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Cooking with gas: how Bauer teamed up with Nadia Lim to make a magzine

Georgina Harris talked with Bauer Media managing director Brendon Hill and editorial director Shelley Ferguson about spending time with Nadia Lim to understand her brand, creating a new distribution model, and if it is such a big risk tying a magazine to one person.

By Georgina Harris | March 26, 2018 | Sponsored content

In 2016, Bauer Media Group New Zealand took a bold and innovative step launching Nadia, a magazine based around Nadia Lim, the well-known Kiwi dietician, television personality, food writer, and co-founder of food home delivery service My Food Bag.

Any risk associated with the venture has paid off with the magazine recognized for its efforts by taking home the Supreme Magazine of the Year at the 2017 Magazine Media Awards, with the judges giving it “full marks for editorial vision, journalistic craft and a smart business and distribution model”.

Bauer Media managing director Brendon Hill says the original intention of Nadia was to look at doing something in the women’s lifestyle/wellness space as Bauer didn’t think the category was being completely covered. The company undertook a major research piece into influencers in the New Zealand market, and found out Lim had a 96 percent awareness among women aged 25 to 54.

“[Lim] was just behind the Prime Minister and Richie McCaw. There was an incredible awareness of her and her brand. We thought she’d be a great face for a magazine and she had a great social media following. All the cornerstones were there to launch a new brand,” says Hill.

Lim’s journey in the public eye began when she won MasterChef New Zealand in 2011. For Bauer, it was a big bonus the public already knew her journey, and her digital presence was large.

“She had a super engaged Facebook footprint and a website. So that’s a really good start for marketing through those channels to her ‘super-fans’. That was a great head start for everyone and grew the subscription base very quickly,” says Hill. 

The concept of bringing together Lim and My Food Bag was a collaboration between the senior team, who worked long and hard on brand promise and concept plan, then approaching Lim and her company to have a chat to see if the idea had some legs. 

Getting the word out 

The distribution model for Nadia is what sets it apart from its competitors, with selected My Food Bag consumers around the country receiving the magazine with their order.

“Nadia has a big subscription base and also a retail presence in every retailer in the country, but also the customers [who receive the magazine] are a really desirable audience for advertisers to reach, generally above average income professionals,” says Hill.

Editorial director Shelley Ferguson, who was the editor at the time of Nadia’s launch, says the magazine was quite a big responsibility to undertake with Lim’s name being the masthead, and her having created an amazing brand that the team needed to honour.

She says Lim approached the undertaking head-on and was very involved every step of the way.

“Our little team got to know her so well the magazine is a really authentic representation of her.”

Going to Lim’s house to discuss content was a large part of Ferguson getting to know who she was.

“It was good to see an insight into the values she is known for – creating good, nurturing soul food that brings families together, also with a health element. She’s very passionate about the state of health and wellness in New Zealand.”

In terms of how the magazine gets made, Ferguson says the team have an allocated amount of days with Lim per issue to figure out content planning, which works really well. Lim does the key food shoots, and with such a small team everyone is on the same page.

As well as working with Lim, Hill says Bauer has a great partnership with My Food Bag.

“They’re a really innovative and progressive company to work with. It made sense if we were going to do a magazine to tie the two [Lim and My Food Bag] together.”

Cooking with innovation

With Nadia released bi-monthly, Hill says the editorial team come up with new things all the time to surprise and delight its readers.

“We really tried to bring through Nadia’s lifestyle philosophy. The team spent a lot of time with Nadia, not talking about content but understanding what her brand was, what she stood for, what causes she supported and then they tried to bring her personality through the magazine,” says Hill.

He says the real innovation in the magazine is around the ‘well-thy’ section about living a better and more sustainable life.

Ferguson explains that ‘well-thy’ is a word that says you’re rich in wellness.

“I felt very strongly that there was a big wellness movement happening globally because of the amount of time pressure, stress and health issues people are experiencing. We based the content strategy on wellness rather than just food, as that’s what Nadia’s philosophy is anyway.”

She says the brand is exciting as there is plenty of opportunity to do spin-offs – events, social media, books for example – all depending on what makes sense in terms of looking at the brands and possible initiatives.

Lim features on the cover of each magazine in different scenarios. This is an intentional choice, however, the team haven’t ruled out not having her on the cover in the future.

“We thought it was very important at launch phase to have her on the cover,” says Ferguson, noting the huge awareness Lim got during the research phase and how, when launching a new product, one does everything one can to get instant recognition.

She says the research showed people loved Lim’s food, but wanted to know how she ‘does life’, so the choice was made to show her in different senarios on the cover rather than women’s mag style close-ups.

Risky business

While New Zealand readers are choosing to spend more time and attention on magazines, with an increase in the average time spent reading according to the Nielsen Consumer and Media Insights Q3 2016 - Q2 2017 data, over the last five years, risk is inevitable when launching a new magazine, particularly when attaching a title to a single person.

While Hill acknowledges that risk, he says Bauer didn’t take the decision lightly.

“Nadia is an amazing talent and an incredible woman, I don’t think that’s a risk at all. The more we got to know Nadia and to know her family and what she stands for, her values are very in line with our company’s values.”

The ethos of trying new things was discussed by Bauer’s former commercial director, Paul Gardiner, in his exit interview with StopPress in October last year, where he stated that launching a magazine under the old model, the chances of success are limited.

“You’ve got to look at another way of doing it,” Gardiner says. 

This is echoed by Hill, who thinks an FMCG company should always launch new products, and not be afraid to cannibalize itself.

“You need to or someone else is going to do it. With a company like yours you need to be continually nipping away at your existing products, it helps them as well because it helps those products innovate and try new things.”

Launching a magazine when Bauer already has a massive portfolio also carries the risk of perhaps eating into the readership of other titles, but Hill says the company mapped Nadia well into its portfolio mix.

“Our marketing strategy was very clear at the start to target new people that we weren’t currently talking to. We didn’t do any marketing in our own assets to market Nadia because we wanted to bring new people into the category and it worked. The women’s lifestyle category of eight magazines grew copies sold by 18 percent post-launch - not bad for a category in supposed decline.”

Putting everything else aside – risk, innovation, distribution – it is the relatable Lim who ties the magazine together.

“She’s a university educated dietician which is very unusual in this space. In the age of the celebrity chef it’s a great point of difference to have recipes from a dietician, it lends credibility and the recipes are practical and good for you,” says Hill.

Both Hill and Ferguson extol Lim’s virtues, explaining how down-to-earth, lovely and calm she is.

“What you see in the magazine is what she’s like,” says Hill.

And with this has come success, with the numbers a lot higher than the team initially thought.

“It debuted at a circulation audit of 43,000 copies, the second highest selling non-weekly magazine in New Zealand. It has definitely resonated with readers and advertisers, we’re delighted with it,” says Hill.

And with the magazine taking home Supreme Magazine of the Year in September, it’s not just the readers but the industry that has embraced this new format. Ferguson says the team were beyond excited to take home the award, and were proud for Lim.

“This felt like a really special project from the start and with Nadia’s guidance we put our hearts and souls into it. So it was incredible to receive that award and hope that our readers felt that spirit coming through in the pages.” 

This story is part of a content partnership with the Magazine Publishers Association. 

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