Bookmark Client Partner Georgie Eley considers the challenges—and the pay-off—of transitioning a purely print publication to a multi-channel editorial brand.
The first issue of Health & Beauty magazine was published in autumn 1999. It was initially mailed quarterly to two million top-spending female Boots Advantage Card holders, making it the UK’s largest circulation women’s magazine.
Like a newsstand title with high production values, quality editorial content and advertising, its aim was to drive brand affinity and make Boots, the major pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer in the UK, feel relevant in customers’ lives. As both publisher and retailer, Boots has always been able to offer trend-led news, expert knowledge and inspiration in an accessible way, with the added benefit of unique access to holistic health and beauty expertise, product and service information, and offers. Continued support from the advertiser base today is testament to its success as a targeted, editorial environment for brands.
Health & Beauty is now more powerful than ever – staggering when you think of the number of print titles that have disappeared or evolved into digital-only communications in the last two decades. I’ve had the privilege of working on this project at two different stages of its journey and have witnessed a truly successful transformation of pure print to multi-channel publishing.
I first worked on the project in 2007. Boots had by then increased the frequency of the magazine to bi-monthly and transferred distribution into stores. Free to Advantage Card holders or £1 to non-card holders, this change of approach delivered a massive readership uplift to four million. When I came on board, we committed to only using unretouched photography of our models – still unique in the industry and something I am deeply proud to say remains in force today. We were also able to tackle taboo health subjects and curate the best of beauty within the editorial environment.
However, as the way people were consuming content was changing, we needed a new strategy to futureproof this great asset.
In 2017, Bookmark took over Health & Beauty from the incumbent agency as part of WPP’s Team Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), and I re-joined to lead the project once more. As part of an integrated agency team, we worked closely with Ogilvy and Mediacom to ensure our new strategy for Health & Beauty was aligned with the wider communications and brand strategy that they were developing.
We set to work on a new, multi-channel strategy for Health & Beauty – uncovering insights, mapping customer journeys, and developing content that would resonate with our audience, wherever they were, both on- and offline.
Naturally this required huge adaptations in working practices and the structure of the agency and the client teams: We transitioned from what was a traditional publishing team shape, to a more linear and agile content team. We set up content calendars to ensure we were planning content in an omnichannel way, and reviewed schedules and processes to cater for content that had a one-week to a four-month lead time. We work on three issues at any one time, so transitioning to this new way of working whilst still working in the old way for two issues was like living in a parallel universe!
We are all so excited to have managed this process together and are extremely proud of the results. But this is just the beginning. With our client embracing the publisher mindset, we have plans to further optimize Health & Beauty content across more channels, support e-CRM programs, and in short, ensure that it keeps inspiring women to feel good for another 20 years at least.
Mapping the customer journey was essential to developing an effective multi-channel strategy for Health & Beauty. Get our Content Mapping Guide and start aligning content strategy with the needs of customers at each stage of their journey.