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Content Marketing Campaign of the Week: Magnolia Buyer’s Guide

Content Marketing Campaign of the Week:  Magnolia Buyer’s Guide

When I first learned about this, I thought Magnolia was the stand alone mom-and-pop electronics shop that had survived the expansion of big box electronic stores. Then I was disappointed to find out it was acquired in 2000 by Best Buy. However, once again my emotions reversed when I learned more about what Best Buy has done with Magnolia Design Centers.

Brief History (for full history view this source):  Magnolia Stationers and Camera Shop opened in 1954. It was a family-run photography and stationery store and then converted to an audio specialty store in the 1960s. As the business grew, the owner and store earned a reputation for affordable, high-quality products. The owner established his stores and his brand as being known for customer satisfaction as well. In the 1980s the emergence of the big box electronic store started putting small, local stores out of business.

What Magnolia did was before its time and was a true commitment to content marketing. They knew the big stores would generate foot traffic with their endless newspaper ads. They knew larger stores could undercut their prices and still stay in business. They knew they had to do something different to survive. So, they learned what their customers needed and why they would purchase – something we now call persona development and customer journeys.

They created an 8-page tabloid that gave people honest, relevant information. They also only focused on a few products that comprised popular audio/entertainment systems. Here’s the breakdown of what their buyer’s guide looked like:

  • 60% educational editorial material
    • What to look for when buying a receiver/VCR/record changerHow to compare speakers
    • How to compare speakers
    • How to hook up a stereo
    • What kind of accessories can enhance your system
  • 30% products
    • Information about “core” systems
    • Why they were valuable
  • 10% about store philosophy

No portion of it was dedicated to the latest sale. What they knew from their customers was that buying an entertainment system was more about the experience they would get at home when everything was complete. The product quality and how it performed was the most important factor, and people wanted to trust that when it was installed, they could count on Magnolia. Their buyer’s guide showed that Magnolia was helpful, informational and shared their story with their customers.

They also knew that the “if you build it they will come” mentality would not work. Like current marketing campaigns, putting it on your blog doesn’t just make people come. They created a multi-faceted approach:  Where competitors advertised sales in the paper, Magnolia invited customers to come get a copy of the latest guide in the store; they changed their already-purchased radio commercials to include mention of the buyer’s guide; when special events happened they’d promote and then report the activity in the guide.

With increased success and a strong brand, Magnolia was able to expand in the 1990s while most small electronic stores failed. They didn’t lower prices to get more people – they gave people information they needed, and in turn, gained trust and loyalty. Their profits increased significantly in as little as 18 months and continued to rise.

Eventually, Best Buy gave them 87 million offers they couldn’t refuse. But instead of closing down every Magnolia store and sucking in their customer base, Best Buy knew the Magnolia brand would still hold value for customers. They kept many of the locations open and now have integrated the Magnolia Home Theaters within Best Buy stores across the United States. If you don’t know whether you’ve ever seen it, think about that spot in Best Buy where you can sit down on the couch, watch the 60-inch television and watch a looped action movie in surround sound.

That was the concept of Magnolia – let customers see what they can have, and give them all the information (and more) that they need to achieve it. Once you give them the experience, the price isn’t as important. This holds true for the Magnolia Design Centers as well, in which customers can visualize their own home entertainment systems, theater rooms, and even corporate environments.

While in the end Magnolia is a part of Best Buy now, it sure as heck gave them a competitive headache to offer a buyout. And former Magnolia father and son owners attribute most of that to what they would call content marketing now.

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