Invite them to the right party and they will come

We have the power, through targeted marketing, to steer the demographic make-up of a subscriber file.

In the short time since October 2005, TV Guide magazine’s demos have changed dramatically. We have nearly one million new subscribers, age 18-44. We’ve seen a jump of 23% in subscribers age 18-34, while losing 1.5 million subscribers more that 45 years of age, and our readers earn more. The file composition of subscribers earning $50,000 to $99,999 is up 142%, and we are up a whopping 177% in composition for readers earning more than $100,00. The ongoing demographic analysis of our subscriber file is being proven out by the latest Spring ’08 MRI data. As future MRI data flows in, we expect it to catch up to our own demographic data with bigger increases in younger, more affluent women.

TV Guide went through an editorial change in October 2005, and new edit always attracts new readers. After all, if you build it, they will come. But, if you build something that is entirely different than what your existing customer base expects, they may also leave. That’s OK. Our plan was to recast our editorial focus and therefore our subscriber base to attract newer, more female and more affluent readers. Many of these consumers did come to the party, though they all didn’t show up on their own; we specifically invited them by name.

If Editorial hosted the party, the Circulation Department was the party planner, and our challenge was threefold: We had to welcome our current avid and engaged readers to the party, bring entirely new readers in through the door, and retain them. We were interested in attracting a younger, more female demographic and we had to strike the right tone to get people to accept our invitations. After all, we had 50 years of history working both with and against us. TV Guide is an iconic brand, yet we found ourselves in the new position of having to explain our editorial focus again.

Our first step was revamping existing creative to be cleaner and more contemporary. We still hit traditional trigger points but approached messaging with a fresh perspective. We created dynamic brand awareness inserts as part of our retention efforts and created premiums to support the brand through the transition. We made sure that both new and old readers knew the value delivered in each issue and knew that they had a place in the TV Guide family.

We applied the same approach to new business marketing, and used price, offer expression, and vibrant creative to build momentum in direct mail. By layering in targeted list tests into the mix, we quickly built a stable of direct mail lists reflecting significantly younger, more affluent demos. While the cost per order on some of these lists was higher than the cost per order of lists delivering a more traditional audience, this investment was vital. The data collected through these tests became the foundation of our audience development efforts.

Our targeted list response has allowed us to model and mine for younger female readers in large databases and data co-ops. As we build on this success, we will expand our modeling efforts.

TV Guide has been successful because we supported a long-range vision with short-term wins. We saw a shift in the demos of the new-to-file orders immediately, which encouraged us that we were on the right track. As we learned more, we pushed the limits farther and truly helped to change our demographics. With quality editorial — even evolving editorial — and a solid marketing plan to follow, success is inevitable.

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