This is not an email, this is a message of hope

Glossy magazines and the power of print

I have a confession to make.

I love a glossy magazine.

Like wilfully suspending disbelief when you step into a cinema, leafing through these printed Cathedrals to excess, luxury and indulgence is a deliberate rejection of drudgery. It's total escapism.

There's something so deliciously indulgent about it.

And, believe it or not, there is a marketing lesson in there too, amongst all the high fashion and impossibly attractive people. Countess of the catwalk? Just call me Queen of the Segue.

I saw an ad in a magazine this week that genuinely struck me between the eyes. I’d love to share it with you, and pass on what it taught me; I promise it has nothing to do with handbags, wacky accessories or eye-watering price tags.

And fellas, don’t be put off by the mention of women’s magazines. We all know you flick through them when we’re not looking anyway, so stick with me…

Right! Through the (designer) wardrobe and into Narnia we go.

The unbridled joy of a glossy magazine

First, I need to explain the obsession.

Settling down with a freshly printed, glossy magazine, signals one thing to my mind. Time.

It reminds me of going on holiday, when you’ve hustled through security, bustled your way to the departure lounge, made the obligatory visit to Smiths and Boots, got the last minute bits you forgot, double-triple-quadruple checked and no, your passport hasn’t grown legs and run away and yep you did remember to lock the front door turn off the oven and and and…..breathe.

It’s fiiiiiine, everything is alright. You’re on holiday! Kick back...relax…

Magazines were the one slice of indulgence I’d allow myself as a broke student. Glued to a hot water bottle in a heating-less house, poring over the words and images like a hungry hound. It’s the companion at the hairdressers, as I steadily cook under the dryer with nothing to do but sit and enjoy someone else’s hard work in making life look so effortless.

Magazines – whatever their subject matter – appeal to our interests, then magnify them back to us a thousand times. They speak to a certain lifestyle, albeit a highly idealised one. From fashion to rave culture, from food to rock climbing, magazines enshrine the things we like and help us indulge them.

Magazines are the whole package

Best of all, magazines aren’t just an occasional treat, they’re a sensory experience. It’s all there: touch, sound, smell, sight, taste. Seriously. In a digital world, isn’t that more than you can say for scrolling through endless words and images on your phone?

  • Touch – magazines are physical things. Their tactility is what makes them so enticing. You can almost touch a different reality – like running your hand down the sleeve of that beautiful Chanel velvet blazer. Even if that’s only ever going to happen in picture form!

  • Sound – the sound that the pages make as you turn them one by one, or flick through to the feature you’re looking for is pleasingly present. And much more relaxing than the ping! of a notification.

  • Smell – who doesn’t love that freshly printed paper smell? Not forgetting, of course, the little paper perfume swatches, tucked away inside, adding another layer of opulence and sensory satisfaction.

  • Sight – the glossy cover, the gorgeous clothes, the immaculate hair, the otherworldly people, the incredible scenery in destination holidays, the beautiful design, the enticing art direction… Everything is arranged to visually please and titillate.

  • Taste – okay, maybe you can't taste a glossy magazine without chewing it up. Unless you think metaphorically, in which case taste is very much present. Now this is where our marketing message starts to kick in. It's that visual signifier, of sitting around the pool with a certain magazine. ‘Oh, hello world, this is my taste. This is the club that I'm in.’ It’s an age-old human impulse that magazines – and those that advertise in them – tap into with a touch as deft as a brain surgeon: these are the clothes I wear, the shoes I buy, the car I drive… Or whatever the ‘thing’ might be that appeals to us and reinforces our own taste.

The ad that slapped me in the face

Let’s put a pin in those magazines and nip back to advertising.

Putting my marketing head on, there's something special about the advertisements that you find in a glossy magazine. The brands that advertise there do print ads like no one else.

And the ad that slapped me in the face as I perused the pages, was this one:

It made me want to pin it to the wall. And when I’ve finished with the magazine, I will.  Fluffy clouds and blue sky? That's me all over, Dolly Daydream, as my mother would say. I love it professionally, too. The simplicity of the words, coupled with their boldness. The simplicity of the image. The balls to put out something so, well, out there.

Why does it work so well? Why did the creative team behind the ad-that’s-not-an-ad, strike gold?

  • It’s different – bright, fresh blue sky, is a total contrast to all the dark, opulent and autumn-hued ads that came before and after. As you flick through the pages, it catches the eye and it starts to set Moschino apart in your mind.

  • There's no product – there’s not even a logo. There are no people and there’s zero discernible landscape. Given that the piece is ‘not an advertisement’ but a ‘message of hope’, they are well and truly peddling this idea of something better through the imagery and carefully chosen words. And if ‘hope’ is not the most intoxicating, the most inviting, and the most perpetually almost-in-reach-carrot there is, then I’ll be damned.

Now, I need to make it clear that I couldn’t give a hoot about Moschino. If they fell off the face of the earth tomorrow, it wouldn’t make one jot of difference to my life. But now, they’re in my head. And soon, they’ll be on my wall too.

Let’s think about that in relation to why I love magazines. The touch, the sound, the smell, the sight. The pure escapism.

Suddenly, all of those things that I enjoy about that medium, that printed glossy magazine experience, I'm associating with Moschino. Not only are they selling me this wonderful message of hope, they’ve made it so that I can touch it. I can see it right there in front of me, I can cut it out of the magazine and stick it on my wall.

Now there’s another glaringly obvious point about marketing there, that maybe one day, if the advertising agency has done its job properly, I’ll spend my money with Moschino. That is, after all, the point of any advertising campaign: to slip assiduously into the consciousness of you, the viewer, and charm the brand’s cash out of your wallet.

But that’s only half the story…

You might be a business of one or you might be a marketing team of two. You might be at a company of 3,000 or 30,000; it doesn't matter. Maybe you have the budget of Dior and Balenciaga and maybe you don't.

Maybe you're not doing print ads that appear in a national glossy magazine. But I’d put money on the fact that you’re sending some kind of advertising out into the world.

And the point that I want to make today, is that if you’re spending money on advertising, you need to think about where your ads are placed. Consider where they are seen and what that says to your audience.

Think about the message your prospect is getting when they see your ad

To reach this Moschino ad, I passed adverts for Fendi, for Chanel, for Dolce and Gabbana, Dior, Prada, Armani… incredibly wealthy, massive global brands.

So if Moschino had not taken the advertising space, it would be like saying:

“Well, we're not as chic as Chanel, or we don't have the heritage of Dior, or the lux Italian sensibilities of Dolce and Gabbana...”

No. In placing their ad in a glossy fashion magazine, they made sure they were right there alongside their peers.

And in being different in such a luxurious space, they sent a strong message to their audience:

“Yes, we’re a luxury brand, but we’re not like the rest. Come to us for something original, something vibrant…”

Visually, their ad was in direct contrast to many of the other advertisements. This bright, breezy striking image and text combo juxtaposed the black and white photography of many of the surrounding ads. It’s the September issue of the magazine, it's coming up to autumn/winter; where other brands had chosen strong bold colours, glitz and glam for the upcoming festive season, and dark, muted, rich, luxurious tones, Moschino put their stamp on things.

By gauging the mood of the nation, of Western Europe, of the world, by cleverly anticipating how their competitors might proceed, and by sticking to a vision that was true to them, Moschino ensured that their ad placement spoke volumes.

Location, location, location

Where your ad appears communicates a lot to your audience, without saying a word. It can persuade them to think about you in a certain way even more effectively than what you say or how you say it.

And while you may not have the product, target market, or goals of an Italian fashion house, the same rules apply. You don't see premium house removal businesses advertising in the local rag. And you don't see your neighbourhood dog walker advertise in The Times.

Any ad you create needs to be compelling, to represent your brand in a great light, and it needs to communicate a clear message to the people that you want to speak to. But it matters where it's seen, too. Think about how placement of your message impacts on its overall reception.

And if you need a little help to get the words right in the first place, I’m more than happy to have a chat. After all…

Your words matter,


The Weekly Writing Reflection


Each week I share an inspirational quote and a writing prompt. The idea is for you to spend a moment doing some active reflection through writing.

Keeping with the theme, we’re discussing personal style this week and what it means to us. Enjoy, you sartorial darlings, you.

Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There's no how-to road map to style. It's about self-expression and, above all, attitude.”

  • Iris Apfel

And your writing prompt, if you’d like to use one:

  • The one item in my wardrobe/home/life that expresses my personality more than anything else, is… because….


What’s caught my eye this week

Each and every week I’ll share a few snippets of inspiration, thought-provocation and jubilation. Hand-curated delights, selected by yours truly to stimulate your mind and soothe your soul.  

  • The 7 Truths of Mentoring – found yourself in a mentoring role? Or perhaps you’re the one looking for a little guidance. These are the 7 things the ‘incorrigibly positive’ Barrie of Feasts and Fables knows to be true about mentoring.

  • The power of small adjustments – it’s been a while since I shared any of Seth Godin’s blogs. His recent piece on getting the details right chimed with me a lot. Here’s one for the cyclists and the non-cyclists too.

  • Who’s your alter ego? A long, and excellent, read on the benefits of stepping outside your own head and into someone else’s shoes.  

That’s all for this week!

See you back here next week for national #SwapIdeasDay. Got any ideas you’d like to share? About marketing, words, hope, or anything? Hit reply and let me know… I’d love to hear what you think is too good to be kept under your hat.