Inspiring Consumers: More Than Just a Pretty Face

Standing in line at the grocery store, it’s almost impossible to ignore Bruce/Caitlyn or Caitlyn/Bruce. That’s good -- magazine publishers have a lot riding on whether or not the covers of their magazine get noticed -- or not. Print magazines are the most preferred place to look at advertising and rank #1 in commanding consumer attention and advertising acceptance (2013/2014 MPA Magazine Media Factbook).

For print publications, September issues are the most highly-regarded of the year, and usually the industry's most anticipated releases. Why? September marks the beginning of the fashion calendar year, when Fall Collections are debuted, school clothes are in demand and holiday shopping is around the corner.

There are more women (and men) of color featured on the covers of this year’s September issues than ever before, each bringing tremendous talent to the table: Beyonce (Vogue), Serena Williams (New York Magazine), Misty Copeland (Essence), Queen Latifah (Variety), Ciara (Shape) and Kerry Washington (Self). This is certainly progress, and hopefully we’ll also see Latinos and other minorities featured regularly.

Maxim — known for its cheesecake cover shots of actresses and models in bikinis — put the dashing British actor, Idris Elba (also African-American), on the front of its September issue, marking the first male to grace its cover. Why? “Men are more interested in and open to fashion and style and grooming than I think they have been in recent history," said Kate Lanphear, Editor-in-Chief. "We're trying to build lifestyle, general-interest content curated with a guy's guy in mind, but I hope any story that we're doing is compelling enough to transcend gender.” 

A magazine cover, at any time of year, can be inspirational and surprising. The August 2015 issue of Women’s Running features plus-sized runner Erica Schenk. It’s a beautiful reminder that female runners come in all shapes and sizes. “I think that every woman goes to the magazine rack and sometimes feels like she can’t see herself in the cover images. We wanted our readers to feel like they could see themselves,” says Editor-in-Chief Jessica Sebor. Based on reader reaction, Women’s Running hit the mark. @beckey_boyles: “Makes me wonder if I can run.. Maybe it's time to stop worrying about what others think and just do it.” @shookie326I: “I almost cried when I opened my mailbox and saw a thick girl like me ON THE COVER. Thank you!”

The November 2014 issue of Men’s Health featured a veteran who had been seriously injured in the Iraq war. Now, he’s seriously buff.

New York Magazine’s “My Abortion” cover published in 2013 brought a frenzied Noodler to a screeching halt in Penn Station. The cover may have been, to some, purposely salacious, but the content was highly relevant: 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time she reaches 45 years old, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute. However, abortion is still stigmatized, and it is rare for women to speak publicly about the procedure. The pub profiled 26 women whose stories were as emotional as they were diverse. From one reader: “I had no idea that the average abortion patient is all of us.”

So what does this mean to marketers?
Consumers want to be inspired and challenged. They are often looking for more than a pretty face.

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