While one basic premise of The Full Effect is that marketing is about doing things that nobody has done before I have to admit that sometimes this is relative.

Right now for instance I’m helping a Saudi-owned retailer devise strategy, create processes and build and train a marketing team to bring it all to life.  All part of a bigger strategy that will get them into shape for international expansion.  So far, its baby steps for a business that is born of a culture that in many important ways remains decades behind the West.

One of the many things we’ve introduced along the way is a women’s magazine.  I’ve always been a big fan of magazines as a marketing tool and I’ve been lucky enough to win a few awards for some of those I have created over the years, but I’d be the first to admit that the idea of a mag isn’t radical.  Nevertheless I remain surprised how, even in the West, so few of those I come across are actually that well thought-out and/or executed.  So, to get a bunch of young Saudi would-be marketers to produce a magazine that actually works, I think, qualifies as a first.

Its not just the level of business and marketing know-how that poses the challenge with a project like this, there are cultural issues too.  This is a woman’s magazine remember, chosen as a medium because we are in a fashion business and 80% of our customers are women, but, one of our constraints was that no women could appear in it.

An important thing to remember with a project like this is that a magazine has both strategic and tactical value and unless you leverage both you aren’t going to get value for your investment.  Full Effect Marketing is about nothing if not squeezing maximum value from an investment, so that was my personal starting point.

Its relatively easy to sell a Saudi businessman a tactical initiative.  This is a nation of traders, so tactical is a concept they relate to.  But a magazine like this relies on its tactical elements being wrapped up in content carefully crafted to foster affinity with the brand and “brand”, though mentioned as often here as anywhere else, remains a little understood concept.

Wherever you are in the world, there are a few fundamentals to bear in mind with a marketing initiative like this.  Firstly you have to have a clear understanding of who your audience is and what they are interested in besides your product.  Secondly you need a pretty detailed content plan that includes at mix of product and general interest subjects, plus something to engage readers, like a competition.  Then, of course, you simply must know how you are going to distribute your magazine once its printed – you won’t get full value for your investment if you only give your magazine to existing customers.

We avoided turning this into a catalogue of products and prices by inserting the products into themed articles, using them as examples of subjects like gift-giving, or representing your personality.  We included a number of articles on subjects that would be of interest to our target audience, but not necessarily directly related to what we sell.  We also added a number of whole-page advertisement that we specially created for our owned-label products that represented them as a major brand.  This formula gave us the mix of short-term sales potential and long-term brand building we were looking for.

We set out with two design objectives.  The first was to create a magazine that our targets would naturally pick up at a news stand and with this thought foremost in our mind we didn’t mention the retailer on the cover of the magazine.  We also knew that while Saudi women buy loads of magazines, they are attracted more by colourful pictures rather than the text, so the images were important.  Oh, and not forgetting the point I made earlier about not showing images of women.  We won a debate on the front cover (just) but inside the magazine there were no women allowed.  Because of this we agreed that having read through the magazine we didn’t want anybody saying “Funny, there are no women in this”.

This project represented many lessons for this company’s new marketing team.  We sold advertising to suppliers and even third-parties.  We also distributed through those same organisations and a load of similar partners.  After all, if their content is relevant to our audience the finished product will also be interesting to their customers and as a result of these distribution agreements we are already over-subscribed for advertising in issue two.

Anyway, take a look at the magazine on at http://bit.ly/17RMgKr and let me know what you think.  Remember, this was produced by people who started off with no knowledge or understanding of a medium like this. The creative has a strong Arabic style, but I think many Western retailers would have difficulty delivering something this good.  Already the team have new ideas for elements to include in issue two that, I am sure will further enhance the return on investment.

Michael Weaver
August 4, 2013

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