HONG KONG/SYDNEY: The Economist, the UK weekly business magazine, places heavy emphasis on boosting circulation rather than advertising for its revenues, and as it seeks to increase its subscriber base, it now has Australia in its sights.
APAC accounts for just 10% of The Economist’s 1.5m global subscribers, but the company’s CMO, Michael Brunt, believes there is room to grow in the region, especially in English-speaking Australia, where he plans to use marketing techniques that have worked successfully elsewhere.
Speaking to Campaign Asia, he explained that many of the publication’s global subscribers share similar characteristics and that means it can develop marketing strategies that deliver across markets.
“The consistency of the audience means that we can develop marketing approaches that we can export around the world,” he said. “What works really well in Hong Kong works equally well in New York. We don’t need a completely different brand positioning here than we do in France.”
According to Brunt, The Economist has identified 76m people who share the same “globally curious” characteristics as its 1.5m subscribers, which gives it plenty of room to grow.
Its profits from circulation have quadrupled since 2013 – at the same time as advertising revenues have halved – and Brunt said the marketing spend required to win over new readers is worth it.
“The cost to acquire a subscriber is a fraction of the value and profit we get back from a subscription so it makes sense for us to invest in circulation first and foremost,” he said.
Looking at Australia, part of Brunt’s strategy will involve experiential marketing, which can be expensive but has worked well in London and Hong Kong.
In 2015, The Economist launched an eye-catching campaign offering potential readers free ice cream and waffles that contained actual insects as part of a wider sustainability message it had been promoting.
“We have an econometric model that’s tracking the halo effect of that experiential marketing,” Brunt said. “We track everything. We have data on how many scoops of ice cream we’ve given out and how many subscriptions per scoop.”
Quite apart from boosting its spend on digital marketing in Australia – plus plans to “dabble in TV” – another successful strategy involves carefully timed content marketing.
As Campaign Asia reported, shortly after taking over as CMO, Brunt hired a customer journey officer to introduce readers to The Economist content and then follow their reading habits over the next 180 days in a bid to win them over to subscribing.
“It takes awhile before we introduce a commercial message,” said Brunt. “[But] when we see something that’s resonating well, we have software that automatically boosts the reach by putting spending behind it.”
Sourced from Campaign Asia; additional content by WARC staff