The latest ABC figures (ABC independently verifies and reports on media performance) again proved the customer publishing sector is going from strength-to-strength. 

With 12 customer magazines in the top 20, eight in the top ten and the industry now representing over half (53%) of the total circulation of these top 100, the results reflect that despite significant budget cuts, there is a clear appetite for branded content in the marketing industry.


In fact, since the medium is set to defy the recession to grow from £904m to £1.1bn by 2012, it would appear more and more brands are realising the power it has in reaching and engaging consumers.

Customer publishing has evolved significantly over the last five years. Today it encompasses far more than customer magazines which are the foundation stone of the medium. The industry is now responsible for producing editorialised branded content which spans websites, video, radio, TV, email and magazines.

Since the launch of BA Highlife over 20 years ago, branded content providers have been experts in translating content across channel ensuring a brand is fully encapsulated and its messages communicated.

When considering editorialised branded content though, it is not a case of choosing offline or online, video or mobile, it’s about producing the most relevant content for the audience you want to reach. With these channels all providing great access to a brand’s target audience, more often than not an integrated approach is the best option.

The travel and leisure sector has witnessed great success through the medium- take British Airways who has taken full advantage of the captive audience in-flight. Already publishing three customer titles for in-flight: High Life, Business Life and First Life, the airline last year launched The Collection exclusively for “valued” BA Holidays customers. Having reaped the benefits of its other three titles and supporting online content, British Airways was in fact named as one of the country’s top trusted brands within its respective category in the Reader’s Digest annual survey- perhaps a result of its continued communication and engagement with its customers.

However, BA is not alone; Virgin Holidays too has invested heavily in editorialised branded content. Rock & Roam, produced by River Publishing is mailed to 60,000 members of the Frequent Virgin Club and is also available in Gatwick’s lounge. Targeting a diverse demographic from singles and young couples to families, older travellers and luxury backpackers, the publication builds closer ties with its customers by providing them with inspiring holiday ideas. A slick, engaging and much-loved publication, it even won Best Travel & leisure Title at the APA International Customer Publishing Awards last year.

As so many consumers are now going online to book their flights, hotels and entire holiday experiences, it makes perfect sense for travel and leisure brands to invest wisely in editorialised branded content. Holidays are for many the biggest investment of the year, so why not give something back to those investing time and time again- interesting, entertaining, informative and visually appealing content on and offline.

Understandably each sector and brand has entirely different objectives and a completely different audience, but what they all share in common is the need to engage with consumers. As brands strive to innovate and stand out amongst the crowd, the time has come for them to be experimental and produce content in new territories across a variety of channels.

However, the key is not to be bold and brave, but to be bold, brave and effective. This means working with experts that understand new technologies and the level of engagement that can be achieved with customers through new channels, whether this be social media applications, e-zines for iPads or videos to be streamed live on the internet.

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