Engage Customers and Elevate Your Brand with a Custom Publication

by Mike Zimmerman

Two impressive branded magazines recently came across my desk. Both are great examples of companies promoting their products with branded magazines. But their publishers may surprise you.

One is a beautiful high-end publication about baking. It features a bunch of recipes, a lot of top-quality photography, and some really nice storytelling. The other is just as beautiful – and also includes a few recipes. But it’s more notable for its general upscale lifestyle vibe. The cover story is an in-depth profile of rock legend Robbie Robertson. It also includes two other feature-length celebrity profiles and another beautiful piece about glassblowing.

What makes these pubs truly surprising is their source. The baking magazine, “Sift,” is “a King Arthur Flour Publication.” The lifestyle pub, “Cambria Style,” is published by Cambria, a maker of high-end stone countertops. At first blush, flour and countertops don’t seem so glamorous.

Promote with Confidence and Restraint

Of course, both of these publications promote their products, but they do so in such subtle ways you might miss it. “Sift,” of course, calls specifically for King Arthur Flour in the recipes. Many recipes don’t even call for flour. For instance, a feature article about a Texas family’s Christmas Eve tamale tradition includes seven recipes; only two – for Cranberry Cornbread and Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake – include flour.

Out of 110 content-packed pages, there are only two ads, both for King Arthur Flour products.

In “Cambria Style,” the references are more overt but still fairly subtle. There are several articles about decorating, which include references to specific Cambria products. The food photography is shot on countertops, with each surface identified by name and what collection it’s from. And two of the three celebrity profiles include sections where the subjects talk about remodeling projects, which, of course, included Cambria countertops.

There was only one passage I found where the product mention felt a little forced. In a feature about two artisan glassblowers in “Cambria Style,” the author states that the pair’s desire to open up shop was “driven by the same spirit that inspired Cambria® to redefine the natural quartz industry.” I have to wonder: Would the glassblowers agree?)

In 56 impressive pages, there are three full-page ads for Cambria products. All are on the back and inside covers, providing an otherwise interrupted, immersive reading experience.

Tell Great Stories

In both magazines, fine storytelling wins the day over overt product promotion. Besides all of the recipes (and in addition to the Christmas tamale article), “Sift” includes a wonderful story of a young baker who reconnects with her heritage by learning her grandmother’s strudel recipe. And another about the company’s King Arthur Flour Bake for Good: Kids. The program, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, uses baking to demonstrate scientific principles to elementary school children.

Both stories are great ways to help readers make an emotional connection to the company and its products.

In “Cambria Style,” celebrity profiles anchor the content. Subjects in the Winter 2017 issue include Olympic figure skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi (with some wonderful portrait photography), and Emma Slater and Sasha Farber from “Dancing with the Stars.”

In the Editor’s Letter, LouAnn Berglund Haaf even writes about the importance of good storytelling. She brings up some of her favorite past subjects, which include actor Bryan Cranston, rocker Steven Tyler, and entertainment reporter Maria Menounos. Those are some big “gets,” as they say in the journalism world.

As if to drive home the storytelling focus, the Robbie Robertson cover story, by Cambria President/CEO Marty Davis, goes eight full pages without a single Cambria mention. In the magazine’s Publisher’s Note, however, Davis does spend some time spelling out what he feels are the parallels between Robertson’s career and what makes Cambria successful.

Create Meaningful Connections

Despite their similarities, the business model for each publication is different.

“Sift” is available on newsstands and through kingarthurflour.com, with a premium cover price of $12.95. “Cambria Style” is available by complimentary subscription at cambriausa.com/style. You can also view it electronically at the website or subscribe to a tablet version at the iTunes store.

No matter how these pubs get into readers’ hands, what matters most in the end is the connections they help create with the users – or potential users – of the publishers’ products. Both pubs absolutely scream “premium” and “high quality.” Both immerse readers in an aspirational world, where the finest products promise to make life a little better in some small but rewarding way. Both are also examples of a growing trend, where companies are increasingly turning to high-end print publications to engage customers and prospects.

And they make me want to go bake something memorable, with Robbie Robertson, on a Cambria Coastal Collection countertop at Kristi Yamaguchi’s fabulous Minnesota lake house.

Posted in: Engagement Programs

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