How Big Brands Fell Back In Love With Print Marketing


In our hyper-digital age, we can sometimes forget the value to be found in physical media. The new economy, as conventional wisdom would have it, has little time for “20th century mediums” like print. After all, think of any noteworthy company or tech “unicorn” to have emerged in the last 15 years and their success has come through online platforms – be it a website, an app or streaming service.

However, there are signs that this is beginning to change. A pivot towards print is being undertaken by more and more big brands, most of whom built their entire reputations online. One such company is Airbnb, which has recently launched a new monthly magazine. As you might expect, the content is all about travel. But what’s causing a stir is the medium Airbnb have chosen for its new venture: a good old-fashioned printed magazine.

Print face with a digital brain

On the face of it, this may seem an unusual move for a company that revolutionised online travel booking with its famed website and app. But Airbnb Magazine is pointing the way for big brands by using customer data from the website to inform the editorial content of the printed magazine. By tapping into these online data trends, Airbnb hope to sell more magazines by identifying the most interesting stories and destinations to place on the front cover. Indeed, what makes the new wave of brand magazines so innovative is their access to hundreds of millions of customer data points to inform editorial decisions – all made possible by digital.

DAhvvJfW0AMsXqM (Medium)Image courtesy of Airbnb on Twitter:

“We know how many people are searching to stay in Havana, Detroit or Tokyo, and we know how many people want to go based on search dates for future trips,” says Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive. “No one has billions of demand search data points for nearly every country in the world. That gives us a leg up.”

You might be asking: since when did Airbnb become experts in publishing? The answer is: they’re not. To produce the magazine, Airbnb teamed up with Hearst Publishing, one of the biggest names in print in the United States. This is in line with the recent trend of brands forming “editorial partnerships” with proper publishing outfits, creating harmony between brand and channel that can only be perfected by each partner sticking to what they do best. “Brands’ starting point has changed and is now all about partnerships,” says Sue Todd, CEO of Magnetic. “They are much more integrated and are better amplified than with a purely advertorial partnership”.

It’s not just Airbnb getting in on the act. Long established giants like Red Bull, Walmart, Tesco, IBM, General Electric are among the dozens of brands to have launched “companion” magazines to bolster their marketing campaigns. Many of these venerable brands far predate the rise of digital media, basing their successes on more conventional business models, rather than the data-driven insights of the likes of Airbnb. This trend among big brands is a welcome change and shows the growing market for quality print marketing worldwide. It also demonstrates that you don’t need a treasure trove of data at your disposal to make a success of a printed brand magazine with a loyal following.

Selling without “selling”

Red Bull’s The Red Bulletin, launched in 2005, boasts an astonishing 2.5 monthly copies in circulation. The secret to its success lies in its identity as a lifestyle magazine, using a similar formula to long-established print rivals such as GQ. Scour its pages and you’ll notice a lack of direct product Red Bull marketing; there are no glamorous models sipping energy drinks every other page. By connecting to its audience indirectly through exciting stories, photography and interviews, The Red Bulletin does so much more to enhance its owner’s brand than a million TV spots or pay-per-click campaigns could ever hope to achieve. (Medium)
Image courtesy of Red Bull Shop US:

Far from a new idea, brand magazines have in fact been going strong since the 19th century, when The Furrow helped promote the John Deere tractors brand in America and accidentally invented the idea of content marketing. The creators of The Furrow hit upon a neat idea: treat readers as smart, savvy people who can see through attempts at thinly-disguised advertising and instead produce interesting, valuable content that readers will enjoy. This method worked extraordinarily well in the format of a magazine and continues to work wonders for giant brands today, with Airbnb only recent converts to a tried-and-trusted marketing approach.

But isn’t print expensive?

Far from it. Relatively speaking, printed brand magazines offer more bang for your buck than many other channels, especially digital. Last year’s Rakuten Marketing global report found that 30% of digital marketing budgets are wasted on poor strategy and incorrect channel focus. Meanwhile print marketing is gaining the upper hand with millennials and is proven to resonate more than online mediums.

Brand magazines are especially economical when compared to other print formats such as full-page adverts. As fashion professor Alice Lichter points out: “Why spend €40,000 a page to advertise in Vogue when, for the same amount of money, you can publish an entire magazine?” We couldn’t agree more, Alice!

Xpress Group offers the full package, from design to print

art-artist-calligraphy-57690 (Medium)Are you looking to rejuvenate your brand’s print presence? Do you like the sound of a printed brand magazine to carry your brand’s message in an effective way? If so, our services meet every possible print marketing need – the “full package”, if you will – from design and branding to large-format digital printing. Having worked with prestigious clients such as Gatwick Airport to small and medium sizes businesses across the UK, we’re able to tailor our services to each and every client. Get in touch today with our friendly team to discuss your design and print needs further. We’ll even arrange for a free, no obligation quote.