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Glamour – the big launch of a little magazine

Conde Nast's ground-breaking small format magazine became the most successful magazine to launch in the UK for 30 years. So how did this happen? Sarah Marshall of distributors COMAG analyses what happened.

By Sarah Marshall

When Glamour burst onto the UK newsstand in March 2001, few people could have anticipated the huge impact this little magazine would make. Billed as the magazine that "fits into your life and your handbag", Glamour was one of the most exciting launches for years; so exciting that the first issue found its way into a phenomenal 581,337 handbags.

Finding the right product

Detailed market research was carried out to assess the potential for Glamour in the UK. It was already a well-established magazine in the States, selling 2.2 million copies with 11 million readers; but it was Glamour’s success in a smaller format in Italy that prompted Condé Nast to consider this unusual size for the British market.

Canvassing 1,000 young women around the UK, market research aimed to identify the potential target reader for Glamour and what those readers wanted from a magazine. The results of Focus Groups and questionnaires were surprising: those readers questioned expressed disenchantment with existing magazines on offer and could perceive no difference between them. With this disenchantment came a decrease in loyalty to specific magazines, highlighting a market that wanted a magazine that was relevant, informative and accessible. Readers were looking for a magazine that contained a combination of fashion, beauty, up to the minute features and celebrity coverage, but it also had to reflect the fast pace and lifestyle changes they were experiencing. They wanted top quality, but in a format that was fast and readily accessible.

In testing the idea for the format, 90% of those questioned said they would definitely buy it and 99% thought it was more convenient. Over 80% felt that it was more modern and the format was appealing, commenting, "I like it – hurry up and bring it out."

Creating a great new product and giving it a very distinct point of difference are all very well, but when entering a market as fiercely competitive as the dynamic Women’s Lifestyle and Fashion sector, something more than just small pages is needed.

Finding a place in the market

Glamour’s market was dominated by magazine heavyweights, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, each with circulation levels over 400,000; not to mention other stalwarts of the sector, Elle, New Woman and Company. Also, just to make it really interesting, another new magazine again with its roots as an American title, InStyle was launching into the same market only 3 weeks ahead of Glamour with an estimated £6 million budget. Just as well the diminutive Glamour was up to the challenge with big plans, a big marketing strategy and a big promotional budget to the tune of £5 million making it, despite its size, the biggest magazine launch since 1988.

The marketing campaign

Glamour’s £5 million marketing campaign focused on two key areas: consumer awareness and trade marketing support. Given that the average settle-down circulation of a new magazine is approximately 60% of the net sale of the first issue, it is vital to achieve the highest possible levels of sampling at launch. To do this, the target market needs to be effectively informed about the new title and it needs to be easy to find in-store. In a campaign designed to reach 10 million women, these goals were achieved through national consumer TV advertising, national press, posters and major point of sale promotions in retail stores throughout the UK. Almost £1million was invested in retail promotions during the launch period.

However, the trade campaign began months before when retail and wholesale presentations took place to outline launch plans. In addition, a series of pre-launch postcards were sent out to leading independent retailers to communicate the launch details in the countdown to what was dubbed "Glamour Day". Retailers were advised to match Glamour’s supply and display 1-1 with Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.

When it went on sale, Glamour’s first issue was displayed in wall-to-wall promotions throughout major outlets. To highlight the unique format of the magazine and maximise its visibility, innovative display promotions were developed. Display promotions dominated key retail groups with window displays, free-standing units, on-shelf box displays, graphic panels and till unit promotions. Whatever the type or size of store, there was a Glamour display mechanic to suit.

A promotion with the Daily Mail as part of the launch generated huge interest, tying in with promotional activity at key stations across the country, where Glamour girls handed out invitations to buy the magazine at one-day events at Waterloo, Victoria, Liverpool Street, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. Epos data quickly showed that a reprint of a further 50,000 copies was required to maintain availability at these travel outlets and other key stores.

In addition to the massive marketing campaign, a key element of the strategy in making an impact in such a competitive market was price. The low cover price of £1.50 played a crucial part in encouraging sampling at launch, probably making Glamour an additional purchase magazine rather than simply stealing readers from other titles in the sector.

The other titles in the market did not stand by and quietly watch – the July issues of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Elle and New Woman all carried valuable covermounted promotions. The challenge for Glamour was to ensure that sales stabilised and on entering its second year, to grow sales at the same time as increasing the cover price by 20%.

Maintaining the momentum

After such a successful launch, there were high expectations for the first half of 2002, not only from the newstrade but also from the advertising market. A carefully planned circulation strategy aimed at boosting sales whilst introducing the price increase focused on the first anniversary issue as the backbone for development, following a theme of celebration. A huge promotion centred on the April 2002 issue, which carried a free music CD as Glamour’s first birthday present to its readers. Generic TV advertising, comprehensive trade communication informing retailers of additional revenue opportunities and extensive innovative retail promotions were carried out through all retail groups. To maximise impulse purchases, the entire newsstand distribution was pre-merchandised in neon pink counter display units.

The result of the second year’s strategy meant that despite the 20% price increase, Glamour overtook Cosmopolitan to become market leader on the newsstand and is now the biggest selling women’s glossy monthly magazine in Europe.