Hello magazine media! In this, our first piece for Masthead, we have decided to start with a post for the B2B world. In our experience, B2B titles have settled for being the brainy, dress for comfort ones, living in the shadow of their glamorous, always-fashionable B2C cousins. This dynamic has persisted for years, as B2B publishers themselves have viewed design and branding as a ‘nice to have’, believing that the content (the story) was more important than how it was presented. That may have been true in the past, but today's audiences expect more, with presentation being almost equal in importance to the content.
Welcome to the design and brand savvy world, where we all need to be thinking in terms of how to build our brands. In this post, we explore a few ways that B2B publishers can leverage the hard work they’ve already done to help get them out of their B2C cousin’s shadow and rocking their brand-power in their own right.
Because we live in a multi-channel world, magazines aren’t just well loved printed products; they’re brands. B2C publishers invest big bucks in a myriad of research tools in an effort to understand their audience’s hearts and minds, and to develop a magazine – a brand – that resonates across all platforms.
Many B2B publishers consider the notion of ‘magazine as brand’ to be the exclusive territory of the consumer magazines. They can’t justify the cost of doing research and testing, when the truth is they may not have to as they’ve done most of the branding work already.
B2B publishers target a more focused audience and as a result are much more embedded in the communities they serve. They already have an instinctive understanding of who their audience is and what they expect from the brand. They’ve developed their editorial tone and voice, and defined their editorial/content guidelines. They just need to take that last step and define the visual language that aligns with the editorial to create, and fully communicate, the ‘brand’.
Here are the three considerations we explore at K9 strategy+design when we work to help a client create a magazine brand:
1. Own It - What can you claim that no one else can?
Stop looking over your shoulder trying to fit in. Instead, keep your head down and do the work you are so good at. That will differentiate you more than comparing yourself to your competitors. Most magazines have a general positioning statement but not all are working to support the brand or its place in the market. A winning positioning statement is short, to the point, and can be articulated and understood by anyone – the old school 30-second elevator pitch. A/J, one of our favourite projects, took a position and claimed it: Canada’s Environmental Voice. The phrase became the brand’s mantra - the team gave it prime real estate on every cover and used it as a compass to help guide all their decisions.
Canada’s Environmental Voice
Redesigned A\J cover featuring their new tagline
2. Think Big - What is the big idea?
Magazines are no longer just printed products. Today’s audiences consume your content in a host of ways so you need to develop your brand voice for each channel and recreate, not repurpose, content in ways that reflect each channel’s delivery strength. In other words, no mindless copy-and-pasting! Readers can tell when content is inauthentic to the channel. Plan and produce content for all channels at the same time. Decide how you’re going to tell your story on your digital properties, social media channels etc. when you’re deciding on pull quotes and images.
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3.Visual Language - What does your voice look like?
So much effort goes into trying to figure out what it sounds like but you must also consider what it looks like. Develop a visual language that supports your editorial mandate and resonates with your audience. Media consumers want more than just the facts; they want to connect on a deeper emotional level. Take a page from your B2C cousins - today’s audiences are savvy consumers of media and they expect a smart, good-looking and highly visual presentation that speaks in a clear voice and connects with their values and view of the world.
The 2016 Canadian Business Media Association Awards finalists for Best Media Brand. All feature elements that are commonly found on B2C covers.
These 3 considerations are not exclusive to building a brand but they are certainly a good start and probably enough work to keep you going for a while. For a more detailed look at magazine branding, specifically B2B design trends, join us on February 22, 2017 at 2 PM (EST) for a Magazines Canada webinar, where we will go deeper into current design trends and tips for refreshing your B2B title.
Norm is Creative Director and founder of K9 strategy+design and has 25 years of experience directing, strategizing and designing for publishing clients such as Rogers, Ski Canada Magazine, Alternatives Journal, Homes & Cottages Magazine and Metro News. Over the years, Norm has also assisted TELUS, Bell, Sirius, BMO Nesbitt Burns, American Express and countless entrepreneurial, professional and non-profit clients with their branding and communications opportunities.