It’s one thing to create a successful local brand and quite another to successfully rebrand 100 years later. Here’s how Ackermans did it with the February edition of his Ackermans Club magazine, based on reader feedback.
The new magazine covers of February and March 2016
As the first custom publication in the new media stable 18 years ago, it’s only fitting that the new media team handled change, led by the magazine’s editor Elmari Rautenbach and managing director Andrew Nunneley at NewMedia. They started with a new masthead featuring a “Shorter, simpler, more direct and modern A”, with a font that is easier to read in darker environments and content that comprehensively reflects all aspects of life. its 250,000 subscribers, with an informal tone that even combines English with the vernacular where appropriate, as reader feedback played an important role in the research process.
Nunneley and Rautenbach let us in on some secrets of this successful rebranding and how they handled the process…
1. What sparked the need for a makeover?
Nunneley: Ackermans is very focused on understanding the needs of their consumers and everything they do is driven by their primary goal of bringing value to the lives of their customers. Over the past year, Ackermans has spent a lot of time listening to customers, interviewing buyers, and even spending time in their homes. The information they obtained enabled us to review the magazine armed with the knowledge of what readers wanted or needed. Refreshment is the result.
2. Walk us through the redesign process from a design perspective.
Rautenbach: The design process took about a month. Our first step was to extract information from Ackermans and define who our reader is – where she reads, how she reads, her background and living conditions. Then, when it comes to content, we were guided by Ackermans overall value promise to give the reader “even more” than they expect. It was important that we see the reader holistically in order to provide real-time “value to life.” The content also had to be evaluated in terms of how much time the reader realistically had to interact with the magazine.
We identified a number of priorities and then unpacked them. This included:
- A layered approach: Each page would now contain a number of short visual entry points to layer information and keep the reader engaged.
- A design device that connects everything: Playing with the A of Ackermans, we turned it sideways. This led to the diagonal line which appears throughout the magazine as a dynamic shape, ensuring a modern yet understated feel.
- Easier and more comfortable reading: We understand that our readers don’t always have good light or good quality glasses. They also often commute long distances. So we changed the body font, headers and column sizes for better readability. Additionally, flags have been simplified for easier navigation in the magazine, and more infographics have been introduced for easy visual communication.
- A fresh and modern masthead: we experimented with many options and finally settled on the shorter “A”. that Ackermans uses in its newsletters. This is in line with the trend of mastheads in a square, which can also easily live in line. The payline below has been changed from ‘Your exclusive magazine’ to the more personal and informal ‘Even more for you’, clearly communicating our values.
- A more playful and personalized look: After adding more color throughout the magazine, including in the titles, we introduced “handwritten” notes as if they were from a best friend. Notes indicate unique characteristics of the merchandise, express enjoyment, or signal something to remember. These ratings tell the reader that the magazine knows her and understands what makes her feel — and look — the best.
The overall effect is fresh, modern, inviting and fun – offering lots of practical information in an easily digestible way and sporting an instantly recognizable look like the new Ackermans Club magazine.
3. Tell us about the value of personalized posting and how it works to build brand loyalty.
Nunneley: When done correctly, personalized posting has the power to dramatically improve brand loyalty and profits. By providing an editorial package rooted in the client’s needs, we are able to not only retain Ackermans clients, but also drive Ackermans sales. With Ackermans, we were able to prove that continuous, frequent and valuable communication makes a difference on the bottom line. Ackermans is able to monitor the spending of customers who receive the magazine and, over a period of time, their spending gradually increases. Two years after receiving the magazine, these customers spend on average more than a third more than customers who do not receive the magazine. Interestingly, this increase in spend is not always for specific product lines, indicating that the communication is creating a more general level of loyalty and awareness rather than a direct response to a special price or specific communication. Building a trusted and commercially valuable relationship with customers through content is no short-term game, but over time it builds brand trust that no other marketing initiative can match.
4. Looking further ahead, what are the top trends we can expect in personalized posting in 2016?
Nunneley: Utility – There is so much content out there and a lot of it doesn’t add any real value. We can only hope to grab customers’ attention if we provide something they perceive as valuable.
Video – As smartphone penetration and the availability of high-speed internet access opens up in South Africa, we will follow the rest of the world with an insatiable demand for video content. Smart brands will not only provide video content, but will help their customers share their own content.
Distribution – The rate of content production by brands, publishers, consumers and just about everyone else continues to grow, but half is never seen! Without a solid distribution strategy that gets your content in front of the right people, in the right channel, at the right time, it will get lost in the cluttered content universe. Expect traditional media spend to begin shifting to delivering valuable content through a new world of customer touchpoints.
It looks like we’re ready for a revolution in custom publishing as a whole.
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