In 2015, a Men’s Health-branded line of vitamins appeared on the shelves of supermarkets and pharmacies across the United Kingdom. The vitamins, which promote everything from cardiovascular health and joint endurance to mental focus, have also served as a shot in the arm for the venerable men’s magazine’s revenues.
“Vitamins are a natural brand fit for Men’s Health and a product we can easily weave into our content plans,” says Alun Williams, group publishing director for Hearst-Rodale, a joint venture between Hearst Magazines UK and Rodale Inc. and the UK publisher of Men’s Health magazine. “We know from our research that Men’s Health is a brand that is trusted and has deep customer engagement. When you couple this with our editorial ethos … it seemed a logical fit to engage with our audience in new and exciting ways.”
The vitamins are Men’s Health’s third entry into the consumer products market in the UK. The magazine helped develop and test a line of premium home gym equipment in partnership with Argos in 2013. It also produces Men’s Health Beef Jerky, a high-protein, all-natural, low-sugar healthy snack, in partnership with a food manufacturer. The product “has had real success in Tesco,” one of the UK’s leading retailers, Williams says.
According to Williams, the approach in each case has been to concentrate on products that fit with the magazine’s editorial focus on empowering its readers “to improve all aspects of their lives.”
“The strategy is to only look at product areas where we can bring a tangible benefit to the process,” Williams says. “At every stage, we ask ourselves, ‘Why is this a Men’s Health product?’ If we can’t answer that question, we don’t do it.”
The collaboration with Omega Pharma on Men’s Health vitamins began in April 2014. Research identified that 81% of the Men’s Health audience uses vitamins, a marketplace worth £357 million in the UK.
“The men’s vitamin sector currently offers only a very limited range and few individual products targeted specifically at men, but there’s a strong growth potential ahead,” Stefan Balemans, head of global marketing for Omega Pharma Corporate, said in a statement. “With this disruptive concept leveraging a market-leading and trusted global brand, there’s little doubt it will contribute to drive penetration and usage of vitamins among men.”
The partnership was forged through a third party, the aptly-named Golden Goose Brand Licensing Consultancy. Men’s Health opted to work with Golden Goose in 2013 to optimise product offerings across all of its international markets and ensure that offerings are consistent with the magazine’s brand and goals.
The consultancy has made efforts to be protective of the Men’s Health brand and its values, Williams says: “They understand the brand and our core editorial pillars, and therefore act as a first filter on the possibilities in the market, which are multiple, but certainly not all are suitable given our brand values.”
The vitamin line took a year to develop. Working with the pharmaceutical company was made easier because both organisations took steps to identify their goals and values “so we had a clearly defined framework in which to collaborate,” Williams says.
The product rollout has been supported by a £1 million media campaign focused on “pushing your limits a little bit further and fulfilling your true potential in many aspects of your life.” It has included outdoor, digital, and print advertising, as well as “aspirational brand ambassadors.” Sales have been “very strong to date,” Williams says. Men’s Health receives a royalty based on sales.
“Ultimately, our aim is to be the best-selling range of men’s vitamins in the UK,” he adds. Men’s Health is also exploring other consumer product opportunities, particularly in the food and nutrition space “which is an incredibly strong editorial pillar for our brand,” Williams says.
Williams stresses that Men’s Health’s ability to enter the consumer products marketplace is a result of its brand-building efforts. As the UK’s best-selling men’s magazine, Men’s Health has extended its reach beyond print, including to social media, where it has developed a following of more than 600,000, and an annual obstacle course series called Survival of the Fittest, which draws more than 20,000 participants.
“These touch points allow us to engage with our audience in more ways than ever before,” Williams says.
This is one of 14 case studies featured in INMA’s strategic report “Revenue Diversification Beyond Traditional Print and Digital,” released in December 2015.