A round up of the latest luxury brand magazines designed for the Apple iPad, featuring Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Omega and Bentley.
Just 80 days after its release, the Apple iPad had sold over three million units. Six months later global tablet sales are estimated at 4.4 million units, with the Apple product accounting for 95% of the market. Consumers have been quick to embrace this next digital platform and an increasing number of luxury brands are taking note.
Generally brands are embracing the more obvious options; e-commerce, catalogue digitalisation and retail integration are the choice de jour. However a handful have recognised the further potential of the iPad’s interactive capabilities and are designing applications that enhance their remote customer experience and extend the value of their existing printed media. Where brands have historically launched magazines to maintain the after sales brand-customer relationship, digitalisation opens up such interaction to prospective clients, at a significantly lower cost than pursuit of new business through print media.
That noted, luxury brands would be foolish to see the iPad only as a cost effective magazine strategy or a way of communicating with a previously untargeted audience. Luxury brands choosing to utilise, embrace and develop innovative content for these tools are already speaking to a precisely segmented group of consumers.
Much like a BMW 6 Series or an Omega Chronograph, Apple’s iPad is available through a deliberate and controlled network of distribution channels, marketed at a premium price and designed with equal importance on aesthetics as on functionality. Apple may not be a luxury brand per se, however their iProducts are all unmatched in terms of brand tribalism and consumer resonance. They belong to a handful of electronic items that are seen just as much as a lifestyle statement as a connectivity choice.
Since the initial explosion of the iPod, Apple have become synonymous with developing products, that create a proactive need in the market, rather than following the reactive curve of demand. Now the question is; can luxury brands utilise this interactive piece of technology to do the same thing?
BMW were one of the first luxury brands to develop an iPad offering, releasing their BMW Magazine through the App store in May 2010. Although they can be credited as early adopters of the technology, their initial offering reflected the haste by which they involved themselves in this new media, effectively executing a straight cut-and-paste of the print version into an iPad compatible file.
The latest 2/2010 iZine shows far more understanding, creativity and enthusiasm for the iPad’s capabilities. The second application still succeeds at communicating as a magazine, but in a more sophisticated and enriching way. Every article has some degree of interactivity, whether it be the ability to rotate images, view a vehicle in 3D, paint a BMW Art Car or listen to the sound of a BMW motorcycle engine, it is a luxury offering that is stylish, engaging and most importantly fun.
Travel articles have been integrated with maps, to physically guide users to their BMW recommended destinations, there is enough video content present to be informative without being ambitious and the application looks and feels as sleek as a BMW brand initiative should. Where the content is heavily skewed towards motoring, BMW have still clearly communicated the lifestyle values of their brand and further deepened the interaction with their customers. It is the kind of product that creates talking points between brand enthusiasts and has the ability to communicate well beyond its target market. It is no surprise that BMW are the first car manufacture to offer iPad connectivity options in their vehicles beginning Spring 2011.
App Store: BMW Magazine
The Mercedes offering is equally as engaging, opening with a short brand centric film the user immediately abandons all pre-conceived notions of a magazine and moves effortlessly into the Mercedes digital world. The articles are presented as an interactive grid, whereby selecting a feature you are transported to a bespoke feature menu; where you can then choose to scroll through the original article or peruse the video, audio, photo, three-dimensional or interactive options associated with the piece.
A unique feature to the Mercedes application is a tangible link between the lifestyle marketing of the magazine and preliminary sales tools for the dealers; at the end of every Mercedes related article, the user has the option to request a product brochure, search for their closest dealer or overview all Mercedes-Benz models at a glance. They have also integrated some of their television advertising between the features, which provides a nice break to the senses after reading a long article.
Where BMW are thinking outside the square with magazine-to-map navigation, memory games and user created art, Mercedes have created a focused and purposeful offering by thinking within. By keeping their eyes on the prize, they have managed to enable users to engage with the brand and take preliminary steps towards a purchase, arguably the dual purpose of any marketing initiative.
App Store: Mercedes Magazine
The Omega offering is similarly integrated, providing dual functionality to be read as a traditional magazine or browsed as a collection of images. Their use of photography, animation and video offers an enriching accompaniment to the text; however the standout feature of the Swiss watchmakers App is the ability to listen to entire articles.
Lifetime users have the option to listen to complete audio features whilst the screen displays an array of images or animations relevant to the content. This is a particularly thoughtful addition for iPad owners, who are likely to have purchased the iPad for its unsurpassed portability and versatile functionality, whether they are taking a long haul flight, driving to their weekend house or commuting to the office, they are still able to utilise the Omega content without having to look at the screen. It could also be used as a clever way to share an interesting article with others, without the constraints of physically sharing the device.
Despite this being Omega’s first foray into iPad technology, such features show an acknowledgement of the iPad as the next important method of communication to luxury consumers and a degree of commitment and creativity from the watchmaker to the technology.
App Store: Omega Lifetime
The Jaguar Magazine for the iPad is especially focused on content and designed within the parameters of a traditional magazine. Despite this focus, the iPad application only hosts an edited selection of what is available in the printed magazine, enhanced with additional images, additional information and where applicable, maps.
Why Jaguar chose to omit existing content from the digital offering is unclear. It may be a move to tailor the offering to iPad users and create a more relevant brand experience, it could also be a test launch to better understand functionality, capabilities and return on investment.
However, one issue with releasing a seemingly incomplete product to market, is engaging an audience that may become disappointed with the application not return to engage in the future. A key draw card for iPad marketing is the ability for the brand and the customer to take their relationship to the next level, and for the brand to further integrate itself into the consumers life. Developing an initial platform that disappoints the customer threatens such potential, and undermines the effectivity of the App itself.
Whilst it is a passable foray into the digital space it is by no means as engaging as competitor applications and outside of providing a digital version of the magazine, does little to further build the customer’s relationship with the Jaguar brand.
App Store: Jaguar Magazine
Bentley have designed a similar content-focused application, enhancing their print content with film footage and imagery to create a more interactive experience for their readers. Despite basic interactive content, the integrated potential of the iPad has largely been unrealised. As with Jaguar Magazine, the application merely communicates the print offering in a digital space, where even the traditional layout of a magazine has been preserved.
In keeping with the nature of the brand, this may be all the Bentley client requires. Arguably, a Bentley Mulsanne owner and a BMW Z3 owner are going to have different expectations and desires when it comes to technology, therefore it is important for brands to develop these applications with their target customer firmly in mind. The brand building potential of the iPad will be lost, if brands seek to develop applications that are everything to everybody.
Regardless of the varying levels of sophistication demonstrated in these offerings, the utilisation of the iPad as a digital medium makes it clear that luxury brands have an enormous scope to use this technology, to engage their customers far beyond what was previously possible.
App Store: Pure Bentley