A year ago most pundits were shaking their heads when
market-leading men’s magazine FHM posted an ABC of 504,959, saying it
could not climb much higher.
But this month the title again proved the doubting Thomases wrong by
soaring 53.6% year on year to 775,451.
Loaded may be trailing a little in its wake but still managed a
more-than respectable year-on-year hike of 20% to 456,373.
As a result of their success, both titles have rushed headlong into
Loaded is to launch a range of branded underwear next year (Marketing,
August 20), while FHM has plans for a credit card.
But, in a relatively immature market, are these magazines established
enough to support such brand stretching, or are their publishers simply
eager to milk all they can from their titles before the bubble
Test of loyalty
Richard Britton, media director at CIA Medianetwork, believes there is
an element of cashing in and warns that a title must think carefully
before testing its readers’ loyalty in other areas. ’FHM is in vogue,
but if it suddenly took a tumble it might be left with a whole range of
products to get rid of,’ he says.
Sally Cartwright, publisher of Hello! magazine, which launched its own
credit card two years ago, also advises caution. ’We have 3000
subscribers (to the card) and regard the concept as moderately
successful. But it’s not a golden opportunity as a brand extension or a
chance to make money.’
Some observers say a lads’ mag and financial services are a poor
Britton says: ’Banks tend not to want to give much money to younger
people, especially men.’
Commenting on Loaded’s underwear range, Cartwright says: ’It’s an
amusing idea but I don’t think it’s a serious, long-term fashion
Ironically, both Emap Metro, owner of FHM, and Loaded’s publisher, IPC
Magazines, are keen to distance themselves from each other’s
’I don’t think FHM pants would be right for our brand,’ says Simon
Greves, business development manager at FHM.
’We wouldn’t consider clothes either because that would compromise a lot
of our advertisers. We’ll only go into areas which would not be damaging
to the brand and where we could retain brand values.’
And Robert Tame, publishing director of Loaded, believes a credit card
would not add value to his brand. He does not dismiss the idea totally,
but says: ’Unless there’s some unique mechanic which adds value, it’s a
Both IPC and Emap Metro say they have had approaches from a raft of
potential business partners.
Loaded is in talks with a number of automotive clients about a Loaded
jeep and has also produced a pilot series called Loaded at the World Cup
in association with Yorkshire TV.
There are many tentative discussions taking place at the moment, but a
magazine must be absolutely sure of its brand positioning before
embarking on really radical moves.
Britton points out: ’The fact that FHM sells 775,000 copies doesn’t mean
it’s a strong brand.’
Women’s magazines have been much more cautious about launching brand
extensions, although a number of them have their own clothing
Britton believes this is because the women’s market is more crowded and
segmented and warns that the men’s sector will change accordingly as it
matures. ’In five years the men’s market will have similar problems.
We’ll see many more entrants and static circulations,’ he says.
Brands will have to fight harder to find a point of difference and may
well be forced to concentrate resources on their core proposition,
rather than supporting a raft of costly brand extensions.