Saturday, June 9, 2012

Organizational Agility and Brand Management in the Publishing World

I previously worked for a home design and architecture magazine geared toward those with an affinity for fine architecture, art, good living, design/designers, interiors, exteriors, custom home building, craftspeople, trends, and industry news—unique to Maine. Its features, photography and editorial made it a “luxury” magazine, attracting homeowners ranging 40-70 years old with a connection to Maine. It competes with regional, state, and city magazines of the same genre- of which there are quite a few in New England.

Just weeks before I joined the team, the publisher made the announcement he acquired a small, local publication that was financially struggling. At the time, the existing publication (the parent company) had no social media presence. The acquisition came at the perfect time- it gave the company the opportunity to reach the state’s younger demographic, connect and communicate with this target audience through Web 2.0 technologies, increase the reach and readership of the parent publication by association and media with the soon-to-be launched magazine, and re-brand the company as a statewide resource for all ages with cultural interests.

The fluidity with which this acquisition process occurred is what I believe to be operational agility at its best. The company completely turned around and re-branded the acquired publication to cater to the states 20-40 year old population  (featuring food, local trends, profiles of cool and influential Mainers, outdoor adventures, the arts, music, culture and events ). Not only did it “exploit both revenue-enhancing and cost cutting” (Competing through organization agility, page 210) opportunities by acquiring and launching the new publication, but it successfully tapped into the state’s younger population, increased the parent publication’s reach and popularity by association, and found the perfect time to join the online marketing, Web 2.0 community. And it did this in about…4 months. Regional and even city-wide competitors failed to see the opportunity in acquiring the struggling publication. Today, the publishing company produces the top magazines in the state, region, and has received national awards for their design, brand and editorial. When I think of cool and relevant publications, I cannot help but think of both publications (and that’s not just because I worked there)!

One of the publishing company’s greatest organizational capabilities is branding, a capability the HBR article refers to as “Shared Mind-set and Coherent Brand Identity.”  In my own intern/professional experiences, I have yet to come across an organization whose employees, clients and customers are so consistently aware, responsive, and proud of the brand associated with the magazines. Not only is it a completely unique office environment because of this, but customers and clients want to be associated with the magazine- it is almost like culture and coolness by diffusion. The company’s branding strategy, social media utilization, sales team, and PR efforts work flawlessly together. Clients, customers and employees have a positive and genuine association with the magazines. Of the organizations I have worked for, this company was exceptionally creative, apt, capable, and consistent in driving a brand that increased relations with key audiences and made those audiences want to be connected with it. 

For a taste of their brand management effort, customer loyalty, and shared mind-set check out their Facebook: 


And here is a press release about the opportunity the publisher saw in acquiring the new publication:

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