When Retailers Print Magazines, They’d Do Well to Look Like This

This is one trend we are solidly behind – non-publisher brands diving into print magazines as a way to engage their audience and solidify their brand.

It’s tricky business, of course, as Cable Neuhaus explains in his Modern Magazinist post on Folio:.

“It’s plenty hard for a battle-tested publisher to launch a print magazine these days,” he writes. “Nevertheless, a bold (or delusional) company that’s in a retail business will occasionally think, ‘Hey, we can do that!’ — and so chooses, against great odds, to dive into the magazine fray.”

And sometimes they get it very, very right.

Take, for instance, the two magazines featured in Neuhaus’ post; the travel magazine Here, the publication of millennial-facing luggage company Away Travel; and Hodinkee, the high end and high priced ($27) collectible magazine from the luxury watch site of the same name.

Neuhaus has a one-word answer to why these brands are attracted to ink on paper – “Brooklyn,” he says, “meaning there’s always a place and a time for throwbacks (craft beer and artisanal bread, anyone?), even if it turns out to be ephemeral.”

Ephemeral or not, one thing stands out with both of these publications. The brand clearly knows and understands their audience, and has done a remarkable job of putting together magazines that relate.

“In order to be taken seriously, both magazines needed to understand from the get-go that if they looked or read anything like product catalogs, they’d have wasted every last penny of the launch budget,” Neuhaus cautions. And from what we can see, they’ve avoided that trap.

“You’d be hard-pressed to make a connection between the magazine and the merchandise its publisher sells,” Neuhaus says about Here. “There are several incidental pictures of Away luggage scattered about the heavily visual first issue, but they aren’t even acknowledged in the captions. Just pieces of luggage in their natural environment. Nice.”

As for Hodinkee, it’s a far different audience – upscale consumers as opposed to Here’s more down-to-earth Millennials – and they get this one right too.

In addition to being unabashedly about the high life, Hodinkee has another thing going for it.

“What further sets Hodinkee apart from other magazines about watches is the quality of its writing and its general intelligence,” says Neuhaus. “There is very little gee-whiz here. No backflips over remarkable new movements or materials. Serious connoisseurs will presumably appreciate the approach.”

Will the magazines pay for themselves, through cover price, advertising or (slight shudder) sponsored advertorial? Hard to say, Neuhaus rightly notes.

“Nevertheless, the connection between the book and the overall corporate mission seems clearly aligned: consistency of high-end branding is everything to the kind of folks who would travel to Europe to touch, and maybe buy, a couple of watches for a hundred grand apiece,” he summarizes. “Hodinkee magazine, if you see it as a well-thought-out piece of company marketing, might thus be worth the investment.”

For brands looking to solidify their marketing in print, they’d do well to take a look at each of these publications and set their bar accordingly.