The Economist Group unwinds: the luxury of print

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The Economist's 1843 magazine is a little luxury for its readers. TVC Group speaks to Luke Robins, head of luxury at 1843.

Alicia Manji, head of luxury and lifestyle at TVC Group, catches up with the Economist Group’s global associate publisher and head of luxury Luke Robins to talk luxury and print.

Alicia Manji (AM): 1843 is branded as ‘the Economist unwinds…’ giving readers some well- deserved time out. Do you think unwinding is now a luxury?

Luke Robins (LR): Unwinding or ‘me time’ has become a luxury. The Oxford Dictionary defines luxury as “a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense”. Traditionally, this has been applied to objects or products, but now concepts such as ‘experience’ and ‘time’ fit this definition too.

The digital revolution and economic trends mean we are all working harder, longer and with more engagement, so unwinding or getting some time back has become one of life’s biggest luxuries.

With 1843 we have a product that gives the Economist reader a chance to step away from what they ‘have to know’ and a chance to lean back. That is the concept behind the content. Marketing ‘time to relax’ as a product is done best, in my view, with a combination of bespoke service, flexibility and inspiration. A good example is the bespoke luxury travel company Black Tomato, which markets its services based on 360° service and personalised trips in order to give its customers experiences money can’t buy and complete escapism. It recently launched a service called ‘Get Lost’ where it takes you to an amazing undiscovered destination based on your bespoke brief, then leaves you to explore your way back – the ultimate way to disengage with normal life!

AM: Print is luxury. How does 1843 entice its readers?

LR: Print is an important part of 1843’s content-delivery model (it goes to over 400,000 global Economist subscribers, is available for subscription and is on-sale on newsstands all over the world).

Print also can give a much more engaged experience. Half of 1843’s readers take over an hour to engage in each issue, according to our reader survey. Some readers want to relax with a beautifully produced edition – they want the physical experience. This helps to explain why many of the strongest performers in terms of print circulation are based on luxury, for example 1843 and Vogue. We also believe that digital and experiential (eg events) are crucial to building loyalty and engagement, which is why 1843 also has strong online and event ecosystems. We believe in being where our consumer is – whatever the platform.

AM: 1843 covers high end products and experiences, from Michelin-starred restaurants to Chloé fashion, expensive travel tours from Nicaragua to Venice – what challenges do you feel the high-end part of these industries are facing? How do you think they can appeal to their audiences amid such shifts in disposable income?

LR: In many respects the highest end luxury businesses are in a strong position because, despite global economic challenges, the wealthy are becoming wealthier. The biggest challenges luxury companies have are the increasing importance of online retail and the changing demand of the millennial audience when it comes to luxury consumption.

Luxury brands are putting huge investment into online retailing, with LVMH and Kering groups both announcing big expansion in 2017/18. According to recent Deloitte research, 50% of millennials prefer to shop online for luxury goods. When it comes to this generation there is also a shift towards the importance of social purpose, sustainability and experience as key to their consumption. It is no coincidence that purpose, philanthropy and ‘experiences’ such as bars and hotels are becoming such a strong part of brands such as Gucci, Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Armani.

AM:Where do you think storytelling should be on these luxury brands’ marketing agendas?

LR: Luxury brands already have an advantage when it comes to storytelling: they often have beautiful products and experiences, along with amazing heritage, which means consumers aspire to know about them. Storytelling has been a marketing buzz word for about the last five years and it is high up on marketing agendas in all aspects of luxury. Burberry, for example, tells great stories through digital innovation, such as with its Christmas campaign last year which told the “The tale of Thomas Burberry” with a huge on-line video campaign featuring award- winning actors and directors.

The luxury content team at the Economist Group, along with yourselves at TVC, have produced some wonderful storytelling campaigns with luxury brands such as for LVMH’s Thomas Pink, where we shot video content telling the story of what a shirt can say about you and that the details in life. It was based on ‘micro expression’ analysis of historical leaders and is beautifully shot and provokes real emotion as well as being really useful content. The key to storytelling is that it must be authentic to the brand and have a real purpose – then it can have massive impact in marketing campaigns.

AM: What lies ahead for the luxury markets in the next year?

LR: There are huge opportunities for luxury markets over the next year. In 2018 I see the global economy growing slightly faster than 2017, which should be good news for luxury. This will be especially true in the US where I think there will be a significantly faster growing economy. There could be some challenges to growth in the UK in 2018 post-Brexit, which could put disposable income at risk. But of course, the weaker pound is already proving an attraction for international tourists and luxury shoppers in the UK.

In terms of marketing, I expect many brands continuing to invest more in social and programmatic media. The increasing quantity and sophistication of data means this can be targeted more precisely and it is the means by which the modern luxury consumer is being influenced. There is also a trend for marketing on a more bespoke level in digital, again driven by data. The focus is going to be more on smaller but more specific influencer groups and key moments in consumers’ lives rather than ‘big celebrity’ and broad target groups. That said, print is still a huge part of luxury marketing schedules and many top global brands, such as Vogue, WSJ and of course 1843, are recording record results in print.

AM: Finally, what is the most luxurious experience you have ever had?

LR: The brand I always associate with the best ‘luxurious experiences’ would be the Soho House group. For me it epitomises a complete grasp of modern luxury in that everything about its members clubs and hotels have the most perfect design, food and drink, service, lighting and even smell. But it also recognises the importance of luxury in terms of giving members a real ‘third space’, with a feeling of both privacy and community. As a busy person who travels a lot, I find myself unwinding often in them with friends and have that feeling of being completely looked after and of escapism. The Soho mule cocktails that they serve are also delicious! I realise this is a completely clichéd ‘media’ answer, so please accept my apologies in advance!

TVC Group is a content communications agency and is a part of The Economist Group.

This article was originally published in The Drum Network luxury special. You can get your hands on a copy here. To be featured in the next special focused on the charity sector, please contact stephen.young@thedrum.com.

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Naomi Taylor

Naomi Taylor is membership manager at The Drum Network, covering members' news, insights and publications.

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