The reinvention of Redbook brings fashion, style and design to the forefront, serving the woman in her 30s and 40s who seeks to shop smartly and artfully. The magazine’s editor in chief, Jill Herzig, brings this vision to fruition along with publisher/chief revenue office, Mary Morgan. The two women are proving that a brand can be redefined and redesigned to reinvigorate the masses. Proving also that when you listen to your customers and give them what they want, they do find what they need. So sit back, enjoy, and take notes on how to please your audience of one and incite your magazine to new heights of vibrancy. But first the sound bites, then the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Redbook’s Jill Herzig and Mary Morgan.
On the reinvention of Redbook: In consumer feedback when we tested every issue, we kept getting this same message, which was that readers were very interested in style and considered Redbook a style guide to fashion and beauty.
On the woman Redbook sees as its targeted reader: The Redbook reader? I feel very strongly that we shouldn’t put an age to her. I think the magazine is ageless at this point. But if I had to, I would say that she’s a woman in her 30s and 40s and she can be from any town in America.
On why in a digital age Redbook is still investing in print: It’s called the inspiration moment. And that’s what magazines do. If we ask women in our shopping study what really inspires you; do you get these ideas for shopping from television, from digital, or from blogs, magazines still rank number one.
On expectations where Redbook will be one year from now: Well, what I hope is that Redbook has converted a whole new kind of audience and that we are satisfying the audience we already had in ways she never knew we could.
Jill Herzig: The thinking came together and meshed and really began to click for the both of us in the middle of the summer. Mary will tell you about the research that she was doing, but what I had found from the beginning of my first makeover of the brand, which was around three years ago, was that I had created a shopping section called Fifty Under Fifty and we basically took these wonderfully-priced pieces and then we photographed them like they were the crown jewels. We put them in the most beautiful light and got great photographers and talked about them as if they were the ultimate treats. And it gave the reader this feeling that anything she wanted in life was within reach.
Mary Morgan: Within two issues, Jill had manufacturers saying that they were going to lower their price point to $49.95 to make sure they got their items included in that section. It was such a lush environment to shop for these products in.
Jill Herzig: And it made all the difference in the world. The magazine had had many reasonably priced things in it, but putting them, as Mary said, in this lush environment made a huge difference. And it immediately was the number one rated thing in every issue of the magazine. That was a signal and then in consumer feedback when we tested every issue, we kept getting this same message, which was that readers were very interested in style and considered Redbook a style guide to fashion and beauty. And that didn’t surprise me, but it seemed to me that there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm among our readers around fashion and beauty. And I had the perceived wisdom that Redbook should be a general interest women’s magazine. We had increased our fashion and beauty content to 30% of the bulk, but in accordance with that perceived wisdom, it should just be a part of a very big whole. It suddenly seemed with Mary’s research and some additional research that we did that we should actually up the content to 50% fashion and beauty, give them more of what they were craving, and also approach it from a completely unique and different perspective, to be the big-tent-everyone-is-welcomed, real women’s fashion and beauty magazine.
Mary Morgan: It’s really amazing. As Jill is doing all this insight work with her readers, and she’s launching this new section Fifty Under Fifty, which ranks month after month number one, maybe it would drift to number two, we had gone on market. We love these bigger consumer insight research projects, we had done one last spring almost a year ago called Shop Talk, looking at not only how our readers perceived Jill’s pages, but really what’s happening in the marketplace. And when we gathered that data and took it back and shared it with Jill, what she was seeing from readers, the style revolution that’s happened in this country, from fast fashion, fast fashion being things like Joe Fresh and Uniqlo, and then you have this amazing intersection where runway is meeting mainstream like Missoni at Target; all these designer collaborations that are out there. These are super high-end designers and suddenly it’s out there and it explodes. At Kohl’s and Target’s, all this has really revolutionized the way women in this country think about style and design. It has made everything accessible and I think it has broadened for our readers what fashion means today. We’re seeing this on the consumer insight, so when we asked these women what do you think Redbook does best and they answer: we love the style pages; we realized all of these things, the data and the reader comments, were all sort of coming together at the same time. We had one of those V-8 moments where we went, “Oh my Gosh! Wow!”
Samir Husni: Was this reinvention easier than the one you did three years ago?
Jill Herzig: Yes, it was definitely easier. It was driven by something I was seeing in our readers’ response to the magazine. It was something that I was seeing out there in stores everywhere, and the message was just so clear about which way to go. I felt like the road signs were all pointing in the same direction. Redesigns are never easy. We didn’t hire a big outside design firm; we did it almost entirely in house. So what keeps me up at night? Hmm. At this point, I feel so much calmer with this. It just feels right and it feels like all the hurdles that we encountered along the way, well, we got through them. We figured it out. We figured out all the puzzles. The cover was the biggest puzzle. But I think we cracked it.
Jill Herzig: The Redbook reader? I feel very strongly that we shouldn’t put an age to her. I think the magazine is ageless at this point. But if I had to, I would say that she’s a woman in her 30s and 40s and she can be from any town in America. We’re not an East Coast, West Coast kind of magazine; we’re heavily distributed across the country. We’re one of the few magazines that have a real strong hold in the middle of the country. And she wants to look great and she also loves a great deal. And both of those things owe possible thanks to what Mary was talking about, thanks to that revolution.
Mary Morgan: That’s where that revolution has come in.
Jill Herzig: It used to be that most women thought that great style was the playground of really wealthy women. Wealthy women like models, celebrities, socialites, and that access to that kind of style was limited. But what has happened with this change in retail is that the barn doors are wide opened. Anyone has access to great style now. But you do need a guide. And that’s what they are looking for in Redbook. And that’s the role we are now moving into. There really isn’t, when you look at the fashion and beauty magazines out there, one that can be your guide to reality-based fashion and beauty, in other words, stuff that will fit your real life, real body and real budget. It’s just not out there. There are magazines that say they do high and low, but really what they do is high and a whole lot higher. And those magazines are super fun fantasy fodder for most women, but we wanted to be an on-the-ground, we-go-shopping-with-you, personal-shopper, personal-stylist-for-her type magazine. That’s the service that we’re delivering.
Samir Husni: If I give you a magic wand and you strike the new magazine with it; what kind of human being would appear before you?
Jill Herzig: I know exactly what she’s like because we did a survey. We asked our readers about their shopping habits: I know exactly how many times a month she goes shopping, how much she spends on a purse, a pair of shoes, a pair of jeans, a dress, a skirt, jewelry; I know what she considers the normal price she will pay for those items and what her splurge price is. And the amazing thing that emerged for us when we looked at those responses was that she will pay more for a splurge bag or a splurge pair of jeans than any of the other women service buyers, which is what you might have expected. She will also pay more for those jeans or that bag than a young woman lifestyles reader, or a young woman fashion book reader. So she’s a spender, actually. And she’s willing to treat herself, God knows she deserves it. I’m excited.
Jill Herzig: She’s a thirty-eight-year-old woman who may have a couple of kids, she’s certainly busy, she probably works, she loves to get a manicure and a pedicure, she has spent, in her life, $80 on a pair of jeans and didn’t regret it, she wore them and they made her feel confident every time and like a million bucks. She carries a great bag, she is online trolling for her fabulous deals and she also knows how to wait out a sale.
Mary Morgan: Speaking of that point, it’s so incredible that not that many years ago the currency was to say, “Oh, this is a lovely handbag, yes I spent…” Now the currency is, “Do you know what I got it for? How did I find it?” and all of the tools, all those mobile and text sites that will allow us to do that, all of the designer collaborations and the fast fashion, this real deal retail that’s going on, makes the smart shopper say, “I didn’t spend that. I got that for a great price.”
Jill Herzig: Most people would assume that the only women passionate about style are women in their 20s. But interestingly enough, the reason we have Lauren Conrad on our cover and the reason she was excited about doing the cover, is that it turns out her best customer at Kohl’s is in her 30s and 40s. So nobody is serving that woman who is interested in style. There are magazines like People Style Watch that’s very much for the woman in her 20s or even in her teens that is fashion obsessed and is shopping and looking online all the time for the next buy. But that’s a very trendy consumer. She’s buying disposable fashion almost and she is hugely connected to celebrity for them. If a celebrity is wearing it, that’s what incites her to buy with very little sense of, “this would be great for my life and I deserve it.’
Mary Morgan: I think what Jill really found out with this research of her reader was that style really doesn’t have an expiration date. It’s not like we wake up at 30 and go, “Oh yeah, I’m so over it.” If your daughter is lining up at H&M at 20, she’ll still be doing it at 43, wanting that particular look.
Jill Herzig: And her mom is probably standing right there next to her.
Samir Husni: Or standing at Target waiting for all the Missoni things.
Jill Herzig: Exactly. But that’s not geared toward women just in their 20s at all. I mean that line did so well because it sold to women in their 30s and 40s and above. We are kind of age agnostic. I don’t assign this to one particular age, but I do feel that the white space for Redbook is for women in their 30s and 40s. There’s no one else serving them in the style arena.
Samir Husni: Why then, in this digital age, are you still investing in print? Refreshing and rebranding the magazine?
Jill Herzig: You know, I have to say that I think the retail revolution that we’re talking about is an awesome thing for women and it’s also an overwhelming thing for them. It all comes at you in a tidal wave. You walk into these stores and you think, how do I shop all this stuff. Look at these racks. You hear about a capsule collection and three days later you can’t get the color or the size you want because it’s sold out. So you really do need a navigator through this universe and that’s the role we play. It’s never been more important to have an editor on your side. And that’s what we’re doing; we’re carefully, carefully editing a huge influx of cool style at great prices. We’re telling her this is where the quality is, this is what will look good on you, this is what goes with what, and this is what’s worth buying. And that, I think, makes our role more important than ever. It doesn’t mean though that our website is not following suit and coming right along with us. And we also have a partnership that makes shopping from your mobile phone much simpler. So we’re definitely going into this from a tight angle.
Mary Morgan: Going back to what we were discussing earlier, the evolution of magazines as a product and as a category; if we look at what really drives to purchase, whether it’s the purchase funnel or even when you Google something to research it before you buy, there’s that moment of truth that is talked about. But there’s another moment before that: it’s called the inspiration moment. And that’s what magazines do. If we ask women in our shopping study what really inspires you; do you get these ideas for shopping from television, from digital, or from blogs, magazines still rank number one. That’s where the juice starts, with an idea. I get inspired. Then I might go to Google to research it and see where I can buy it. Or I might go to some other access. But it’s really that moment of inspiration that I think magazines deliver and I am confident that they as a category will never go away. Nothing inspires like magazines.
Samir Husni: That’s one thing that we are seeing with the catalog companies. When they stopped printing their catalogs their business started going down.
Jill Herzig: Also, when you read a magazine, it’s a moment when you are very relaxed. Some people, I guess read catalogs the same way. But it’s a moment when the reader says to herself, you know, I’m just going to take ten minutes for myself. And if you don’t overwhelm the reader, but instead guide her and curate with great taste and be really in tune with her that makes those ten minutes the best ten minutes of her day.
Samir Husni: So should we change your title to Curator in Chief?
Jill Herzig: It’s not a terrible idea. Another point of difference for us is that we know when to stop shopping. We know when to say, “OK, after 50% of this wonderful time you the reader spend with Redbook talking about fashion and beauty, there’s going to be a moment when you’re going to stop all that. And then we’re going to talk about other things that matter to you. With a magazine like InStyle or People Style Watch, cover to cover, it’s essentially fashion and beauty. That’s not the case with Redbook. We talk about your health, fitness, life experiences, we have emotionally resonant reads and those will always be important to our reader.
Mary Morgan: And even having the essays within the beauty and fashion section is such a point of distinction. You know, Jill talked about not wanting to lose that voice, that personality. And I believe that’s what magazines are, they’re personalities. When you walk up to the newsstand and you’re drawn to one versus another. When Time and Newsweek both competed, why does one hand go here versus there? And I think having that voice and personality is so critical that’s why Jill was adamant about not having it removed from the fashion and beauty pages. It makes us so different from those other magazines.
Samir Husni: Can you ever get that voice and personality on your iPad?
Jill Herzig: I don’t emotionally connect with guilt; it’s not going to happen.
Mary Morgan: That’s a wonderful question. You know, we talk about all the things we can enable, from video to pop-ups, so yes, when I see the tablet edition we can film video and Jill can pop up and she can be there, but I think there’s something about the written word. When I read the written word, I get a chance to interpret and translate for myself. It’s a personal, very intimate process. Video, I don’t think, has the same moment. And again, I think that’s where, like you talked about your grandson wanting to read a book, it’s a personal, intimate experience with the written word. It’s really unique to magazines.
Jill Herzig: I can’t wait for what the next five years are going to bring. There is going to be a really interesting blossoming of what magazines do on tablet devices. When you talk about bringing these kinds of wonderful, emotionally connecting stories into the picture; you can certainly read them and have that great written word experience that Mary’s talking about when you’re reading on your tablet. Then to add video to it to make it a richer experience could really be extraordinary. And I think that we’re going to have a whole lot of fun.
Jill Herzig: I think it’s going to be a combination. I think you’re going to get some people migrating, some people reading on device and in print, and some people reading solely on their devices.
Samir Husni: I mean, David (Carey) mentioned last week in his speech that they’re finding out women are more at ease with reading on the mini iPad.
Mary Morgan: It’s so portable.
Jill Herzig: Yes, that is a wonderful device.
Samir Husni: It’s amazing when we think that 3 years ago we did not have something called iPad and where we are now.
Mary Morgan: I think that’s a great example of trying to predict the future. We think of how incredibly deep the adaptation for the iPad or tablet is. But that adaptation is such a skyrocketing thing that it makes you realize that the sky’s the limit in terms of potential. It’s like Jill’s point: what will we be doing in the tablet edition is you’ll click on something and suddenly the J.C. Penney line will come to life. And I think that’s the one thing we really wanted in this app that we’re launching with this. We’re thrilled to be the first U.S. magazine to fully enable every single page – every page. The one big bugaboo I had about some people’s apps was there were only certain pages that were enabled. No, if you really want to make this a great customer experience, it should be every page. So what Eye Capture does, and this is a free app that you can download, is to enable every single page. The fact that I can take this page, snap it, and every one of them is separated into its own little icon where I can save it to my favorites, or post it to social media, or I can shop for it immediately. That is how women got to that inspiration.
Jill Herzig: And it’s such a fun thing. Like this cute Easter egg nail color. You think to yourself, OK, I am reading this on the subway or somewhere, I can take a picture of it and immediately buy it and it can be delivered to my door three days later. I don’t have to think about it, I don’t have to keep it in my mind. I just love that at the exact moment that we’re debuting this new idea of Redbook we have the perfect partner to make the easier shopping come to life. So we do this every single month and when we have a steal, we basically show the reader what is absolutely the best get of the month. And we’re careful to kick the tires for the reader, to take the detail shots to show you that the construction is really good. We really and truly drag this dress all over our office, showing when shooting it that people tried it on and it was hanging in one person’s office and it was hanging in another person’s office. And it was no worse for wear after three weeks in our office, after having been used and abused by our editors. So we did these detail shots to show you why it’s such a shockingly great buy at $60 besides just being gorgeous. If I saw this I would want to pick up my phone and buy it the second I saw it. And that’s what you can do. And that’s Eye Capture.
Mary Morgan: Well, first and foremost, it’s reader/consumer satisfaction. The more we make her love the seamless and super, super easy process, she’s happier with Redbook, so that’s a friend for life. And eventually, yes, what we need is a fairly deep ubiquitous adaptation. My goal is that every woman in America would use Eye Capture, that way we would really get some numbers that are pretty significant. Then we could start building a custom program that I can’t talk to you about just yet, but picture this, one very large retailer, one very large manufacturer, and we put them together and say every time you shoot these products, automatically you’re going to be directed not to any other retailer, but to this particular retailer. I can do gift purchases, I can do push messages, I can look at a data swap and see what they are really responding to. And that starts to build some really meaningful relationships.
Samir Husni: And is that making your job easier or harder?
Mary Morgan: Well, technology makes our jobs much harder. Eons ago editors and marketers just needed to know about the printed page and that was it, they were good to go. Now they need to know about blogs and mobile, digital and tablets. But I think it makes it easier because now you can definitively demonstrate how deeply the relationship is between our reader and these pages. Some people might ask, “Well do they care that she’s putting a dress in her office?” Well, yes they care. They care with their pocketbooks and they care with their mobile phones. And I think that’s a very powerful message.
Jill Herzig: One of the things that we found when we did Fifty Under Fifty was that we had to really check on inventory because the items we featured sold out very, very quickly. And that’s a friend for life when they make a purchase based on something you’ve put in the magazine and it comes and they love it. They love the retailer and they love that you turned them on to this item. So it is a relationship builder and I expect that Eye Capture will only intensify the strength of that bond. It should be a good thing.
Jill Herzig: Well, what I hope is that Redbook has converted a whole new kind of audience and that we are satisfying the audience we already had in ways she never knew we could. And that we’ve also converted a whole new group of people who were looking for a personal stylist and personal shopper in magazine form and find that they have it.
Samir Husni: And my last question what keeps you up at night?
Jill Herzig: I would joke that after redesign, nothing could keep me up at night. There is a serious sleep deficit that needs to be accounted for.
Samir Husni: Thank you.