What good is a branded magazine without the brand?
Just last week I received a copy of Healthpoint Magazine, a publication of Mills-Peninsula Health Services (San Mateo, California). Trouble is, by looking at the cover I had no way to know who produced it. It has no Mills branding. Then when I looked inside, it dawned on me. Maybe Mills doesn’t want anyone to know they produced it.
All kidding aside, this is an example of a marketing organization attempting to publish a branded magazine without a publishing professional on board. And the outcome is predictable: the marketing department will spend a ton of cash to produce this magazine and sometime next year a new marketing director will review the results and conclude that branded publications are just not worth the expense or the effort.
Aside from its lackadaisical design, the fundamental shortcoming of Healthpoint is its lack of balance between reader-focused and brand-focused content. It includes ten reader-focused articles that promote good health, but only two pages (out of 24 total) that directly cover Mills programs.
If you’ve read my other articles, you know that in producing branded content I insist on putting readers first. In this case, the producers of Healthpoint go overboard and seem to forget that costly branded content must fulfill clear and compelling marketing objectives. (I describe some typical objectives in my earlier article “Marcomm Integration”).
Overall the feature articles are adequate, but the whole package lacks a coherent voice. Some of the articles include:
- It’s easy being green
- These girls have had their mammogram — have you?
- Planning a family? Say no to cigarettes, caffeine
There’s no column from the Editor or CEO to set the mission. The magazine feels like a grabbag. To its credit, Healthpoint does profile Mills staff, but the blocky layout stifles any sense of personality that might have otherwise come through. There’s a lack of flow and the typography is primitive and confusing to the eye. Healthpoint could do much better after spending just a few hours with a professional designer.
A branded magazine can deliver tremendous value to marketers. In this case, Healthpoint misses the opportunities to:
- answer frequently asked patient questions (to reduce call center costs);
- print the Mills logo on the cover and on each page footer (to strengthen branding);
- print the magazine’s Web site URL on each footer (to engage patients in additional dialogue online). The Table of Contents does mention the magazine’s Web page (http://www.mills-peninsula.org/ healthpoint), and some of the articles mention other Web pages related to the content;
- include advertising for new Mills services (to reduce external advertising costs);
- print a call for action for readers to receive the magazine in digital form via email (to reduce costs while expanding reach);
Mills-Peninsula’s Healthpoint Magazine could be improved by making these small changes. If I were working on it, I’d revisit the original marketing objectives, identify which features of the publication address each specific objective, and then redesign from scratch.END
The Healthpoint cover with no Mills-Peninsula branding. (click to zoom)
The back cover: Here’s a Mills logo! (click to zoom)
A feature spread. The page footers should be branded. (click to zoom)
The Table of Contents. No logo here. (click to zoom)
David M. Kalman is the president of Terrella Media, Inc. and editor of BrandMagnet.