Publishers are at a crossroads. In an era of à la carte consumption, new models are required to compete and stay relevant.
For powerhouse publisher Hearst, owners of the classic Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping magazine brands, the challenge was particularly keen in the age of digital content — where brands are most vulnerable to disruption and shifting consumer expectations.
Enter Lippincott to help Hearst imagine and execute innovative new ways to drive more digital subscriptions for its most widely distributed titles. Yet as we dove into the project, we realized a much greater opportunity for the historic publisher. By reimagining the definition of subscriptions, we helped Hearst redefine these household names, moving from titles to brands. In doing so, Hearst could expand its offerings and unlock its inherent brand value in the process.
Understanding brand communities and dynamic connections
Today’s most successful brands are omnipresent, building communities that promote sharing and discovery. They have significant contextual presence; they’re in the right place at the right time. And they’re always finding new ways to add value to customers’ lives, beyond the original transaction. Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping already had many of the essential elements for building a thriving community. Yet subscription metrics were challenged and traditional newsstand distribution channels were shrinking, as industrywide sales were falling.
Using our foundational brand principles to frame the challenge, we conducted extensive digital ethnographies and focus groups to better understand the drivers of a contemporary subscription, yielding a clear path of opportunities for both brands.
For Cosmopolitan — permission to give its readers a wider range of advice
For generations, Cosmo has been synonymous with sex, beauty and fashion advice. Yet our ethnographies revealed an even deeper relationship with the title. Cosmo readers were looking to the brand for advice in other dimensions of their lives. Always on the cusp of the next big thing, Cosmo readers sought empowerment and were willing to give permission to the brand to help achieve their dreams.
We mapped out opportunities for Cosmo to lean deeper into this broader set of pivotal moments and help readers navigate the next big change in their lives — a new relationship, a career milestone, or any number of personal pivotal turning points. We identified dozens of new opportunities to drive deeper engagement with the Cosmo brand: from content, to partnerships, to exclusive membership programs and events. And we designed a series of new subscription models that would allow the Cosmo customer to customize content packages for their defining life stages.
For Good Housekeeping — untapped brand assets for trust and heightened relevance
Our Good Housekeeping research uncovered a reader who was defined by their relationship to family — someone who often felt guilty taking a little time out of their day to focus on themselves, whether that be watching a TV show or indulging in a magazine. Yet GHK had earned its place in their lives as a resource to help keep their families happy and healthy.
While this perspective was not entirely surprising, our audit did spotlight one significant asset that was surprisingly underused: the Good Housekeeping Institute and the Good Housekeeping Seal. The Good Housekeeping Institute is the foremost consumer product-evaluation laboratory in the country. Situated on the 29th floor of Hearst Tower in New York City, a team of young female scientists and engineers evaluate thousands of products. In addition, GHK also has a loyal and engaged panel of 25,000 consumers willing to play a larger role as testers and influencers for the brand.
We helped design feature issues around reader needs and passion points, including a “home hacks” bundle designed to drive subscriptions and continuous engagement on- and offline. And with the Institute and Seal top of mind, we helped GHK rethink the future role of these powerful brand assets: the potential of its consumer panel as influencers for products to services, and the opportunity to leverage the scientists in the institute to serve as role models for women in STEM.
With Lippincott’s guidance, Hearst exemplifies how — with insight, focus and opportunistic creativity — any iconic brand can answer new marketplace challenges, add value and build on a brand loyalty that will withstand technological change for years to come.