Publishers need to work harder at creating the need for books as a product, rather than focusing on their brands, delegates to The Bookseller’s Marketing and Publicity Conference have heard.
Speaking during a panel entitled ‘Is our business like show business?: What we should (and shouldn’t!) learn from other industries', Chris McCrudden (pictured), strategy director at Golin PR, said that publishers should “create the need for product before they create the need for brand”, adding that at the moment that there are “lots and lots and lots of little campaigns trying to get you to buy a particular book, but nothing trying to get consumers to buy books in general”.
The panel noted the wealth of material publishers have to work with, with Albert Hogan, who is currently director of group marketing and audience at Penguin Random House UK, explaining that he worked on 15 film campaigns a year while head of digital strategy at film studio Universal Pictures, whereas now at PRH works on 600 different titles.
Hogan said: “Publishers’ focus is on campaign level, but we need to think big - where does reading fit into the modern person's life? At PRH, we’re trying not to think about what’s next, but consider the bigger picture.”
Discussing the subject of reading as a whole, McCrudden said that there are many reading campaigns that are not supported by publishers and cited the Books Are My Bag Campaign, which is run on little budget but attempts to foster a love of reading in consumers. He said publishers needed to remember they’re competing against big digital companies that provide entertainment and that these companies are concerned with scale, not profit.
He said that an “excellent” example of how to make a category work for product is Amazon's audiobook publisher Audible, whose campaigns promote listening as an experience, not simply Audible as a brand. He noted that audio is the only category in publishing that in recent years has grown in double digits.
Hogan said that the industry has a “long way to go” regarding utilising video, but that by 2018, 79% of all consumer traffic will be with video. He said that the industry is still “testing things out, but not really making much headway”.
McCrudden, who was formerly head of technology at Midas PR, said: “Most of us would come to video by thinking about video with TV production values. But I think we look at what Youtube has produced and what web adverts produce as a better guide as to how you can engage with video."
He added that although publishers and other industries needed to start looking more at video, "publishers have done some excellent work in building engaged communities, particularly on Twitter". He said: "Publishers have done some impressive work in the more clever and more federated way of building buzz for their books. Other industries think one brand speaks to all; they have a great deal to learn from publishing.”
Also speaking at the panel was director of brand, planning and insight at HarperCollins, Jen Callahan Packer and m.d. of Riot Communications, Preena Gadher.