Brand Magazines Can Create Content Marketing Kings

If you think that brand publishing is a new trend, the history of The Red Bulletin may surprise you. Beverage brand Red Bull’s monthly publication started out in print in 2005. It morphed into a newspaper supplement that dealt with sports, and later into a “men’s active style magazine” with a focus on adventure and entertainment. Since then it has amassed a global circulation of more than 2 million, expanded to include a mobile app, and gone online.

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It isn’t a stretch to call Red Bull a content marketing master (some have even suggested it’s the top content marketing company in the world), but it isn’t alone in embracing the concept of a brand magazine. Target has A Bullseye View. Degree deodorant has The Adrenalist. Benetton has Colors, which launched in 1991 and remains highly regarded even by traditional magazine folks. Online retailer Net-a-Porter launched Porter just last year, and it offers something for everyone. While the magazine comes in print form, readers can visit a digital edition or mobile app to purchase what they see on the page.

The Importance of Interactivity

Video content and user interactivity have become vital to digital publications of all kinds, so it’s no wonder that brands are leveraging these elements in their own magazines. In a weekly digital guide called Tennis Tuesday, Tennis.com combines tennis tips in video form with interactive reviews of tennis apparel and gear.

“Content marketing encourages people to go deeper,” says Dominic Duffy, co-founder of Ceros, a digital design platform that can be used to create online magazines and catalogs for brands. Through interactive, cross-device content companies can focus on storytelling and showcase their products at the same time.

U.K. clothing company Monsoon uses its Ceros-built online and mobile magazine Swoon to deliver shoppable content in combination with style guides, video, and animated GIFs. Users can select from different apparel animations, choose their desired fabric, and see footage of a model wearing the item. They can even click to buy. “You start (on Swoon), and you can end there, having bought something in the middle,” Duffy says, adding, “Creating content that is compelling and engaging is a way for brands to both manage and share their stories.”

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Immersing consumers in a brand through interesting content is typically the aim of such magazines, but the content needn’t all be original. Through its Flipboard social magazine, Levi’s curates articles about its products and the Levi’s brand from existing publications like Complex and E! Online. The magazine includes original videos, Levi’s product shots, consumer tweets, and other social media mentions that incorporate the #LiveInLevis hashtag. The result is an authentic and timely examination of the brand’s place within American culture. As with Swoon, e-commerce is built into the digital experience.

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Find Your Brand’s Content Niche

If your content marketing plans include building a brand magazine, here’s what you need to know: content comes first. Readers are inundated with it everywhere they go, so brand offerings must deliver something distinctive in order to entice consumers. Benetton’s Colors differentiates itself with a global point of view, great visual design, and photo-heavy stories (it’s long been considered “the magazine for the MTV generation“). Target’s A Bullseye View, meanwhile, adopts a Pinterest-like layout to dispense lifestyle tips, often from celebrities, as well as showcase the retailer’s brands and products.

The Red Bulletin has made a name for itself by bringing consumers the extreme sports stories Red Bull’s target readership (and customer base) craves. Once a brand finds its niche, it can create audience- and brand-relevant content for years to come.

Brand publishing has legs. It has for years. Perhaps it’s time for your brand to take a closer look.

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