Now a digital publisher that labels itself as the “leading authority on New England foliage” with a reach of upwards of 1 million visitors per month, and a television producer that sees on average 1 million viewers per episode of “Weekends with Yankee,” Yankee has a far larger footprint than it started with 83 years ago.
But to achieve this outward expansion, Kate Hathaway Weeks, director of marketing and business development for Yankee Publishing, says that it was important to identify the brand aspects that appealed to those outside of the immediate area, in order to associate the brand with being “the ultimate destination for New England travel, food and home,” and gain brand evangelists across the country.
We sat down with Hathaway Weeks to discuss how leaning into brand loyalty has allowed the regional magazine to blossom into a national, and even international, media company, and what steps you can take to build deeper loyalty within your own brand.
Folio: When you first started at Yankee in 2014, you came in with an entire plan to expand the brand’s footprint beyond the print. Can you talk a little bit about which brand extensions you’ve had success with and why those things have worked for Yankee?
Kate Hathaway Weeks: One of the main brand extensions during my time at Yankee has been the creation and launch of “Weekends with Yankee,” our national TV series done in partnership with public media producer WGBH Boston. My background coming into Yankee was working on multi-platform PBS brands such as “This Old House” and “Antiques Roadshow” and seeing how they engaged with audiences via TV, events and editorial helped to crystallize Yankee’s brand potential in my mind.
One of the unexpected successes we have had from the television series is that it has allowed us to develop our skills as video storytellers. Yankee has always had a robust custom publishing print business. What we have learned with the series has allowed us to develop a new skill set to help our clients and partners tell their stories in a new way.
Folio: How did you identify that Yankee had the right qualities for these sorts of brand extensions?
Hathaway Weeks: Yankee magazine’s content strategy was adapted to “Weekends with Yankee.” Rather than make it “Yankee magazine on television,” we emphasized those brand aspects which would most appeal to a national television audience looking for travel and lifestyle content celebrating the best of New England. It’s truly an extension of the travel & lifestyle franchise around Yankee magazine, vs. an extension of the entire brand.
Folio: What are some of the steps you had to take to make these extensions a success?
Hathaway Weeks: Wait for the right partner. Over the years, Yankee turned down numerous pitches to produce a television series, but only agreed to partner with WGBH because there was a clear distribution and marketing strategy which would guarantee high visibility and audience engagement starting with the very first episode. We also know how expensive it is to produce and market a brand new series so partnering with a powerhouse like WGBH gave us the expertise and brand authority to attract sponsors even though it was our first foray into television.
Experiment before you invest. Yankee has experimented with podcasts in the past and we are [currently] developing a new podcast. Getting our TV co-hosts and magazine editors featured on other nationally recognized podcasts such as “The Eater Upsell” has been a great way to learn.
We started working with a PR agency, Roslan & Campion out of New York, to help us reposition as a national brand. They have been great partners in our brand storytelling efforts and that relationship has resulted in national placements in outlets such as the New York Times and the Hallmark Channel. Those placement shave helped reinforce how Yankee’s experts and storytelling resonates with a national audience.
Folio: How do you balance creating deeper engagements with your existing audience base while also working to grow a new one?
Hathaway Weeks: As a company we have maintained a commitment to long-form storytelling and we are also always looking for new ways to engage and reward our existing audience. We have explored membership levels and how the magazine content lives online and is accessible via paywall, including other bonus content and articles from our archive to enhance the user experience. Our “New England Today” e-newsletter goes out to 150,000 subscribers daily—to current magazine subscribers and to new prospects—so both audiences are engaging with content from the website as well as the magazine in new ways. We are currently reaching 1.7 million through print, 1 million digital and 1 million television viewers per episode of “Weekends with Yankee.”
Our Instagram community has created some exciting inroads into new relationships and revenue over the last year and a half. We’ve grown our followers by 41% and Instagram has been a great way to build upon our existing audience. Our #mynewengland hashtag has been tagged in nearly 135K posts. Members of our #mynewengland community and influencer network have also worked with Yankee on events, marketing campaigns and other strategic initiatives.
Folio: Why do you think projects like “Weekends with Yankee” have been so successful in extending Yankee beyond New England?
Hathaway Weeks: Half of Yankee magazine’s print readership is outside of the New England region so we always knew there was an appetite for New England storytelling and the beautiful imagery outside of our region. It has been interesting to see brands such as Vineyard Vines capitalize on New England lifestyle for a national and international audience.
Folio: Are you currently exploring new channels to continue to expand the brand? Or other new marketing initiatives to truly make it a national brand?
Hathaway Weeks: We are continuing to look at opportunities with travel and hospitality partners to experience Yankee’s take on culinary travel, New England design and experiences in new ways.
In addition to radio and podcast possibilities, we are also exploring “Weekends with Yankee”-branded books and magazines for sale through bookstores and newsstands (companion SIP). Future episodes of the series may include locations outside our traditional markets (New York, Canada, Europe, etc.) which would further help position Yankee as a national and even international brand.