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Hallmark Magazine was not created overnight. Two years of testing newsstand issues to gauge its vitality was needed before a hard launch could take place. In multiple efforts conducted with Time Inc., Hallmark found that test issues were purchased by many consumers who knew nothing about the magazine’s link to the Hallmark brand. "A magazine has been on Hallmark’s radar screen for a long time," says Carol Campbell-Boggs, the magazine’s publisher. "We found women were spending 80 minutes reading those test issues."
The four test issues moved roughly 1.2 million newsstand copies, while other marketing efforts were put into direct mail and subscription promotion efforts, which led the folks at Hallmark to bring the magazine in house. By December 2005, Boggs and Nancy Small, president of Hallmark Publishing, were ready to greenlight the launch issue, which was slated to hit newsstands in August 2006.
No Needle in a Haystack
The women’s lifestyle category is overwhelmed with competition. From O The Oprah Magazine to Martha Stewart to Real Simple, Small and Boggs knew Hallmark would have to stand out in order to survive. "These are magazines that are powerhouses," says Boggs. "The first question we got was, ‘What in God’s name are you going to be that is different?’ And what we are saying is crystal clear: Most women’s magazines are telling women to be something else;’be thinner, be prettier, be happier, be organized, be spiritual’;Hallmark is saying: ‘Be yourself.’"
The September/October issue launched with a 400,000 ratebase. For its third issue, the company will bring the circ to 550,000. "Our syndicated research says that we are reaching over three million readers at this point," says Small.
Editorial departments are similar to those found in other women’s lifestyle books and include food, beauty and home coverage, but Hallmark separates itself by presenting the information differently. "It’s not just ’12 ways to cook carrots,’" says Boggs. "It’s, ‘Here are the stories behind the signature dishes that have been in your family.’"
The Selling Point
Boggs, who was formerly publisher of Meredith’s More, didn’t want the magazine to rely on its parent company to sell ads or to move issues off the newsstand. Hallmark even charges its sister businesses to advertise, and limits the amount of advertising the other Hallmark units can have in the magazine. "It was Hallmark’s big concern not to be perceived as a Hallmark catalog," she says. "We’ve promised our readers we’re publishing an independent title and it’s not in any way meant to be a vehicle to promote Hallmark products or other business units."
All ads in the three issues of the bimonthly have been fully paid for, according to Boggs, who says she and her team have exceeded their internal page goals by double digits and their internal revenue goals by even more. The Hallmark team also maximizes its internal assets including the company’s corporate Web site, Hallmark.com and other Hallmark products. "We’re offering advertisers the opportunity to buy exclusive ad space on both Web sites by week," says Boggs. "So you can have a custom co-branded e-card, a page in the magazine and a promotion in Hallmark Flowers, all on Valentine’s Day."
Marketing efforts have been split between traditional and non-traditional sources, using Hallmark’s assets in a way that makes sense. Subscription and single-copy sales promotions take place in Gold Crown stores nationwide. Bag stuffers are placed in every bag given to customers at the cash register. Each year, millions of direct mail pieces were sent to Hallmark’s Gold Crown member list, which consists of 20 million active names. The magazine is also sold at typical national retailers, including drug chains and grocery stores. "We have the ability to grow fast because of the built-in brand but that’s not where our meat and potatoes is," says Small. "In our first major launch campaign we disproportionately mailed outside lists vs. house files."
Listen To Your Customer
Research the marketplace and make sure you have something unique to say. Test issues before you jump into a full-blown magazine. Hallmark printed over 1.4 million test issues before nailing down its plan.
Hire the Right People
Circulation is driven by editorial, which is only as strong as your journalists. It’s not about the number of people you have on staff, but the quality of their work.
Under Promise and Over Deliver
Impress advertisers by being conservative on ratebase. Even if you can launch at a higher ratebase, start small and build circulation so you meet or exceed the guarantee you’ve made to your advertiser, rather than falling short.