How Martha Stewart Living saw success across platforms in 2017
Mazzucca credits domestic doyenne Martha Stewart herself, as a creative inspiration, saying Stewart challenges the brand’s staff to think outside the box and be client-focused. He says editor-in-chief Elizabeth Graves has taken the brand to new heights in her first two years in the role, debuting a redesign in October and continuing to push the envelope with inspiring content on every page of the magazine. The duo’s leadership has translated into success.
But, it’s a combination of a lot of things working favourably for the Meredith brand. The brand saw a lot of print ad, digital and video growth over the year, debuted a fresh redesign in October, and received recognition from Adage and Adweek, among others.
Martha Stewart Living wanted to be the type of brand that breaks through the noise, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Graves told WWD in September. “In the 27th year of Living, we found ourselves longing for a little something new—an evolution of the clean, timeless sensibility we’ve always had, but still very us,” Graves wrote in her editor’s note.
Martha Stewart Living covers from September 2017, prior to redesign (left) and October 2017, the first cover with the new look.
The magazine redesign rolled out with the October 2017 issue, featuring enlarged imagery, a number of new cross-platform franchises, new sections, and custom fonts and typefaces. It aimed to enhance the reader experience with more white space and a new bookmark design, created for easy navigation.
“Elizabeth Graves and her team looked into the past to find a new font and format that was going to be relevant for our future,” Mazzucca said. The one-of-a-kind typeface was created by Tal Leming of typesupply.com;
Graves and her team went back to Martha Stewart Living’s roots, to look at layouts and designs that worked for the brand years ago. Working with the team, they designed some beautiful fonts and typefaces that tell stories in new ways. “The fonts and the treatment really just enhances the user experience,” Mazzucca said.
“We still continue to publish in an oversize trim format, and it really makes a beautiful palette for the images, the turkey for thanksgiving or the flowers in the spring, it really, helps embellish the words that are on the pages,” Mazzucca said.
Under Graves’ editorial lead, the beloved section called Everyday Food was brought back. “We know that Monday through Thursday we have busy moms who want to get meals on the table, but on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, she wants to celebrate and have friends, family over and really throw a great party,” Mazzucca explained. “When we brought back Everyday Food, we brought that kind of food entertaining content back to the readers, that they so loved when the magazine appeared about six years ago.”
Print and digital growth
This year, Martha Stewart Living also saw a lot of print ad growth in cosmetics and beauty. “We’ve done very well with big packaged goods manufacturers like L’Oreal and Proctor & Gamble,” Mazzucca said.
What is key is that “we’re constantly giving them great clients to align with the stories in the magazine, and create high-impact units that can really pop off the page,” he explained. “And it really came into fruition in calendar year 17.”
Digital and video revenue were up – something Mazzucca attributes to the brand’s great video. They are up 56.91 per cent year over year for onsite video starts.
They use Facebook Live, or create custom videos for web and social, putting all of those visual components into schedules for clients. “It’s one thing to slap video on a site, but we do it thoughtfully and purposefully,” he explained. “More and more clients want to align with a brand. And in this case, Martha Stewart Living print brand.”
Between December 2016 through to the end of December 2017, the brand has experienced an overall 10.9 per cent increase across their social platforms. The brand’s custom hashtag #ImSoMartha has been tagged +39K times, and has experienced +39 percent growth in use over last 45 days.
All of this growth on in various areas, and the recognition, from Adage to Adweek, to the James Beard Media Award the brand won for its online video series, “Kitchen Conundrums,” lead to momentum for 2018.
“Moments like this really turn into momentum,” Mazzucca said. “I am always happy to see clients who say Martha Stewart Living is on a path, that we’ve found our way. We have a great editorial team, that has a solid understanding of what our users, consumers, and audience want, so the momentum of 2017 should and I expect, will continue into 2018.”
Lessons other publishers might learn from Martha Stewart Living’s favourable outcomes this year, according to Mazzucca, include authenticity and aligning brands with advertising. “Be authentic, and listen to your clients needs,” Mazzucca said. “I think sellers by human nature are always trying to squeeze a round peg into a square hole and if you don’t come across as authentic, you’re not going to have a good initiative, when the program ultimately runs.”
Secondly, Mazzucca suggests publishers ought to align the benefits and goals of their brand and make it work for their advertisers. “The second thing I know to be very successful is that we have all of these metrics, research and insight, but at the end of the day – my father taught me this years ago – is it’s all about the print product or the website. If we go on a sales call with nothing other than the magazine or the website on our iPads, that’s the best tool we have to be able to articulate why the reader likes our magazine.”
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