The fashion world seems to be aflutter with the news that Net-a-Porter are launching their very own magazine Porter and if I’m honest, I can’t quite understand why this astute move has caused such head scratching.
Where content is King, Net-a-Porter are particularly regal in their reign and are true leaders in terms of content creation. A genuine fashion authority, with the product range, and technological and creative execution to match, their edit online has always been industry leading. And as an editorial platform, it is a true multichannel approach to execute their fashion content in the ‘real’ or ‘print’ world. Natalie Massenet confirmed in her interview with Business of Fashion, ‘“We’ve talked about how the Net-a-Porter Group is actually not just a retail company, but it’s a media company. And if we’re a serious media company we couldn’t ignore one of the most important existing media, which is print”.
Lest we forget, ASOS have seen their magazine drop onto customer doormats since 2007 despite trading purely online. Sure, this magazine is a freebie but so bold are ASOS in their content marketing approach that this is a true lifestyle publication, covering off all areas of interest – not only fashion, but a fashionable lifestyle. Whilst the ASOS magazine showcases their own product, the editorial team are brave enough to put designers not actually stocked through their channels on the front cover, as per the Sky Ferreira issue. A bold move but surely a considered one – positioning themselves as a fashion leader, and no longer simply an online shop. (With a circulation in 2013 of 436,657 this is incredible reach for ASOS – as point of reference, monthly title ELLE is at 144,972).
And therein lies the rub – to truly cement your brand within the heart of a consumer, you can no longer just be a shop. Brands have to do so much more to resonate with their customer than simply flog clothes through their site and stores. They have to be a ‘go-to’ brand not only to shop, but for inspiration and great story telling… where a final purchase is a happy coincidence (read: inevitable) in a hugely crowded market. Which is why ASOS have launched ASOS Daily Edit – a reason to visit the site daily. ASOS aren’t expecting you to shop with them every day, but they are cementing themselves as a lifestyle and news portal, increasing return visits, and driving customer loyalty and shareability through bite sized news. In addition, this daily edit breaks down a huge inventory that when visited on a less frequent basis, can be hugely overwhelming; 1,948 styles in their dress category alone.
But back to Porter. The nay sayers who ring the tolling bell that ‘print is dead’ may as well be those that say that music and film lovers will never buy an LP, CD or DVD ever again. And particularly in fashion, the coffee table effect will still have a huge part to play. There is something beautifully tangible and tantalising in having to anticipate a weekly or monthly magazine and finally turn a physical page. See also, displaying your latest fashion title on a coffee table, a new fashionable accessory to your home – and an exercise in repeat brand awareness for your like-minded friends who visit. Why else are record players hugely successful at Urban Outfitters, so too their instant cameras? Seems that listening to music digitally – and so too, sharing photography through sites like Instagram – can only fulfil one part of some consumers lifestyles. In our digital age, there is still power in something physical.
The arrival of new publication Porter shows bravery, of course, but also cements the brand’s values as industry leading – whilst Natalie Massenet insists that this magazine is being set up as a business venture, highlighting the high margin on a print product of this kind, it is a hugely powerful statement of intent that Net-a-Porter is not only a shop but a fashion voice to compete with the best of them. And where luxury brands offer diffusion ranges through cheaper merchandise such as makeup and perfume, this feels like Net-a-Porter’s very own entry price point item. Capture fashion fans when they’re young and can stretch to the $9.99 magazine price and grow with them until they can afford to shop with the true product ranges. Building customer loyalty with this new marketing vehicle of Porter is more than just canny, it’s a clear marketing strategy.
So too, positioning the magazine as the world’s first global fashion publication. A nice hook – but one that I would, admittedly, query. A global publication that’s only published in English? In a world where we think globally but must also consider localisation, my only query would be – and mindful of the huge undertaking of translating a publication of this kind for different territories as an obvious barrier – would be whether some of the publication could be localised for the key markets. How relevant can English content be for all territories? Could a small section be localised with regional content to truly speak to that customer outside of the UK? Where Net-a-Porter have a hugely impressive segmentation strategy on email, this is the one piece of the puzzle globally that hasn’t been translated, multichannel style, into this print piece. Where fashion magazines like Grazia can often localise a feature to the North or South of England, I would query whether this is the next logical step in the editorial puzzle. Where Net-a-Porter customers may be cash rich and time poor, and a personal shopping style service is expected, this generic approach feels like it is the one flaw in a remarkable content marketing piece.