Big Brothers’ Monocle

Posted on 26 juillet 2010

If you are a world traveller and regular reader of some of the Conde Nast titles for example you might have noticed with disagreement the fact that an editorial published in the american edition of AD might be featured a few months later in the european editions. Good for Conde Nast management but pitiful for you who are supposedly identified as one of these people who even while traveling (very often indeed !) can’t help buying magazines. It comes either as a lack of respect or marketing insight of the targeted readership or a (low) cost cut strategy, or even a way to say : ‘hey there’s not enough relevant stories to write about !’ Although it might just turned out to be a failed tentative to provide locals with targeted content … But let’s leave the airport lounge and look at London creative scene a decade ago or so !

Wink reaction to London’s creative scene boom

Fifteen years ago or so, when design boom started to be so important that standard art or lifestyle magazines could not anymore support this all coming flood of editorial new contents some young entrepreneurs with insight, let’s say Tyler Brûlé for instance thought that design addicts and professionals deserved better quality available in appropriate quantity. The period is the one of YBA (Young British Artists’s Sensation exhibition in 1997 in London’s Royal College and NYC’s Brooklyn Museum of Art) promoted by Charles Saatchi, creative industries, contemporary art is becoming a major way of expression for english society and a cash flow mean for a few of them, design schools starts to go beyond final year show exercise and (Sir) Terence Conran is made a Lord by the Queen due to its ‘art’ and business successes, Tom Dixon and other local designers’ works such as Zaha Hadid get international exposure. There was room for success stories although Brûlé did not turn to be the design entrepreneur as we know him today in the wink of an eye. To catch this train and start your business at a proper time, and this was definitely the right time, reactivity was demanded. We’re in 1996 and Brûlé is definitely time to market.

Wallpaper for the soul*

Back then Brûlé is a young reporter for the BBC. Born in Canada, he’s yet lived in London since more than a decade. He has developed great ideas and most of all a visionary take on design as an industry and a new far west. East in fact since except of UK, France and Italy, this is in Eastern Europe and Asia that design is growing at major level. At this time North America (even America as a continent) isn’t that much in the course. This is when Brûlé started Wallpaper magazine in London. He gained experience of print journalism from writing for Stern, The Guardian, The Sunday Times and Vanity Fair.

As a magazine Wallpaper came with more than great editorials, etc … almost with a soul. The magazine was so well marketed and branded that it beat its corporate customers’ image strategy. Some big brands that wanted to buy ad spaces would not ‘qualify’ since their ad materials were poor and actually featuring bad graphic design …

This was with this issue that Brûlé emphasized the need for good marketing x good design. In the style of the italian Domus magazines in its time Wallpaper became a reference for the market on both an economic and ‘artistic’ view. Niche designers would be mentioned next to mass market or iconic pieces. Collectors objects are for the soul, mass production for the business reality. Opposite theory would show correct as well with the emerging design auctions events by Philips de Pury or Christies, giving then opportunities for some major reports in Wallpaper mag.

To be able to include advertising with a coherent image Wallpaper sales and marketing teams developed an internal advertising agency focusing on visual arts and graphic design. This is how the Winkreative design and communication agency was founded in 1998. When Tyler Brûlé sold his stakes in Wallpaper (may 2002) the London agency remained independent and later opened offices in various cities including Tokyo, Zurich and New York. Major commissions by Winkreative includes rebranding of Swiss (airlines company) or soon to come launch of Stylus Interiors by former cofounder of WGSN, Marcus Worth.

Big Brothers’ Monocle

The world coming to a point when information is key there is still a lack of accurate insightful medias (what we call digests in the industry). This becoming a major problem there was a need for a magazine that could satisfy the growing design addicts crowd while giving the right knowledge on more general issues. On a marketing point of view, design addicts (real ones if assumed that there is fake ones) are mostly highly educated, with high incomes, generally senior managers and well travelled people. And they are many if you consider that online magazine by design entrepreneur Marcus Fair (Dezeen) is more than one million readers a month. So lets say a small percentage of this group is likely to pay 10€ (5£) a month (75£ a year) for your magazine and luxury brands’ marketing managers are following the move – you are the next niche media tycoon !

Next step for Tyler Brûlé was the Monocle concept which operates from London since february 2007. A magazine with an eye opened on the world. A weekly columnist for the Financial Times, Tyler Brûlé imagined a magazine that would feature not design only content but anything related to international economic and politics affairs, society and the arts, a light touch of fashion, CSR, business insights. A demonstrative and coherent proof of this content core strategy recently came up with journalist Ann Marie Gardner reporting on Iceland economic turmoil when it actually happened (december 2008) and coming back there to interview people a year after so as to tell about the improvements and still current national issues. With words from Prime Minister Johanna Siguroardottir and local heroes (Kaffi Midja coffee shop owner or a private fund manager at Audur Capital) as well. Not just lifestyle but real life knowledge, analysis, this is part of Monocle’s young DNA. Monocle is printed 10 times a year with copies sold in selective newspapers shops and libraries. Monocle is actually a brand not a company – it is published by Winkontent Ltd the sister company of Winkreative, in charge of any editorial content or TV program production. Both companies are subsidiaries part of Winkorp AG the ‘mother’ company based in Switzerland.

Behind the printed magazine and web site, there is the Monocle brand concept, and it is very strong. Based on strong partnerships with equally high street or small enterprises, craft workers, innovation labs or independent labels, it has room for differentiate conceptual offers filling a gap. Limited and exclusives co-branded editions are available on the Monocle e-shop and in its permanent (London Marylebone and Dover Street Market shop in shop + Los Angeles’ Santa Monica with top customer service by Erin & Andy !) plus seasonal ‘pop up’ stores (Lane Crawford in Hong Kong is due to open this month). And it isn’t just for a shirt or a Beams watch that you’d make an order but for one of the past issued magazine and its country surveys.

See Wallpaper / Monocle / Winkreative and check out for Tyler Brûlé’s next visionary move forward… /Text by Andrée Fraiderik-Vertino/ Cooperative Design /Pictured above is editor, marketing expert and serial entrepreneur Tyler Brûlé at the 2009 Financial Times Luxury Conference in Monaco