Direct-to-consumer: some of the best brand extensions from Vogue, The New Yorker, Atlas Obscura and more
Direct-to-consumer (D2C) is fast becoming a vital revenue stream for publishers across the world, as media brands are moving away from traditional reliance on ads. While D2C comes in many guises, some of which have been around for decades, one tried-and-tested approach is brand extensions.
Whether it’s lending their name to events or creating entirely new editions in previously untapped markets, there are plenty of directions in which to take this to monetise a trusted brand. Here, we take a look at seven media companies who are successful in this area.
1. The New Yorker Store
The New Yorker, known for its longform, literary features and deeply researched articles, has harnessed that reputation by selling select, high quality merchandise in its online store. Launched in November 2020, it aims to provide readers with “apparel, home goods, and more that celebrate the magazine, its history, and its sense of humour”, according to its newsletter.
Their success lies in the air of selectiveness that surrounds the items on offer. Recently, the magazine announced a limited-edition collaboration with Sleepy Jones, selling pyjama sets featuring the work of New Yorker cartoonist Charles Barsotti which would be available to buy through the store for two weeks only.
2. Vogue online shops and café
As a powerhouse brand whose name speaks for itself, Vogue’s e-commerce success extends across different territories, including the UK, Spain, Germany and beyond.
In 2020, the brand also launched a shopping vertical in the US which revolves heavily around curated, shoppable style advice content. Vogue is a veteran when it comes to brand extensions, which include a Vogue holiday gift e-commerce shop, a 125th anniversary shop, and Vogue 100, the brand’s membership programme – and it’s adding new ones all the time. Which brings us on to…
Vogue Café Beijing. As we reported back in January, it is spread over 400 square metres in the bustling China World Mall in central Beijing – and channels all of the iconic brand’s imagery.
“Translating the 2D digital print experience into a physical space is all about creating those touch points – those recognisable moments consumers associate with Vogue,” Markus Grindel, Managing Director, Global Brand Licensing at Condé Nast, told us.
“It’s helpful to look at extensions through the audience lens not just through the brand owner lens,” he added. “In all cases, not only with the branded property ventures, but across our branded products, you have to make sure that consumer proposition aligns with the Vogue brand and values of quality and creativity. If you get that right, it’s a recipe for success.”
3. Monocle shop
Well known for eschewing social media and creating beautiful, book-like editions of its magazine, Monocle seems entirely on-brand with its physical shops in Tokyo, Zürich, Los Angeles, Toronto, Hong Kong, and Merano (Italy), as well as two branded cafés in London.
However, there’s an online shop, too, which sells many of the quirky, up-market items its readership would expect. The company also joins forces with various artisans from its target countries to sell limited-edition items, such as belts by Italian designer Adriano Meneghetti and a special version of a Timor table calendar.
4. Real Simple handbags
Real Simple, a Meredith magazine, recently announced the launch of Real Simple handbags in partnership with television shopping channel QVC, in a brand extension inspired by Real Simple’s mission to simplify busy modern lives.
This is just one example of Meredith’s slew of licensing and branded content offerings. As we heard during our FIPP World Media Congress event with Will Roth last year Foundry, Meredith’s branded content outfit, has 75 staff members working across 40 editorial brands. Real Simple Home in 2018 and the March 2021 launch of the Real Simple Money Confidential podcast are just two other creative extensions from the Real Simple brand.
5. Atlas Obscura Experiences
As a kind of encyclopaedia for the wonders of the world, it comes as no surprise that Atlas Obscura also offers an array of online and in-person events on similarly far-flung, inspiring subjects. Atlas Obscura Experiences offer talks with travel writers, experiences like cooking classes, and even extended trips to exotic destinations.
The brand, which turned 10 years old in 2019, expanded its offering by teaming up with Airbnb. Even for a brand so linked with real-world curiosities, with the pandemic driving everyone online, its online events have been a hit.
That focus on the customer and building a fan base seems to have been there from the start. “Atlas Obscura is a fascinating brand,” Jay Lauf, then-Publisher of Quartz and SVP of Atlantic Media, told us back in 2017. Even then, “Their ability to deeply involve their audience/fan base is impressive and I think they’re well-suited to a variety of platforms,” he said.
After Playboy announced back in March 2020 that it would no longer be selling print editions of the magazine, some were left wondering where such a brand might go in an era of #MeToo and a completely different social climate. Since then, the 40-year-old brand has acquired TLA Acquisition Corp in a bid to further expand into wellness, as well as bolster its brand portfolio, digital commerce, and direct-to-consumer product sales capabilities, according to GlobalNewsWire.
Playboy’s current e-commerce offering includes an online shop with a huge range of branded clothing and other items, and there have been successful collaborations too, such as its Playboy x Missguided collection.
This is part of a newer strategy to furnish the brand with a more modern image, which includes explicitly appealing to younger female readers. In an interview with FIPP in 2020, CFO and COO David Israel told us that the brand took a step back when it realised it might have “over-licensed” in the past:
“[There were] a lot of tchotchke or souvenir type of products, and it cheapened some of the brand. So we went dark in the US about eight years ago,” he said. “We just stopped all the licensees to kind of clear the shelves, clear the decks, and had been reintroducing the brand through collaborations with upscale partners.”
7. BuzzFeed Shopping
Visiting BuzzFeed Shopping, at first glance you’d think you were on the regular site – and that’s why it works so well. With items bunched under listicles with amusing titles, like “27 Products For Any Adult Who Doesn’t Want To Let Go Of Their Childhood”, the same playful tone that the brand is known for hides the fact that they’re essentially lists of things for sale.
This has no doubt contributed to the company reporting a 67 per cent growth rate in commerce sales last year, according to AdWeek. BuzzFeed is trying to “think like a retailer”.