Just this week, new research from The CMO Council and IBM found that advertising budgets are rising—but so are marketers’ expectations. According to the research, marketers recognize the ability of digital to align with every stage of the buyer’s journey and plan to invest accordingly. They are also increasingly experimental, exploring a wide range of channels and tactics to connect with buyers. This doesn’t surprise John Balen, Shape’s Associate Publisher, Marketing who has watched this trend develop over the past several years: Marketers want new and exciting ways to engage potential buyers.
So while Shape, like its fellow Meredith publications, has a subscription-based digital replica app that updates with each issue, the brand also has a very different app: Love My Shape. Originally launched about a year ago as a way to leverage mobile to seamlessly bridge print and digital experiences, Balen notes that they’ve learned a lot about what marketers and consumers want over that year and have incorporated the knowledge into an upgraded version, launching with the September issue of the magazine.
It is significant to note that the development of the Love My Shape app was driven by marketer demand for innovative cross-media experiences. Initially, Balen says that marketers were conducting a lot of one-off experiments with scan-the-page-for-more offerings. Demand for interactive, cross-platform programs continued to climb, however, and the editorial side of the house grew increasingly excited about creating cross-platform experiences that better serve its readers (and drive traffic to the website). With the new edition of the app, Balen says that internal processes have been streamlined and that interactive elements are no longer conceived of as one-offs, rather they are built into the ad sales and editorial mindset and workflow.
The Shape editorial team has been enthusiastic about being able to drive readers off the pages and Balen points to Shape editor Elizabeth Goodman Artis’ letter in the September issue as proof. In it, Artis is practically giddy as she describes the ease of moving from discovering a great item in an issue to getting one delivered to your doorstep. She also raves about the opportunity to take fitness coverage off the page and bring it to life it with video content in the app.
All of this excitement doesn’t overwhelm Meredith’s continued stance on the separation of church and state. Shape does not currently offer any of its own ecommerce initiatives nor does it participate in a revenue share in its click-to-buy editorial offers. Rather, the editorial team views these as a way to ease the path for readers who are as enthusiastic about fitness gear as they are the stories about how to use it. The integrations, according to Balen, “always have to be on-brand, something that has the DNA of the brand, makes sense for our readers and that the editors support.”
The app provides the ability to activate many mobile-enhanced content and promotional features from issues of the magazine and signage at Shape events. This includes sweepstakes, exclusive videos, behind-the-scenes content, and instructional fitness, beauty and fashion demos. The updated app also incorporates geo-location; image recognition; augmented reality; and contextual content—all of which can be leveraged for editorial or marketer-driven content.
“Today’s marketers want wow,” says Balen. “They are looking for high impact units whether it is fun fold out covers or interacting with digital. Marketers want people to experience their ads and say ‘This is so much fun, I love it!’” Ultimately, he says, his team must work closely with marketers to build integrated ad experiences that not only capture consumers’ attention, but provide experiences and information they find useful and entertaining. And with the updated Love My Shape app, Balen says that everyone on the Shape team is going to have fun creating print-to-digital experiences that jump off the page and engage.