Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Texas Monthly Dec 2004

Posted by Scott On June - 7 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This classic Food cover exemplifies the concept of Radical Clarity.

Rule #23:  The 3 second Rule
Rule #24:  Always ask “What are we Selling?”

In less than 3 seconds you get what this cover is selling. Red Pepper (image) + Mexican Food (2 simple words) = Must Buy!

This issue was by far the top selling issue in 2004. It sold 41,400 copies at a stunning 69% sell-through efficiency. The other 11 issues that year averaged 29,976 copies sold. So this classic outsold the average by 11,424 copies or 38.1% better. An amazing accomplishment, considering how good most Texas Monthly covers truly are, and how loyal their readers are too.

Texas Monthly Dec 2004, is it Hall of Fame worthy?

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New Yorker Sept 24, 2001

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Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the Towers fell? This cover pays tribute to the tragedy in a way that only the New Yorker could achieve.

This cover triumphs, in every way, despite breaking a number of rules such as:
Rule # 11:   Color over Black
Rule #12:    Use Bold Type Treatments
Rule #13:    Don’t be Depressing
Rule #27:    Use Cover Lines

According to ABC statistics, this issue sold 162,647 copies at newsstands.  The average sale on all other issues in 2001 was 44,430 copies.  Therefore this classic cover sold 118,217 more copies than the average, an increase of over 266%.

New Yorker Sept 24 2001, is it Hall of Fame worthy?

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New Yorker July 21st, 2008

Posted by Scott On June - 7 - 20101 COMMENT

This cover breaks a few rules, namely:

Rule #27:  Use Cover Lines
Rule #10:  Use Photos over Illustrations

But this is all trumped by two other rules, namely:

Rule #1:  There are always exceptions to the rules
Rule #6:  Be controversial

Legendary illustrator (and former second basemen for the Toronto Life co-ed softball team) Barry Blitt created this amazing cover which caused a national media PR bonanza for the New Yorker.

A cover that was meant to be a satire of Obama’s moronic critics was most-likely deliberately misunderstood and used for cynical partisan advantage. The cover controversy illustrated just how politically correct, humourless and polarized America had become.

According to ABC statistics, this cover sold 84,100 copies. This was by far the best-selling issue of the New Yorker in 2008. The worst-seller that year sold 27,400 copies. The average for all other issues in 2008 was 42,903. Therefore, this cover sold 96% better than the average for 2008.

New Yorker July 21st 2008, is it Hall of Fame worthy?

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New Yorker Mar 29, 1976

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This classic from the New Yorker trumps the rule to avoid illustrated covers.

In a New York second, it communicates the ego-centric perspective that citizens of The Big Apple are often accused of having with respect to their place in the world.

Memorable, funny, original, and often imitated, these are sure signs that a classic cover was achieved.

New Yorker Mar 29 1976, is it Hall of Fame worthy?

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Vanity Fair Aug 1992

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Wishing to repeat their spectacular success on the newsstand with the Demi Moore pregnant nude from August 1991, Vanity Fair’s Annie Leibovitz got Demi Moore to pose for this cover.

According to Wikipedia:

“In the Demi’s Birthday Suit August 1992 issue of Vanity Fair, Moore was shown on the cover in the body painting photo by Joanne Gair.
The painting is the best-known example of modern body painting artwork.
It made Gair an immediate pop culture star as the most prominent body paint artist, which prompted consideration for an Absolut Vodka Absolut Gair ad campaign.

Much of the media buzz focused on how quickly Demi had “recovered” from pregnancy (see August 1991 cover).

According to ABC, the issue sold 541,944 copies. The other 11 issues that year averaged 332,108.
Therefore it beat the others by 209,836 copies or 63% more copies sold.

Vanity Fair Aug 1992, is it Hall of Fame worthy?

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Vanity Fair Aug 1991

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An Annie Leibovitz classic, this cover sparked considerable controversy, and lots of free promotional support, when it hit shelves in August of 1991.

According to Wikipedia “the frankness of Leibovitz’ portrayal of a pregnant sex symbol led to divided opinions, ranging from complaints of sexual objectification to celebrations of the photograph as a symbol of empowerment.”

Demi Moore was 7 months pregnant when the picture was taken.

According to ABC, the issue sold 546,766 copies. The other 11 issues that year averaged 292,874. Therefore it beat the others by 253,892 copies or 87% more copies sold.

Vanity Fair Aug 1991, is it Hall of Fame worthy?

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National Lampoon Jan 1973

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This cover is arguably one of the most controversial covers ever produced.  It is doubtful PETA would let this classic cover go unanswered in today’s politically correct environment.

The cover earns high marks for risk taking, cutting through the clutter of predictable mediocrity, and evoking strong emotions.


National Lampoon Jan 1973, is it Hall of Fame worthy?

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Maclean’s Dec 2000

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While it is usually true that illustrated covers don’t sell as well as covers using photography, this classic cover from Maclean’s proves that rules are meant to be broken. The winking beaver cover has so much attitude, and promises so much fun, it simply refuses to be ignored.

This cover sold 293% more copies than the average issue of Maclean’s, in 2000, and the sell-through efficiency was 26.5pts higher that the average too.

Maclean’s Dec 2000, is it Hall of Fame worthy?

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New York Mar 24 2008

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This classic cover earns high marks for its “radical clarity”, humour, and less-is-more approach to cover design. The black border signals it is an important cover. The white background lends “pop” factor. The circulator’s arrow device finishes the job.

This risky cover paid off with sales that were 35% better than their average for 2008.

New York Mar 24 2008, is it Hall of Fame worthy

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Filling the House

Posted by Scott On June - 4 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

The opening night Marquee Event for the 2010 MagNet Conference was a standing-room only sell-out.

David Granger, the innovative editor of Esquire, delivered an inspirational presentation for Canada’s best and brightest magazine professionals.

Think Ketchup, Granger told the audience. While the stuff inside the old glass bottle has always been great, finding a better packaging device, like the new upside down squeeze bottle, makes a great product even better.


For those in attendance, the buzz was electric, as Granger shared highlights and insights from his collaboration with the editorial team, design team, production team, advertisers and senior management at Hearst.

The presentation was candid and personally revealing, as Granger spoke about “desperation, despair and disillusionment” being a driving force that editors use (if they are any good) to fuel creativity and innovation.

While Granger made it crystal clear that great content is key to Esquire’s success (referencing a recent article about Roger Ebert, which resulted in over “800,000 people reading the story online)”, much of his presentation focused on packaging. Many of Granger’s best-selling covers hit the screen in all their glory.


Jul 2007 Jolie

As the MagNet brochure pointed out:

“Granger’s uncompromising—and sometimes contentious—vision about the role of covers has earned Esquire a reputation as being unafraid to push the envelope. Esquire merged an innovative digital technology with a mass-produced print product be embedding an electronic paper display in its 75th Anniversary issue. In early 2009, Esquire again entered into the fray by putting a ‘trap door’ in its cover and then creating the first ever ‘mix-‘n-match’ magazine cover.”

Granger dazzled the audience when he demonstrated his “augmented reality” interactive magazine. Canadian editors, art directors, publishers and circulators were salivating.

During the Q & A that followed, a brave soul questioned why so much of the presentation revolved around packaging as opposed to content, as if to suggest that packaging was fluff.

Granger must have had to bite his tongue to remain polite. After all, since assuming the editorship in June of 1997 Esquire has won 13 National Magazine Awards and has been a finalist for 47. Remaining composed, Granger pointed out that great packaging helps “fill the house” with readers. Ultimately, that’s the job editors are hired to achieve. He went on say that he hates focus groups, because “I don’t want to give people what they want. I want to give them what they never could have expected.”

Let there be no doubt about it, David Granger gets it.

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About Me

Scott Bullock’s Newsstand Cover Quiz Show is legendary in the industry. Using covers as the catalyst, this interactive and entertaining format is a light-hearted but hard-hitting spin on Packaging 101. Testing the cover savvy of magazine professionals across disciplines, the Quiz Show pits publishers against editors, circulators against art directors, retailers against wholesalers -- ultimately leading to new common ground in the quest for better covers. Scott is the Owner of Circ3, Smart Circulation Solutions, a circulation consultancy. www.circ3.com

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