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When publishers don’t sell books

November 11, 2010

Publishing isn’t just about producing and selling books – or producing and selling book-like things. A growing number of ‘book’ publishers and newspapers now offer existing customers new products and services and/or court new customers with their extended brand.

From the examples I tracked down when researching a teaching session on ‘product and service diversification’ this week, these brand extensions seem to fall into three camps:

  • Selling branded content in other formats through other channels
  • Selling branded merchandise in a variety of forms
  • Selling branded services in a variety of forms

Here’s some examples of each…

Selling branded content in other formats through other channels


DK Im ages: Dorling Kindersley make the most of all the beautiful images from their publications by selling them via the ir very own picture library.

Lonely Planet Images: Lonely Planet go a couple of steps further, offering a picture library, links to partner sites to let you print posters of their images and allowing you to contribute your own photographs to their site.

Selling branded merchandise in a variety of forms

Penguin Classics merchandise: T shirts, deckchairs,pencils, tea towels, mugs, notebooks which cost more than the books bearing their matching covers, giant wall canvases (a snip at £99.99) and more are all on offer. You name it, you can buy it with an ‘iconic’ penguin classic cover on it.

Puffin mugs: Penguin’s little sibling also offers mugs emblazoned with the chirpy puffin bird – launched to celebrate the publisher’s 70th birthday this year.

Faber & Faber merchandise: Not to be outdone, Faber have a similar offering: mugs, playing cards ‘n all.

Selling branded services in a variety of forms

The Faber Academy: Faber & Faber offer creative writing courses and live events in London, Glasgow, Dublin, Toronto and Sydney. For £425  you get to spend the weekend with Marcel Theroux and Hanif Kureishi, with the promise of creating a short story before you leave; for AU$6,500 you could enrol for a 6 month novel writing course in Sydney (assuming you get through the selection process).

Guardian Masterclasses: Set up by the man who created the Faber Academy (Patrick Keogh), the Guardian now offers face-to-face courses across film, food and drink, gardening, music, photography, technology and more. I’ve got my eye on Eating Your Words

Of course there are plenty more examples in each of these categories – and expect to see more as publishers and other media organisations are put under increasing financial pressure – but what they all have in common is a great brand to start with. In an era when most publisher brands mean little to the consumer, those who have a well-known and trusted brand are the only ones that will be able to cash in. But they need to take care. As Patrick Keogh said to our students this week, it pays to extend your brand into an adjacent space – rather than an area with tenuous links to what you’re known for.

So what next? The Dummies Guide distance learning suite? The Profile Books Zero tolerance guide to punctuation course? The FT financial services comparison website? What do you think?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2010 10:14 am

    Interesting how branded merchandise is becoming prominent. Aside from the obvious promotional advantages, I wonder whether it could contribute to increased affiliation to particular publishers. (ie as previously where people worked for one co for life) Surely it would be a bit incongruous to sport a puffin t-shirt whilst drinking from a Faber&Faber mug? I personally don’t think that this extension of the brand will go much further. However, it could be worth publishers amalgamating brand names in order to provide an alternative provider to Amazon and helping to keep other book suppliers in business…??

    • annafaherty permalink*
      November 14, 2010 2:55 pm

      Branded for life? An interesting point Laura but not sure I agree. After all people wear Nike hoodies with Reebok shoes – don’t they? And people read Faber books as well as Penguin ones. But I do like the idea of amalgamating brands. Unfortunately, when publishers buy one another up, the brands often get eaten up – or changed so much they’re unrecognisable. Brand ‘partners’ would be a whole other ball game…

  2. Nina James permalink
    November 19, 2010 9:41 pm

    I do like some of the stuff they’ve produced; especially the Penguin mugs. What I want to see are publishers branding glasses, and a promotion run alongside Specsavers. You could have a range of glasses modelled on famous spectacle wearers in great books… I’m sure there is a Harry Potter range but I want glasses like Miss Marple…

    • annafaherty permalink*
      November 20, 2010 12:43 pm

      Brilliant brand extension idea, Nina. You can indeed buy Harry Potter glasses here, though I’m not sure they are ‘authorised’ in any way. I do like the idea of offering functional clothing and accessories though, a bit like the makers of US TV series One Tree Hill selling clothes made by the fictional clothing company featured within the programme.

  3. nina permalink
    November 20, 2010 4:20 pm

    They can be the asos of books.. Asos having made their name doing copies of stars’ clothing. They could dress people from austen and be on trend, or seasonal winter wear from the Russian writers line…

    • annafaherty permalink*
      November 21, 2010 11:59 am

      You might just have a brilliant new business idea there…

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