The making of South Africa’s biggest foodie magazine
by Herman Manson (@marklives) Fresh Living, Pick n Pay’s consumer title, took eight months to establish itself as South Africa’s biggest-selling food magazine when content marketer, John Brown South Africa, launched it 10 years ago. Over most of the next decade, it maintained its position. Having proven itself by increasing shopper-visit frequency and basket size, Pick n Pay changed track in March 2016 by making half a million copies available to members of its Smart Shopper loyalty programme.
According to Lani Carstens, managing director at John Brown Media, the massively upped print run offers a sense of the resurgence of print and its value offering to brands (as opposed to the traditional consumer-magazine market).
Carstens describes the work her Fresh Living team does as editorialised brand content. The team of 22 (editorial and advertising) produces the magazine, all brand extensions and content across several social media channels and the brand website — including features, recipe generation and videos (one on making the perfect pizza, shared on social media, generated 250 000 views in its first week). Its weekly Supper Sorted email newsletter, which offers ideas on menus for the week ahead, has a 82% open rate (and you may print out your shopping list if you intend following its suggestions).
Fresh Living, says Carstens, is one of SA’s biggest content-marketing success stories. This she largely ascribes to Justine Drake‘s intense focus on readers, whom she puts first in her editorial decision-making, rather than simply producing copy that would serve the brand in isolation. The key has been in finding a way to speak to consumers while representing the brand in a way that consumers do not feel sold to.
The change in strategy, from news-stand sales to being free for loyal shoppers, is driven by the need to get more copies of the magazine into the hands of more consumers, who in turn are spending more money and time in PnP aisles. It’s a huge investment for the client — imagine the bill for printing 500 000 magazines every month — but it’s paying off. Considering that there are an estimated 10m members to the Smart Shopper loyalty programme, the opportunity for further growth is also possible. The current pass-on rate stands at two other people per copy, giving the magazine an estimated audience of 1.5m: a number that starts competing with TV for eyeballs.
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Drake works closely with the client’s marketing department. When the fresh produce team decides it wants to push something, eg kale, in a particular month, the magazine will find ways of featuring it in recipes; usually, this results in a significant uplift in product sales. The latest quantitative research with Smart Shoppers also shows that 92% of readers say they buy the products featured in Fresh Living.
The magazine sells around 30 ads per issue, too, helping offset costs for the supermarket retailer.
The relationship with Pick n Pay is that of a long-term partnership. The Fresh Living team challenges itself to keep innovating, something Carstens gladly embraces. She wants to get the brand and its content in front of more and more customers.
Supplied by John Brown
Short, snackable video content aligned to tactical days is some of the most-popular content on Pick n Pay’s social media, driving engagement and longer viewing times. Here are a few examples.
A series of videos giving viewers new ideas for affordable protein alternatives, with a local twist
- “Breakfast Pap Pizza” achieved over 258 000 views on Facebook, reached over 903 000 people and received over 43 000 engagements. The series had a combined 673 000 views on Facebook.
A branded content piece with Johnnie Walker Gold for Whisky Day
- “Spiked Orange Hot Chocolate” achieved over 279 000 views, reached over 824 000 people and received over 18 000 engagements
A tactical video for International Coffee Day with a fab iced-coffee idea
- “Ice Coffee” achieved over 171 000 views on Facebook, reached over 707 000 people and received over 51 000 engagements
- Viewers loved the idea and the post received over 330 comments, 2 800 reactions and was shared over 3 200 times
For seasonal campaigns, we use a mix of video, stills and animated gifs in social media to keep PnP top of mind and to showcase ideas, food inspiration and amazing products from PnP that may make these key events special. Here are some examples.
Christmas 2016 — a series of videos featured Chef Siphokazi with fresh new ideas for festive crowd pleasers
- These videos achieved over 365 000 combined views across social media platforms, and received wonderful interactions and user-generated content by fans who tried these recipes.
Easter 2017 – a wider campaign with a microsite and supporting content, including a series of videos on social media
- These videos achieved over 433 000 combined views across social media platforms
- The Easter Bunny Bark video was used for an in-stream ad campaign on YouTube and achieved a 25% view rate.
Animated gifs – carefully timed to autoplay and repeat in newsfeed – provide a bit of interest, humour and fun on tactical holidays
- Easter Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Family Day
- Achieved a combined reach of 201 000 people and resulted in high-quality engagement
By using educational, informative and relatable content to communicate with PnP’s digital audience, John Brown produced animated infographics to inform people of how Smart Shopper was changing to work better for consumers.
- Smart Shopper Infographic explained, in a bite-sized format, how Smart Shopper was changing
- Reached over 287 000 people, received the highest engagement of any post
In 2016 we produced a series of Heritage Day videos via Fresh Living, speaking to four South African personalities about their fondest food memories and family recipes. A couple of examples:
- This specific video achieved over 246 000 views!
Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com.