MAGAZINES ARE EXTENDING THEIR BRANDS INTO APPAREL, ACCESSORIES, BOOKS AND CD-ROMS.
Byline: Melanie Kletter
NEW YORK — While there is no underwear yet bearing the Elle magazine name, it might not be long before such an item lands on retail floors.
In this era of brand mania, magazine companies are looking far beyond the printed page to build their businesses. From sunglasses to awards shows, magazine brand names can now be found in a plethora of product categories, and the field seems ripe for more introductions.
“This is definitely a trend right now,” noted Barbara Deering, who was recently hired as president of brand development at Primedia Enterprises, which oversees content and trademark licensing for publishing giant Primedia, whose titles include Seventeen, Modern Bride and New York. “There are a lot of opportunities for magazines to translate to merchandise, as long as you can relate them to a lifestyle.”
The list of magazine branded products has grown dramatically in recent years, now including items such as National Geographic shoes and Seventeen body art.
Besides providing new merchandise categories, brand extensions also offer opportunities for magazines to leverage their content and expertise into new media, such as CD-ROMs and TV programs. Many companies are eyeing the Martha Stewart empire — which comprises magazines, TV and product categories — as a path to emulate.
David J. Fishman, vice president of brand development at Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, said magazine companies today have become “content leveraging entities.”
“We are still early in the process, but magazines have become like the hub of a wheel where the editorial staff and brand name can be leveraged like spokes,” he said.
Hachette’s parent company, Lagardere SCA, recently started a multimedia entity called Lagardere Active to oversee multimedia opportunities.
Michelyn Camen, vice president of brand development at Hearst Magazines, said: “People always say, ‘Why would anyone buy products that are related to magazines?’ Well, the answer is that consumers have an emotional connection that goes beyond ink and paper. The components don’t change, whether you are branding apparel names like Calvin Klein or magazines titles. It’s all about giving products and services that reinforce and enhance who you are as a magazine title.”
A number of publishing executives said their desire to expand is not driven primarily by saturation in the publishing business, but by a desire to become more lifestyle-oriented brands a la Martha. Many of the product extensions seem like natural fits, such as cookbooks from Gourmet magazine, and gardening tools bearing the Good Housekeeping name. According to Deering, some of the Primedia magazine titles are more naturally suited for product extension, such as Seventeen, Modern Bride and American Baby, while others, like New York magazine, have been more difficult to brand.
“New York magazine has high name recognition, but it has been difficult to license the name ‘New York,”‘ Deering noted.
She said the process of magazine branding really started about 10 years ago but has been somewhat slow to take root.
“It took a while for people to understand the importance of magazines and the instant branding they offer,” she said.
She noted that character licensing for properties such as Mickey Mouse and Warner Bros. characters have diminished in importance, making way for new brands.
Among the early magazine pioneers was Playboy, which introduced apparel more than a decade ago, and continues to have an aggressive licensing program. (See related story, page 9).
Hearst also has been aggressive in this area, and was an early mover. It began “brand extending” about 11 years ago, according to Camen. Among its biggest initiatives as of late has been a program called “Marie Claire Recommends” on the Home Shopping Network. So far, there have been three HSN programs, which showcase Marie Claire’s R2R line of clothing.
“Consumers are sometimes hesitant about ordering directly from television and this brings a level of credibility through the partnership with Marie Claire,” Camen said. The Marie Claire line is expected to drum up sales between $5 million and $6 million this year, according to Marc Bozek, president and chief executive officer of HSN, the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based network.
Hearst also found success through technologically oriented products. The Cosmopolitan “Virtual Makeover,” developed in partnership with The Learning Co., is an example of how the company is leveraging magazine content. The CD-ROM features beauty tips and advice, similar to what it offers each month in the magazine. Marie Claire recently entered into an arrangement to provide content and will be featured on the Web site Vivianlives.com, which chronicles the life of a fictional 24-year-old New Yorker.
Cosmopolitan also has a licensing deal for hair accessories, and home decor and personal care items are on tap. While a Cosmo Cafe retail outlet is scheduled to open this year in London, there are currently no plans to bring Cosmo stores to the U.S.
Magazines in the teen arena have been particularly aggressive lately and are getting into all manners of lifestyle products.
“We think of our brand, YM, as more than a magazine,” said Laura McEwen, the magazine’s publisher. “We think of our Web site as a brand extension and we are getting into other categories.”
In addition to doing niche spinoffs, such as YM Prom and an upcoming title called YM Beauty, YM for back-to-school will launch sunglasses, as well as stationery and school supplies. Some of its products will be featured in a special YM corner in CVS drug stores. YM also will be reintroducing hair accessories and will introduce a YM-branded CD-ROM.
“We are looking to extend into products that are high volume, have a reasonable price point and are trendy but have a design element,” said McEwen.
Primedia has upped its brand development efforts for Seventeen, and recently came out with a slew of new merchandise categories, including hair accessories, hosiery, books and school supplies bearing the Seventeen label.
Seventeen has introduced categories such as cosmetic applicators and jewelry that border on its advertisers’ offerings, but has “stayed away” from apparel, said Deering.
Hachette’s Fishman said his company is definitely exploring merchandising as well as nontraditional merchandise strategies for building its brands. Elle merchandise, he noted, has been strong, especially in the international arena. The brand now has shoes, outerwear and leather.
On the nonmerchandise side, Hachette’s Car and Driver brand now has a show on the TNN cable network and it is paving the way for other magazines to have their own shows.
While companies have to be somewhat careful about stepping on the toes of their advertisers by getting into competing product categories, this does not seem to concern Hachette.
“We feel we can do certain Elle sportswear and other apparel categories and not interfere with our advertisers,” Fishman said.
Vogue also has made some moves into extending its name. Vogue, a title of Conde Nast Publications, has teamed up with VH1 as a partner in the Vogue/VH1 Fashion awards. The second installment of the Vogue/VH1 event was held last October at Madison Square Garden here. The show, which reportedly cost about $1.8 million to produce, also gives Vogue an editorial vehicle, since the magazine profiled the winners in its November issue.
While the chance to move into new product categories is enticing, companies do run the risk of entering too many categories and oversaturating the market with their brand.
“You have to be careful how you use the name,” said Hachette’s Fishman. “You don’t want to relinquish control and sensibility.”