Custom publishing packs a marketing punch

Share this content:
Chris Schraft and Stephen Boulton-Wallace
Chris Schraft and Stephen Boulton-Wallace

When AT&T and Cingular merged in late 2004, the biggest problem the two wireless telecom giants faced was find­ing a way to prevent tens of millions of legacy customers from fleeing.

Former Cingular marketing execu­tive Stephen Boulton-Wallace, now AT&T's VP of customer lifecycle management, says both companies feared typical direct marketing efforts would prove inadequate, given the competitive landscape. Instead, execu­tives at the new AT&T Mobility, the company's wireless subsidiary, used an entirely different approach.

“Our very first custom maga­zine was dropped at the time of the merger,” Boulton-Wallace says. “The purpose then was to reassure custom­ers that the merger was a good thing and to lay out the new services.”

Custom publishing's popularity has increased dramatically in recent years, growing in just five years from a niche magazine business to a varied and mighty $55 billion industry today, according to Lori Rosen, executive director of the Custom Publishing Council (CPC). Although custom publishing is still evolving as a chan­nel, it is rapidly becoming a favored tool for building and maintaining last­ing customer relationships.

“It's no longer sustainable to acquire customers at a pace faster than you lose them,” says Chris Schraft, presi­dent of Time Inc. Content Solutions, who leads the team working with Boulton-Wallace on AT&T Mobil­ity's custom publications.

Custom pubs play a crucial part

The first publication Time Inc. cre­ated for AT&T Mobility was distrib­uted to 21 million households the day the merger was announced. Featuring descriptions of newly launched prod­ucts and services, the piece — with different versions for each company — was designed to reassure custom­ers that the merger would result in improved service and value.

When the numbers came in, AT&T Mobility was delighted. From the fourth quarter 2004 to the second quarter of 2005, total customer churn fell from 2.4% to 2.2% and customer attitudes about key brand attributes improved dramatically.

AT&T Mobility's first foray into custom publishing was so successful that it's become a crucial part of its marketing mix. But Boulton-Wallace says his use of the magazine has changed from a “big batch drop” to a more personalized, relevant way.

“We used to only target custom­ers at the end of the lifecycle with traditional DM, to try to get them to renew,” he says. “[But] it wasn't recognizing their value with us as a customer. The campaign triggered them to shop instead of renew.”

Today, AT&T Mobility combines customer lifecycle management tech­niques with the use of custom pub­lishing as a direct marketing channel. Custom magazines, with different versions according to customer needs and segment, are distributed at times that coincide with periods of sensitiv­ity within the lifecycle continuum.

The editorial content is lifestyle-centric and each magazine delivers AT&T brand messages via stories of interest. “We ran a cover story about our sponsorship of the US Olympics team, and we did an educational piece for parents about texting with teenag­ers,” recalls Boulton-Wallace.

Page 1 of 2
Loading links....

Sign up to our newsletters

Company of the Week

Since 1985, Melissa Data has helped thousands of companies clean, correct and complete contact data to better target and communicate with their customers. We offer a full spectrum of data quality solutions, including global address, phone, email, and name validation, identify verification - available for batch or real-time processes, in the Cloud or on-premise. Our service bureau provides dedupe, email/phone append and geographic/demographic append services for better targeting and insight. For direct mailers, Melissa Data offers easy-to-use address management/postal software, list hygiene services and 100s of specialty mailing lists - all with competitive pricing and excellent customer service.

Find out more here »

DMN's Career Center

Check out hundreds of exciting professional opportunities available on DMN's Career Center.  
Explore careers in digital marketing, sales, eCommerce, marketing communications, IT, data strategies, and much more. And don't forget to update your resume so employers can contact you privately about job opportunities.

>>Click Here