surfers at work and at play. There are interviews with artists, photographers, musicians, chefs, athletes and many others at the top of their creative field. Here’s a sneak peek into episode four:

 

 

Saturdays is trying to cater for an audience that shares the surfing lifestyle. But quite obviously, It’s about more than gnarly swell, huge tubes and sun tanned babes.

The content isn’t designed to sell surfwear. Instead, it tells the stories that interest the modern day surfer. The one who has a genuine affinity with the water. The one has cares about sustainability. The one who admires creative spirit.

The Saturdays’ audience shares the surfing lifestyle. It’s about more than gnarly swell, huge tubes and sun tanned babes.

Co Founder Colin Tunstall illustrates this idea (and the purpose of the magazine) perfectly:

“Surfing is a lifestyle. It's also an art form. It's a creative process and people interpret however they like. We draw inspiration from the city we live in and I think in a way it represents itself in the things we do.

 

Primary Goal: Increase Awareness

Okay, so we could have included establish authority and build trust right here too. But primarily, Saturdays’ magazine exists to share what the brand stands for. The retailer knows that his target audience will be hooked as soon as they read that first edition. If the reader resonates with the brand’s passion and shares the lifestyle portrayed by the magazine, the reader will want to buy Saturdays’ products.

By including influencers with an already established following of like minded people, Saturdays can cross promote to get their magazine in front of the type of people they are looking for and woo them into subscribing. This authentic, quality, niche-focused approach makes much more sense (and savings) than going with costly advertising or the crowded online space.

Saturdays print content marketing

Paid or Free?

At $25, the Saturdays biannual is a premium publication. With no advertising, beautiful design and high editorial standards, it’s good value for the brand’s passionate audience. The pricing suits the strategy – don’t be all things to all people. Focus on the quality that the niche demands and they’ll pay for the value you’re adding for them.

Why Print?

Saturdays is trying to build a community of like-minded individuals who share the same passion.

Many online retailers set up their site based on their products, then work out who might like to buy them. Saturdays did the opposite. Their brand, and their business is built to attract their target audience.

As such, Saturdays want to help this like-minded audience with much more than just surfing. They understand their subscribers share a passion for the same lifestyle, and that could include other things. The Saturdays man also enjoys coffee, art, skating and music. What other menswear retailer is offering a handmade table reconstructed from original Coney Island boardwalk wood – for $14000 US no less.

Satrudays lifestyle focused content

The magazine gives Saturdays an opportunity to explore their audience’s passion in a longer form. Their beautiful print magazine is coveted by their brand fans. The commitment to an entirely sales-free, story-focused publication demonstrates that Saturdays are serious about their brand’s values. It’s not just some convenient ruse that helps them sell more boardshorts online.

Tunstall backs up this assertion, speaking to Fashion Week Daily

The concept was to put some perspective behind our brand. Having other peoples’ thoughts included didn’t make sense. We use this as a marketing concept for the brand; we never intended to make money from the magazine itself.”

 

Saturdays care about their customers’ passions. Their magazine proves it.

Saturdays ecommerce print magazine

Could a magazine help grow your ecommerce business?

What's the best way to invest the marketing budget you have for your online store?

Should you work on owning your own niche media channel?

Isn't this more valuable than taking out some ads in your customer's social media feeds?

The decision to create, produce and send hundreds of thousands of print magazines into the mail boxes of your customers will always be a contentious one. But this could be a cornerstone that gives you a continual physical presence in your customer’s lives.

Fashion enthusiasts are conditioned to consume their information in print. You can find your niche and delight it constantly.

One off customers are good. Loyal repeat customers are better.

If you want to build a sustainable online retail business, you need to focus on retaining your customers. Content marketing will help you build your audience.

A print magazine might be a cost effective way to do it.

Have you got any other examples of great print magazines created and produced by online fashion retailers? I'd love to be able to add to this list. Give me a heads up on Twitter, or fire away in the comments! 

 

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Author

James Dillon

James tells stories for a living. Sometimes they are true. Always they are crafted to help brands delight, educate and funny-bone-tickle their audiences into coming back for more. He’s super passionate (read: obsessive) about ecommerce content marketing. James is dedicated to teaching ecommerce brands how to create their own repeat-customer-generating media empire. Keep an eye out for his online ramblings - you can expect a generous helping of lightbulb moments and cheeky guffaws.
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