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ROAS vs engagement: What role can magazines play in brand building?

Patanjali Ayurved’s Anita Nayyar, Havas Media Group’s Mohit Joshi, Agrimedia’s Jean Paul Reparon in conversation with Association of Indian Magazines’ (AIM) B Srinivasan held a discussion on - ROAS versus engagement: How magazines can participate in enhancing brands' engagement with their communities?

Industry players at the Indian Magazine Congress 2023 discussed the changing role of magazines in enhancing brands’ engagement with their communities. With the rise of digital media and the focus on ROI, the panellists emphasised the need for magazines to reengineer and reinvent themselves to remain relevant. 

While acknowledging the importance of bottom-up sales for D2C brands, they also stressed that brand building and awareness remain critical for sustained success, and also about the return on advertising spends (ROAS).

Anita Nayyar

Anita Nayyar, COO, Media, Branding and Communications at Patanjali Ayurved, Mohit Joshi, CEO at Havas Media Group India, Jean Paul Reparon, MD, Agrimedia, Netherlands in conversation with B Srinivasan, President of Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) and MD of Ananda Vikatan held a discussion on the topic – ‘ROAS versus engagement: How magazines can participate in enhancing brands' engagement with their communities?’

Nayyar said that earlier magazines were seen as tools for engaging audiences. They were used to responsibly build brands as you had engaging communities which were actually reading those magazines. 

“There used to be specialised magazines catering to men, women, fashion, travel, general interest, etc. At that time, magazines used to engage audiences, and for brands engaged audiences were most important. Today, brands work in a jiffy. We still remember Cadbury as they spent so many years spending money. On the other hand, Mamaearth is going through a bad time as they were a digital-first brand and now they are suddenly talking about going phygital,” Nayyar stated. 

“Brands have moved away from thinking that engagement with communities over a period of time actually results in branding. The question lies in how magazines re-engineer and re-invent themselves with so much happening in the environment around us where people don't have time to read,” she added.  

Mohit Joshi

Agreeing with Nayyar’s statement that brands are being made in a jiffy today, Joshi said, “The question of ROI that is coming through our marketing mix has kind of disoriented the way brands used to build classically. At that point in time magazines used to have an apparent role play and they have had a very strong association with all of us. But today we are not planning content, we are planning an ROI and under that pressure, we are using magazines on digital but not for branding.” 

Srinivasan asked that today a magazine brand even getting a foot in the doors of the advertisers has become really difficult. Because the moment you say magazine, you have a TV that gives you reach, then you have digital and newspapers. How do we approach saying a magazine is much more than just print?

Jean Paul

On this, Jean spoke about the importance of contextual content for community development and engagement. 

Nayyar said, “I think when things change around us, we also need to change. Till now, salespeople from magazines still believe they are just magazine sellers. But as long as you are internalising the fact that you are not just a magazine seller you have so much more to offer, as I have a platform to offer that has engageable audiences. All brands want engagement with audiences.”

“I don't think we should be looking at ROI. With the advent of digital, it came as a return on advertising spending. What will you sell a magazine on?” she added. 

Srinivasan said that rather than saying who magazines are, they should talk about what they do and how best they can engage. “So, we are storytellers, we engage audiences, we have contextual content that can serve you the audiences you want on a platform.”

Joshi stated that ROAS is here to stay. Right now, D2C brands or any other brand first want to look at the sales and they want to build the bottom of the funnel strongly. 

“But the bottom of the funnel cannot continue delivering until the top of the funnel starts delivering and that's where brand building happens,” he added. 

Nayyar said, “We are talking about D2C brands doing bottom-up. If there is no brand, there is no performance and by that saying, I don't mean you spend years which many brands have spent in brand building. However, the messaging for a brand that goes out, which quickly brings in that awareness, that time spent needs to be crunched.”

Today, most top brands are getting funded and the investors are on their necks, their P&Ls are in red because they have been spending investors’ money. But today investors have become smarter and they are saying they need their returns, she added.

Furthermore, she went on to state that the faster one tries and makes a model where they are able to create awareness for brands quickly the better it will be. It is never going to be performance first and awareness later. ROIs will stay as anybody who is asking for investment will definitely ask for returns, she said on a concluding note.

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