Why Young Companies Are Starting Print Magazines as a Way to Help Build Their Brands

Analog publications let them further connect with consumers

Luggage brand Away publishes Here Magazine.
Away

Companies looking to expand their brand sometimes turn to unlikely places. Some hip, fun companies are even going old school and publishing their own print magazines.

Jen Rubio, president and chief brand officer at Away, recently said onstage at Brandweek that the luggage company started publishing Here Magazine after noticing that people were calling its customer-service line looking for travel tips.

The worst-case scenario, Rubio imagined, was that the magazine would become a “great travel blog.” The best-case scenario? It would be a “stand-alone media division that’s generating revenue, generating profit for the company,” she said.

So, Away launched what Rubio called “a startup within a 15-person startup” and hired an in-house editorial team to curate content for the publication. The magazine is now included inside every piece of luggage people purchase and is leaning toward Rubio’s best-case scenario for the brand.

“We had an amazing distribution platform because it’s going in the suitcase, so it means that anyone who’s buying it has a certain amount of income, is about to travel, and we knew exactly who the demographic it was going to because we were a direct-to-consumer company and these are our customers,” Rubio said.

Knowing that customer base became “very appealing” to advertisers and partners, Rubio said.

The latest issue of Here has an ad from Bumble at the end and some references to Away at the beginning of the magazine but otherwise reads like a hip National Geographic with a crisp design, beautiful images and stories from around the world.

Away is among a handful of new companies that have launched magazines as a way to help expand their brands. Dollar Shave Club created Mel Magazine, which comes in the monthly subscription. Casper started Woolly Magazine in partnership with McSweeney’s, and Airbnb has Airbnb Magazine.

Dollar Shave Club founder and CEO Michael Dubin told Adweek that the objective of Mel is to “achieve critical success” for the company.

Generally, all of these brands are upstarts looking to “challenge the status quo,” said Adam Alter, associate professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and that requires establishing a brand identity quickly.

“Today, the quickest way to establish your brand is often by sharing content, by producing stand-alone content in the form of blog posts and images that are curated to showcase your brand, so it appeals to the consumers you’re targeting,” Alter said. A successful brand magazine, he said, could bring in advertising dollars and attract new subscribers to mailing lists. Once a company has that email, it could be used for promotional purposes and notifications about new product launches.

Though advertisers might not invest in print like they used to, user behaviors haven’t changed as quickly, and people still enjoy reading magazines, said Beth Egan, associate professor in the advertising department at the Newhouse School.

“No doubt the business has changed forever, but I think there is a unique experience with magazines that can’t be replicated,” Egan said.