The Coachella Valley with its surrounding deserts is home to large music festivals, public art, and funky Joshua Tree. It’s also a collection of disparate communities with active adventurers looking for like-minded spirits.
Desert magazine (published by The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, California) established the Desert Adventure Club membership programme to better serve its audience, as well as to become a bigger part of the community and an active lifestyle brand.
In September 2015, Desert magazine had rebranded from an affluent, aspirational magazine to an authentic, thoughtful explorers magazine, aimed at connecting with active Millennials and Gen Xers while maintaining current readers.
With a strong brand identity and rapidly growing Instagram audience, the editors developed Desert Adventure Club so readers could actually live the experiences they read about in the magazine.
Members of Desert Adventure Club receive a weekly newsletter, written by Editor Kristin Scharkey, and first invitations to an event series for desert dwellers seeking adventure and community, created by the Director Kate Franco.
The year-long series features eight events, including a shibori (handmade dyeing technique) workshop, wine tasting, horseback ride, and a photography workshop on a modernist architecture tour.
The target size for each event is usually small, 10 to 25 people, to build community among participants and ensure quality. Each event is curated by our editors. Unique content is created in advance of each event, and attendees receive small tip sheets, which are included inside chic Field Notes notebooks with the Desert Adventure Club brand.
The cost of attending an event ranges. For example, one of the most popular events, the architecture tour, cost US$125 (including a landscape photography workshop on a Jeep tour). Lower-priced events, such as a US$25 guided hike of a national monument with a land trust, were also successful in attracting the sought-after younger audiences.
To develop the programme, editors pulled on smaller experiments with one-off events and analysis of the magazine’s audience on all platforms. The newsletter e-mail list was seeded with those who expressed interest in a Desert newsletter with opt-in lists from our “best of” contest.
We used social videos and shares to nearly 10,000 followers (now 12,000) on Instagram. This large audience was built over two years, and it remains our primary social media engagement channel.
The parent company of Desert, Gannett, built a custom membership page, which serves as the main direct landing page for the magazine. The page explains the value of the membership for the consumer and features upcoming events, photos of past events, highlighted magazine stories, and sponsors.
Desert Adventure Club has more than 3,700 active newsletter subscribers, with a consistent open rate over 30%. This relatively new brand has built an audience in the 25-44 age range on Instagram, with older Millennials and Gen Xers primarily making up attendees at the events.
Feedback from event participants say the person-to-person connection is why they continue to come back to the events and our brand. Out-of-area audiences are also growing, with some attendees reporting that they planned their travel specifically to attend our event.
As the digital and social footprint with our target audiences continues to grow, we continue to explore future sponsorship and revenue opportunities.