Blog: Branded

Netflix, Airbnb, and Dollar Shave Club have all caused a raucous in their respective industries over the last few years. Netflix first destroyed the video rental business and is now even nipping at Hollywood’s heels as it produces higher and higher quality content. Airbnb completely disrupted the hotel industry by allowing anyone with a nice enough home to, essentially, become a hotel. And Dollar Shave Club shook the very ground that Gillette stands on with its mail-order, high quality (yet inexpensive) razor blades.

In short, these companies are all disruptors. But they have something else in common too. In the last year, all of these brands have started publishing big, glossy, physical magazines. It might seem odd for companies that grew up on the internet to suddenly jump into the physical magazine industry, especially when traditional magazines are pushing more and more toward digital-only models.

There’s more than one reason why these brands have jumped on board the physical magazine business, but mainly it is to differentiate themselves from the competition. All the aforementioned brands have new competitors trying to run them down. Whether it’s Gillette’s own monthly blade subscription service; the growing number of Airbnb clones; or the quickly multiplying streaming services (some of which have Disney, Apple, and Amazon money). Now is not the time for these brands to rest on their laurels, and they need to find new ways to ensure loyalty from their customers. Engage their audience. Create a more intimate connection. And so they’ve turned to magazines to drive home their own value propositions.

Michael Dubin, CEO of Dollar Shave Club, said he saw their new magazine MEL as a way to “develop a deeper connection with its customer base, or member base in our case. We are building a sustainable alternative model to supporting a strong content brand.”

Magazines have always been a medium in which a brand can engage their audience’s full attention and really benefit from the relationship they’ve already developed with them.

Studies also show that consumers have a strong emotional attachment to magazines, for two reasons. First, because magazines often offer consumers a high-quality connection to the topics and people they are passionate about. Second, audiences know they can trust the content. A recent study showed that 70% of readers trusted the content they read in monthly (or less frequently published) magazines. Whereas only 30% trusted social media. Brands like Airbnb can benefit from the trust that is inspired by the magazine industry. They face the challenge of convincing their users to book another holiday and to do it via their app. Whether the initial experience was good or not, sometimes people want to try something new. But having a publication out there that drives home the benefits of using Airbnb over other services, could sway that customer away from the competition, and back into Airbnb’s embrace.

Netflix’s biggest challenge isn’t keeping people subscribed, but perpetually bringing in new subscribers. They have endless amounts of content, but so much of it remains hidden… because they literally have too much to advertise. So their new magazine, Wide, intends to draw attention to the shows and movies that people don’t know about. They also plan on using the magazine to appeal to academy and guild voters in order for their shows and movies to attain more awards recognition. Netflix knows that a completely unknown movie will see a massive box office surge once it gets an Oscar nomination, and a monthly membership to Netflix is cheaper than a movie ticket in most places. So if they can appeal to awards voters, and get more nominations, they can draw in subscribers who might not hop on board for Stranger Things, Orange Is the New Black, or Glow.. but might join to see the latest independent critical darling.

These digital companies have gotten to where they are today by pushing boundaries, disrupting norms, and innovating new ways to deliver the best possible experience to their end-users. With the publication of their own physical magazines, brands like Netflix and Airbnb are showing the magazine industry that it needs to stop looking at print and digital as one or the other. It can be both. Magazines grab the attention of readers, and inspire trust in their audience… and these attributes can play a major role in magnifying the influence of brands, no matter where they were born.

-James Somerton

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