Brand extensions have become an important additional revenue stream for publishers, particularly now that the days of titles supported by ad revenue alone are long gone.
Men's underpants, credit cards, bath mats and nightclubs are among the brand extensions from magazines to have come and gone over the past decade, with varying degrees of success.
Nonetheless, the prediction made 10 years ago by Nicholas Coleridge, Conde Nast's managing director, that 'GQ will covermount a Viagra pill, Wallpaper* will start a sushi bar and Maxim lend its name to a massage facility behind Euston station' has yet to be borne out.
IPC is the latest publisher to attempt a brand extension with a move into the energy drinks category. The product, called the Loaded Stamina Shot, will be manufactured under licence by Podium Brands in conjunction with IPC and will be available from the autumn. It is hoped that the drink's claimed aphrodisiac properties will help to entice Loaded's testosterone-driven 18- to 30-year-old core audience.
Dennis Perks, press manager at media buying agency TotalMedia, says the brand extension is reminiscent of others undertaken by the magazine in the 90s. 'I expected Loaded to do this back in 1997 when it was doing massive numbers. I don't think this latest brand extension is going to do anything for it,' he adds. 'Men's mags like these are slowly dying a death and, instead of brand extensions, IPC should think about repositioning the mag to offset its decline in circulation.'
Although, like many of its rivals, Loaded looks as if it is fighting for survival, Glyn Partridge, chief executive of Podium Brands, believes the title has found a gap in the market. 'The energy drinks sector is a cluttered one, and consumers are confused by the energy-shot extensions of the big players,' he says. 'Most brands offer the same benefit and yet research shows that consumers want extra functionality which is what Loaded Stamina Shot delivers.'
Graham Hales, chief executive of brand consultancy Interbrand, contends that IPC may gain some traction from the brand extension but points out that questions remain over its credentials, particularly when it will be competing against established players such as Red Bull and Coca-Cola. However, he is cautiously optimistic about its chances. 'If Loaded is brazen enough to launch one, I don't think its readers will mind being seen with a Loaded-branded energy drink,' he says.
IPC has promised to back the product with a major advertising push, claiming that energy-drink consumers are switching from standard-sized energy drinks to shots.
However, Will Arnold-Baker, managing director at creative agency Publicis, characterises the extension as 'curious' and suggests that it is unlikely to be successful. 'While a shot drink with vague stimulant or aphrodisiac properties might seem like a good brand fit with Loaded, you have to wonder what exactly they expect it to do for the business,' he says. 'The magazine has been in overall decline for some time, which suggests its offering isn't capturing the zeitgeist in a way that chimes with a mass audience.'
Arnold-Baker argues that Loaded's lack of pedigree in producing energy drinks means it will struggle to achieve credibility and gain listings with many retailers. He believes it is easier for media brands with leadership in well-defined niche markets to extend their brands into relevant areas, citing potential examples such as Runner's World trainers and IPC's Field Magazine offering a range of breeks.
Nevertheless, if the Loaded Stamina Shot does become successful, this will give the parent brand a much-needed fillip, though questions will inevitably remain about the magazine's long-term viability.