In Circulation: Brand building

A print publication is no longer just that. This little fact has become more apparent over the past week, with two new hires expanding Elle‘s business development and branding department and the launch of The Wall Street Journal‘s members-only online social network.

Extracurricular branding activities, from networks to luncheons to Spa vacations, are taking hold as a great way to build name recognition among non-readers and loyalty among subscribers. They remind me somewhat of the tote bags that some companies send out as a “thank you” for subscribing. A branded clothing line, like Elle‘s Kohl’s partnership from last year, is a distant cousin to that — it may be a distant cousin on steroids, but it has the same general idea.

As Sheri Lapidus, executive PR director for Elle, told DMNews last week, “There is always room to get more [readers], and expanding beyond the magazine gets a whole new set of readers to become familiar and aware of the magazine and hopefully buy it.”

Whether a company is selling the idea of a brand in the guise of some other product (like Elle), or including an extra offering in the subscription price (like the Journal), it is almost certainly helping its cause.

In today’s multimedia world, offering only one product is simply not enough. Heck, according to this trend, offering just a print product and a Web site is no longer enough. A publication now must be a brand, embodying all that its target audience could ever possibly want.

The question now is how print companies can make branding work for them. The launch of an entirely new product cannot be taken lightly — it’s a huge investment, and it must fit perfectly within the overall brand position. If any experts out there in the circ world can weigh in on this, DMNews (and readers) would deeply appreciate it.

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