If the shoe fits: Bauer and Ziera slip into owned media

Around five years ago, locally owned shoe brand Kumfs rebranded to Ziera in an effort to widen its appeal. And, according to group marketing manager/chief customer experience officer Nicky Dunn, the rebrand earned it a lot more consideration among its core target of 40-59 year-old women. 

But there was a big problem: while they were coming into the store, they were leaving without buying anything. And research conducted around 18 months ago showed that even though the rebrand had been successful, “people still thought we were old fashioned”. 

Like many retailers, Ziera had relied heavily on direct marketing—and particularly catalogues—to promote its wares and Dunn says it used to send a catalogue to every person it had an address for, or around 250,000 people. But she says that strategy wasn’t sustainable and it didn’t reference the fact that some customers were more valuable than others. 

“Everyone does it, it’s expensive to mail and the response rates were dropping season on season. It was a huge investment that was declining. So we weren’t getting our message across in straight advertising … When we approached Bauer it was pretty much about using what they do in the fashion space and using that understanding to create something our customers would really enjoy and elevate the brand into something more modern, more fashionable and more on-trend.” 

Complementary skills 

She says working with a publisher to create a quality magazine and app seemed like an opportunity to make a big change quite quickly. 

“It was a complete shortcut to credibility and that’s why we did it … The understanding of the customer is what Bauer brought to it. Even with our agencies we didn’t have that. But they’re talking to those people all the time. It takes a long time for people to get that and we didn’t have to go through any of that pain.” 

Testing the waters 

Dunn says she pitched the “risky” idea of moving away from catalogues and creating its own magazine to its board of directors as a test. Because the numbers were heading in the wrong direction, it had to try something. But as many of them were accountants, she says they demanded numbers to back up the decision. 

“I said ‘if it doesn’t work, we can always revert.’” 

Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary and Dunn was amazed with the results after sending the magazine to 60,000 of its top customers and an additional 21,000 were available in store. 

“We couldn’t believe the improvement in response rates, average purchase amount and overall revenue. We thought the magazine was really good, because you become attached to something. But the unsolicited feedback we got from customers saying how amazing it was took us by surprise.”

For the latest issue (so far it’s done four), it conducted another experiment. It profiled its high value customers and looked for similar types of customers within a certain radius of Ziera stores and did an unaddressed mailbox drop of the magazine. And that’s seen even better results, Dunn says. 

“Pretty much 80 percent of the stores in our top five from a response rate perspective had the unaddressed drop,” she says. 

Bauer’s group sales director Jackie Campbell says it also did a separate version of the magazine with a coupon attached to track redemption rates. And it also called on the Bauer team in Australia to distribute the magazine in a more cost-effective way across the Tasman. 

Team effort

Next editor Sarah Henry heads up the project and called on experts to work on it. Simply You’s Naomi Larkin is working on the latest issue. And Campbell says all Bauer’s editorial teams have really embraced the shift to branded content

“It gives them a chance to work on something new from their normal remit,” she says. And while most agency-client relationships have their ups and downs, Campbell says it has “a really great relationship with Nicky”.

“And we are getting really great results, so you can feel really proud about what you’re doing.” 

Dunn agrees and says she and her team were part of the editorial process from the beginning. 

“Every season we get together and give a brief to Bauer with our objectives, key themes and key campaign ideas and they come up with a content plan. We have our view and then they make it happen … It has been seamless. You don’t go into a project thinking ‘it’s going to be perfect’, but this was about as close as you could get. And it was good fun.” 

One of the only issues they could think of was having to work so far in advance of publication date, which meant it was difficult to find the right clothes for the fashion shoots (Ziera uses a lot of its product shots in the magazines but Bauer is in charge of all the fashion shoots). 

As clear evidence of the media’s ability to drive demand, Dunn says the stylish nutmeg coloured shoes that featured on the cover of its latest issue were Ziera’s best selling item by a long shot this summer (even though she says 70-80 percent of the shoes it sells are black, you always sell the sizzle, not the sausage). 

It didn’t choose that shoe on purpose, she says. It was simply the best shot for the cover. But in the end, it ran out of stock and she says it probably could have sold three times more. This is why Dunn is aiming to become slightly more scientific about the cover choices in an effort to better predict demand and increase sales. 

“If a client puts their trust in you and uses your expertise and it’s an open line of communication, you can achieve some really terrific results,” says Campbell. 


Russian dolls

In the world of fashion, there are a few shining examples of owned media brands that are so good people are willing to pay for and advertise in them. Porter, the high quality magazine created by online retailer Net-a-Porter, is in the same league as Vogue and other established fashion mags, even though it’s basically a sophisticated ad (and closer to home, owned media properties like Resene’s Habitat and Air New Zealand’s KiaOra also run ads). 

At present, Ziera gives it away for free. But could it, like some other retailers, eventually make money from its marketing? 

“We’ve discussed that and it’s a hard one, because as soon as you let advertisers in, then it makes it more commercial for us and it also becomes something that’s a little less attached
to the brand,” says Dunn. 

Paying off

While neither would comment on the level of investment required to create the magazine, Dunn did say it spends less that it used to. 

“We used to have an agency involved in creating the catalogue and doing all the letterheads and data matching. It was a really expensive process. This way, what we’ve done is lowered our costs of doing it, increased our response rates and got better content out of it.” 

 Ziera doesn’t run the content in any other established magazines. But it drip-feeds it through Facebook and email newsletters throughout the season to lure customers back to its website (it hasn’t started selling online yet but it plans to start this year).

Dunn says the KPIs are levels of engagement on Facebook or click throughs to the content from emails. It does all the tracking, although Bauer’s insights team has conducted qual and quant research around the content in the magazine and app, which features extra content, to find out what readers liked. 

“It’s a really good example of how we can create content that doesn’t need to sit under our assets or mastheads but can sit on other platforms,” says Campbell. “And it’s just the beginning.”

This story is part of a content partnership with Bauer Media. For more information, contact [email protected]

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