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Reader’s Digest – Rebranding An American Icon

The Reader's Digest cover, redesigned in partnership with DiMassimo Goldstein

Growth Key: Positively Addictive

What happens when a brand born in 1922 decides to revive itself and start a new life in 2014?

Consider that the brand is a print publication, a category experiencing a mass extinction in this age of technology. Paid subscription circulation figures were slipping, as were advertising revenues. Furthermore, its parent company filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, only recently emerging under private ownership. No marketing had been done in the last ten years.

This is the story of America’s beloved general interest family magazine, Reader’s Digest, and how January 2014 began a new age for the publication as it undergoes a collaborative editorial and design overhaul, making the new Reader’s Digest relevant for the twenty-first century.

Why do more people pay for Reader’s Digest than any other magazine? It’s a top 5 magazine with 49 editions in 21 languages. But with numbers falling into decline, how do we get the next generation of readers excited before it’s too late?

For the vision of Reader’s Digest founders Dewitt and Lila Bell Wallace to continue, the new Reader’s Digest owners had to radically change their approach, and they chose to share this challenge. With a collaborative effort between the agency and the client to both redesign the logo and magazine, as well as create an overall marketing campaign which would encourage a whole new audience to choose to read the magazine and become a subscriber. Our marketing needed to gain new subscribers by making the content relevant to a younger generation.

“If you start reading that magazine, you don’t stop,” commented Mark DiMassimo, Founder and Chief of DiMassimo Goldstein. “You read on. We recognized that the magazine is full of addictive content, but too many consumers believed that Reader’s Digest was either no longer being published, or was the kind of magazine seen at their grandparents’ home. Too few people were getting past the cover.”

The Reader's Digest team celebrating a successful launch in Times Square

Together, Reader’s Digest executives and the DiMassimo Goldstein team worked on a reintroduction of the cover concept, an interior redesign and a new organization of the existing content to make the design point of view appropriate for the magazine. Strategically, the agency positioned the brand as an “island of positivity in a sea of snark” giving readers a needed break from gossip and cynicism. Our key insight was that people actually crave a break from this nonstop vitriol. By contrast, Reader’s Digest is filled with inspiring, upbeat stories for any occasion. The articles provide the kind of humor, inspiring and useful, educational information that make the publication hard to put down.

“The agency/client initiative was built around taking the opportunity to reintroduce Reader’s Digest in a current manner. The goal was to be true to what the magazine stands for, taking the traditional brand but positioning it appropriately to be relevant to today’s consumers, subsequently increasing the circulation figures.”

This multi-million dollar marketing campaign began on December 11, when the publication released a new look and feel to the magazine, starting with the January cover, more contemporary looking than previous ones. The new look was unveiled at a special launch event in New York’s Times Square promoting a free digital download. The new campaign, called “Read Up”, launched in early 2014 includes national TV, print, radio, direct mail and digital media.

"Read Up" Print campaign for Reader's Digest by DiMassimo Goldstein
"Read Up" Print campaign for Reader's Digest by DiMassimo Goldstein

The “Read Up” campaign revolves around the idea that the content of the magazine is so enjoyable and hard to put down that the reader would sacrifice his or her own well-being in an effort to save his or copy.

And… it’s working. By showing the next generation of readers why the content is relevant to them via our integrated marketing campaign, we’re successfully acquiring a new generation of subscribers for – YES! – a print magazine, while building digital subscribers and engagement too.

And Reader’s Digest now has more paid subscribers than any other publication in the world.