Cast your eye across the bookshelves in Waterstones and, away from the fiction, you’ll find yourself surrounded with books by brands. Some of those publications will be overtly brand-led (chef, restaurant and food brands in particular), others will take you quietly into their confidence – drawing you in with their stories, making you feel part of something substantial, promising and important.
It’s obvious why book publishers want to have brands on their covers – in an increasingly digital world, names and logos we know and trust keep hard copies moving off the shelves. But, what’s in it for the brands? Why bother with the time-consuming process of making books or magazines, drawing resources away from the primary focus of the business?
There’s nothing new about content marketing – brands have been doing it for centuries (yes, really). Think Michelin Guide: the tyre company published its first drivers’ travel companion (we know it as the Red Guide now) in 1900 when there were only 3,000 cars on the road in France. Michelin believed the guide would encourage more people to travel by car, putting more cars on the road and so increasing the demand for tyres. There was no direct advertising, no overt message to tell you to “Buy Michelin Tyres”. Instead, the Michelin guide established the company as a lifestyle enhancer, an information provider, an expert – the kind of company you’d want to buy your tyres from, and people did. Now, of course, Michelin is also the much-coveted quality mark for the finest restaurants in the world. A brand invented and then re-invented—and that reinvention started with a book.
Today, brands have greater power than ever to become trendsetters, to lead the field in what’s hot and what’s not. The Red Bull print magazine has around 2 million subscribers and is published in 11 countries. Its pages aren’t filled with information about the energy drink, but with articles about high-octane, high-energy sports and lifestyle. Red Bull is giving its market what it wants – aspirational living, adventure on the newsstand, thoughtful, intelligent insight into the world its consumers dream of carving for themselves. In turn, Red Bull has become the perceived expert on extreme sports – when I take to the skies in an inflatable wingsuit, I’m drinking Red Bull first… every time.
From Ella’s Kitchen to Nespresso and Red Bull to Michelin, brands have increasingly tapped into the marketing potential for intelligent storytelling in hard-copy format. Brand identity and authenticity reveal themselves through design, typography, photography and written ‘voice’ to build a deep sense of trust, belief and loyalty in consumers (statistics show that branded content increases loyalty by up to 30 percent). Add to that the opportunities to create something that sets a brand apart from its competitors in a business-to-business environment and the ripple effect for sales goes on. Yes, books and magazines may take longer to make, but they live longer, too – no swiping away, deleting or unsubscribing.
In the end the success of brand publishing comes down to human instinct: we trust something physical that appeals to our senses and emotions. Something we can actually feel draws us into its confidence. And when what we’re holding makes us feel good, positive, reassured, hopeful, inspired… we want more of it as often and in as many ways as possible.