Why fashion SMEs should launch their own brand publication

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Michael Barker, chief brand officer at online retailer Garment Quarter, explains why every small fashion business should have its own print magazine

If you’re a small fashion retailer that wants to compete with major online retailers, then it could be time to take your brand into print.

In recent years, a new form of marketing has taken the fashion retail world by storm: the in-house branded print publication. Merging high-quality editorials with product showcasing, these stylishly designed hybrid magazines have been a game-changer for e-commerce brands — especially in the fashion industry.

While these glossy print publications can represent a big investment, they can also be an incredible way to connect with your consumers and build brand loyalty in a very competitive industry.

Here, I’ll talk about the many benefits of starting a brand publication and share a few tips we’ve picked up during the process of designing our own flagship magazine, GARMENT.

What are the benefits of a print publication?

Over the past few years, lots of major brands have all made their first foray into the world of print, including household names like Net-a-Porter, Airbnb, and Benetton. Part product catalogue, part glossy magazine, these thoughtfully designed brand publications combine traditional fashion editorial with e-commerce to create something which appeals to both shoppers and casual browsers alike. And it’s little wonder why: a brand publication is quite simply an incredible marketing tool.

Benefits include:

  • Showcasing products: With a print magazine, you get to show off your stock at its best.
  • Building brand awareness and loyalty: Editorial content is a valuable chance to connect to your consumer base, showing them that you share not only the same tastes in fashion, but also the same attitude, values, and outlook — all of which builds brand loyalty.
  • Establishing your brand as a fashion authority: A good brand publication shows readers that you don’t just talk the talk: you live, eat and breath the latest fashions, too. And, by offering expert insight into the latest styles, you’ll demonstrate your authority and persuade the reader that your brand is the place to go to find the sort of fashion they’re looking for.
  • Advertising: If your magazine is a success, you might also be able to sell advertising to other brands.

If all this sounds like something you want for your brand, and you’ve got the budget to expand your current marketing, then an in-house magazine could be your next step. Here are a few tips to help you get your publication up and running:

Know your customer base

First things first: If you want to connect to your target consumers, you need to have a very good understanding of who your customer is and what they want. If you get this right, then you’ll be able to produce high-quality editorial content that aligns with their interests.

So, before you sit down to design a concept for your magazine, do your research and create a profile of your customer base. What exactly are their interests, ideals and values? What sort of lifestyle do they have? This will help you to make sure that your magazine has the right brand voice and will ensure you’re creating content that’s relevant to your intended audience.

Create content that reflects your brand values

While showcasing your products is obviously a key aim of any brand publication, it needs to be more than just a glossy catalogue. In addition to stunning photosets and informative fashion editorials, it’s also an opportunity to show your readership that you share their values, as this can really help to build brand loyalty.

For instance, if you’re proud to feature diverse models, run an editorial on increasing representation on the catwalk. Or speak to activists and campaigners. If eco-conscious fashion is a big part of your business, you could create features which give a “behind the scenes” glimpse into your production processes, or create editorials exploring different current environmental issues. But, whatever you do, be honest and true to your values as a brand, as readers can often sense whether you’re being cynical or insincere.

Showcase your products – but make it count

Good photoshoots take time and money, so you need to put make sure it pays off. Put as much time and effort into these as possible, incorporating the latest trends and ensuring all products will be available online while the magazine is being distributed.

If your budget and profile allows for it, it’s also a smart move to reach out to influencers and other figures who your target consumer might identify with and ask them to be part of an interview or photoshoot. Not only will you (hopefully) gain a bit of extra publicity via their online following, but it will show your readership that you’re on their level, too.

Think about distribution

Once you’ve worked out how you’ll approach the content, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to get your magazine to your intended readers. If you have physical stores, then you’ll want to make sure that magazines are available for free — preferably at the point of sale. If you’ll be offering copies for free (which you should definitely consider for at least the first few issues) then it may be a good idea to include a copy with each sale in a branded bag. Not only will this help to get your new publication in front of as many readers as possible: adding a freebie will also help to make the experience of shopping in your stores feel more like a premium experience.

Online-only retailers can include a copy of your publication with every order shipped. ASOS began by sending its print magazine out quarterly with online orders, and have now established a readership which allows them to charge £1 per issue. But, if you’ll be sending your magazine out with postal orders, don’t forget to consider the size of your publication during the design process. A lighter A5 publication will cost less to ship, so sometimes it’s best to start small.

Michael Barker is chief brand officer at Garment Quarter, a designer fashion retailer which recently launched its own in-house magazine, GARMENT