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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Conjuring Money: Wizard Rebrand

By now you've heard of Wizard magazine's latest marketing move, that is, repositioning itself from being a comics magazine to "The #1 Men's Pop Culture Magazine." Already, the blogosphere is aflame with comments dissing Wizard's move, but then Paul Sebert of Comics Nexus offers his theory for the rebranding, and I quote:

"A magazine can sell a million copies a month and still go down in flames if isn't supported by ad revenue, and well let's face it. The market for comic based advertising stinks. Print advertisers clearly don't "get" comic books."

I agree with Paul, 100%.

From a comics fan's point of view, Wizard's move was plain dumb and sexist. From a business point of view, however, it can potentially keep them afloat. And as business goes, customer loyalty can only do so much when there's the threat of closure.

Brand repositioning is a marketing strategy that's meant to 1) capture an untapped or unexploited market segment, and 2) access potentially higher revenue streams. The old Wizard effectively addressed the needs of comics fans, but they might have realized that the revenue streams that comics fans generate isn't substantial enough for long-term growth and survival. Since its inception, Wizard has gone into other hobbies and interests--video games, cards, film, even a special manga section--but their identity hasn't changed. They still called themselves a comics magazine, and so advertisers viewed them as such.

Then there is the ambiguity of the market base. For an advertiser to place an ad in a publication, it must be sure that the target market of the publication meets the target market of the product they're selling. That's why some ads in Flex won't work in, say, Exercise for Men Only. Though both are bodybuilding magazines, their audiences have different lifestyles, and thus prefer different sets of products.

Thing is, the comics fanbase is a varied bunch, whose age range, purchasing power, and lifestyle are varied. A company wouldn't dare place an ad in a publication with a murky market profile.

So Wizard needed to isolate a specific segment of its readers, sacrificing everyone else, in order to satisfy the requirements of an advertiser. And apparently they chose to go not for the kids, but the "men." Men who are into pop culture, men who may be viewed as still "kids at heart," and most importantly, men are willing to allot part of their paychecks to fulfill fantasies of adventure. So Wizard can bring in the SUVs, the sports gear, the ridiculously huge televisions, and whatever relevant products are out there.

Now comes the tricky part. When a publication repositions itself, it should adjust its content to cater to what the intended target market wants to see more of. Wizard needs to prove to its advertisers that it indeed is a magazine for men, and not teenage fanboys. This may involve changing the format, adding features, revamping other features, and scrapping irrelevant ones. It has to. Because if a young man wants to be seen and treated like a grown up, he should act, talk, and dress up, and think like one.



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