Brands Need to Evolve Before They Become Extinct

Brands Need to Evolve Before They Become Extinct

If you are like me, your Mom had a subscription to at least one of the venerable publications known as the Seven Sisters. Meredith Publishings’ Ladies Home Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Hearst’s Women’s Day, Redbook and Good Housekeeping all targeted the married-with-children home-maker. In fact, my Mom had a couple subscriptions – or she traded the magazines with her friends. I distinctly remember cutting out the Betsy McCall paper dolls as well as looking at the cartoons in several different magazines.

Sadly, another of the Sisters, Ladies Home Journal, is going to cease publishing, as reported in Ad Age. After 131 years of publication in print, LHJ’s last issue has been put to bed. (The seventh sister, McCalls, ceased publication in 2002 after its publisher tried to revitalize the brand by partnering with Rosie O’Donnell and renaming the magazine Rosie. Not surprisingly, McCall’s perished amid a flurry of breach of contract lawsuits when the partners could not achieve editorial harmony.)

Ad Age attributes this demise to declining profits and a graying audience. But is that really the cause? Ladies Home Journal, like Oldsmobile and other brands, lost brand equity because their managers did not see the critical need to evolve the brand with changing social and demographic trends. While fewer and fewer women are married, stay at home moms, the challenges of managing home and family while being a full-time business person are more relevant than ever. And while print may not be the most up-to-date mode of delivery, online and other modes are still very viable.

In spite of changing demographics, the remaining five sisters enjoy some of the strongest circulation numbers of print magazines today. Their publishers are struggling to find ways to keep them relevant and appealing to more than their original target audience. (In fact, Morality in Media, a faith-based nonprofit organization has taken issue with a number of the Sisters’ magazine covers that they deem sexually explicit!) Whether they will be successful in their quest to maintain and build their brands in this brave new world remains to be seen.

For now, however, RIP Ladies Home Journal. Can this brand still be saved without print?

Topics: brand loyalty, brand research, brand value

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