By: Jade Burke
It’s not uncommon to see today’s hot toys make their way into a printed publication, with Peppa Pig and Frozen all getting the magazine treatment. Jade Burke explores why children’s magazines are lighting up the newsstand.
The influence a printed magazine can have on readers is undeniable, just look at any newsstand, which is full of a variety of publications, from crafts, fashion, health, travel and sport. Not only that, there is a healthy market for kids’ magazines, with the latest boys and girls brands envisioned in print.
For example, Minecraft, Play-Doh, Peppa Pig, Num Noms, Yoohoo & Friends, Transformers, Shopkins and Hanazuki have all been given the magazine treatment, boasting themed content, puzzles, colouring and cover gifts.
Despite many researchers and online media companies discounting the power of print, often debating that magazines and newspapers are on their way out and that online is now the leader of the pack, publishing houses are continuing to enjoy resilient sales.
Immediate Media Co, publisher of a string of kids’ titles, recently reported a combined print and digital circulation of 1,672,408 for reporting titles, up 1.79 per cent year-on-year, with the firm’s CEO, Tom Bureau, confirming that special interest brands are leading the way.
He said: “Immediate’s continued ABC growth once again demonstrates the power of our portfolio of special interest brands. It’s an exciting time for our business.”
In particular, Girl Talk and Girl Talk Art have both recorded year-on-year growth, up 4.5 per cent and 0.5 per cent, respectively, while LEGO Nexo Knights is up by 23.9 per cent.
Similarly, Redan Publishing has enjoyed strong sales with Peppa Pig titles, including Peppa Pig Bag-O-Fun and Fun To Learn Peppa Pig, maintaining the top spots in the pre-school ABC chart. In the new figures, Peppa Pig Bag-O-Fun registered its ABC as 77,037, while Fun To Learn Peppa Pig sold an average of 64,108 copies per issue, ranking them first and second, respectively in the official pre-school chart.
“Peppa is an evergreen brand that appeals to both boys and girls and has a striking colour palette and design style,” recalled Julie Jones, MD of Redan Publishing.
“The covers really ‘pop’ on the shelf and the eye catching gifts and high quality editorial content and format have given our magazines a reputation for being great value for money.”
Considering this impact print is having on consumers, it’s no wonder more companies are taking their kids’ brands to the newsstand.
“The power of print is undeniable. When a brand is ‘hot’, then the fans want to interact with everything to do with that brand,” Andrea Marsden, deputy MD at DJ Murphy, told Licensing.biz.
“A magazine is another way to give them their ‘fix’, but it also encourages a feeling of belonging to a club, giving the readers an outlet for sharing drawings, photos and stories with other fans, and enabling them to keep abreast of the trends for the toy.”
This resonated with Moose Toys for its collectable brand Shopkins, who teamed up with DJ Murphy to launch a magazine inspired by the toy. Thanks to the toy’s collectability and small size, cover mounts could be used on each issue, which of course helped to heighten interest and encourage sales with fans.
Marsden continued: “All magazines that operate in the children’s sector have covermounted gifts, which is seen as part of the offering. These tend to be most successful when you can offer the actual toy, as is the case with Shopkins.”
Magazines let fans engage with a brand on another level, allowing them to use their imagination and get creative, which toy firms can take advantage of. For example, toys can be placed on the cover as an additional gift, while puzzles and images to colour-in can be inspired by well-known characters.
“It is a very successful touch point and marketing tool for toy companies,” concurred Marsden.
“A magazine allows the manufacturer to display the new collectables that are currently on sale, to preview new collections and to display some of the other branded merchandise from the range of licensed products. Competitions to win branded merchandise gets more product into hands, encouraging further buy-in.”
Laura Adnit, publishing director at Egmont Publishing, enthuses this revealing how crucial the educational benefits are to a magazine. “Magazines are a treat with benefits. They are loved by parents and children alike,” added Adnit.
“For parents the value of a magazine is the fun and entertainment they offer, followed by the soft learning benefits. For children, fun and entertainment is also the top consideration, followed by the appeal of the character and the covermounted free gift.”
Of course, with any brand extension there are pitfalls. Launching a new magazine on the newsstand is fiercely competitive, especially in a saturated marketplace such as children’s publications. For example, Build-A-Bear, Moana, DC Super Hero Girls and Dinosaur Roar are all recent brands to hit the magazine circuit, which may or may not perform well on the newsstand, as Adnit warns ‘magazines can’t lead a brand’.
“Brands have to be in full momentum to sustain a magazine launch. Magazines can’t lead a brand. In terms of a franchise roll-out, magazines are one of the last consumer products to come to market,” suggested Adnit.
“But if the brand is strong enough, then a magazine can deepen the engagement with the consumer, bringing new content to life, and offering up a regular hit of their favourite character/brand.”
Pre-school magazines are susceptible to an unpredictable marketplace, as magazines will only last as long as the toy remains popular. That said, if your brand is strong and promotes longevity, companies will enjoy robust sales, just look at Frozen magazine from Egmont, which remains the number one title in the company’s portfolio despite the film’s release in 2013.
Jones concluded: “With so much of the magazine industry losing out to online and digital media, it’s worth noting that the children’s and pre-school sectors continue to go from strength to strength.
“Toy properties in particular are seeing the benefit of magazines in terms of growing their brands characters and stories beyond their products, and collectable lines can reap huge benefits from sampling new lines on the covers of popular titles and getting their products directly into the hands of their target market.”