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What is the cover of a magazine for?

By / / In Best practice /
Drayton Bird examines the front cover of a magazine from the National Trust. It looks beautiful but achieves little. So, what's the problem? Drayton's simple diagnosis holds an important lesson for all marketers, whatever their specialist medium.
magazine covers

>> to tell you what you’ll get inside.

It’s the equivalent of a headline in an ad, an email subject line, or the newspaper front page.

This is a beautiful cover, but it’s very vague in what it promises. And as a result, it fails in its purpose.

Drayton Bird - National Trust Marketing
It is the cover of the National Trust magazine, sent to me regularly. If you don’t know, the National Trust is a splendid organisation which manages and arranges visits to places throughout Britain.

They were once my clients and for decades I’ve regularly visited stately homes, castles and gardens they manage.

The magazine is really there to get more traffic. I receive it regularly but have never looked inside. Not once – until a few days ago I bothered to.

I was amazed at how interesting it was. There were scores of interesting stories. I would say several on each page. Among others:

  • John Lennon’s birthplace (incidentally not far from mine)
  • A chef who cooks regency dishes – the kind popular 200 years ago
  • A bed that dates from 1720
  • Paintings by Fox Talbot the Photography pioneer (I have visited very grand old home several times)
  • Good books to read this summer
  • Walking in the Welsh mountains near my childhood school
  • How to attract bees to your garden
  • Fresh flavour combinations in your cooking
  • Going barefoot
  • Lady Londonderry’s garden
  • The Giant’s causeway
  • Bird watching
  • A mine in Cornwall where the shafts went nearly a mile under the sea. Who’d be a Cornish lead miner?

So many things to see, and try. All missed if the cover doesn’t lure you inside.

And what you read there, though well written , is vague.

If you look at a successful magazine or newspaper, movie or TV show trailer you’ll see it’s full of lures to get you to go further with information about what’s inside.

But the “headline” didn’t draw me into the National Trust magazine – despite the beautiful photo.

My friend the late Bill Jayme called the direct mail envelope The Hot-pants on the Hooker.

You MUST concentrate on the first things people see – whatever you’re selling, whatever the media. When making speeches the thing I always agonise on is the opening.

The headline, the picture, the caption, the subject line, the first thing you see on the landing page – all vital. And in most cases all can be improved.

In the case of that front cover they should have listed some of the good stuff inside.

The secret of success is to concentrate on the right things, and quite frankly most people don’t.

Do you? Do you think you could be doing better? Do you have the courage to admit it if you don’t?

Read more about Drayton Bird and his marketing services.

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Drayton Bird
Author: Drayton Bird

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

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