Do you aspire to be in the Architectural Review? When you were a student, did you covet an association with the AR – thinking – one day, I’ll design a building that gets featured in the AR. Then I’ll have made it, but in the meantime, I will get a subscription as soon as I can afford it…?
I was that student, and I was dragged back to my student days when the aspirational value of the AR became a topic of conversation at lunch during the Emap Construction Marketing Conference yesterday in London. By a series of coincidences I ended up talking to Mike Wintermeyer of Woodhouse and Nick Roberts, account manager for the Architectural Review in the UK, Europe and America.
Both these men represent aspirational, inspirational products. The AR is coveted by architectural students, some of whom will be the next generation contributors, but also most of whom look to it for inspiration, beginning when they are at architecture school. This affection turns into an element of nostalgia later, because even if you don’t make it, your personal subscription to the AR brings you continued reinforcement of your student aspiration, and I know many architects who proudly display their Architectural Review copies going back decades, many marked up with post-it notes against their favourite projects.
What’s interesting is that this quality of aspiring to beautiful architecture, beautifully photographed, continues into other areas. Mike’s company, Woodhouse, makes high quality co-ordinated lighting and street furniture, and traditionally market their product with the sort of aspirational photography for which the AR is famous. They even have a ‘little black book’ of photographs of their products.
We were talking (of course) about the influence of social media on buying and specifying habits, and how internet tools can now enable your potential customers to find, share and engage with you and your product in a new way. This is pull marketing – where the prospect searches for what s/he needs (say an image, application or specification for a product) and finds your product along the way. Instead of cold calling or spamming with email and direct mail, companies can make themselves visible, approachable, active and helpful on the internet, and customers will come to them.
The AR is going to stay a print publication – its readership would revolt if it didn’t, especially the vast proportion of individual subscribers for whom the AR is a luxury they love, one they will ensure they can always afford. What will be interesting is how these products use the new social tools of the web to keep their customers and recruit the next generation of advocates online.