- Founded in 1970, Time Inc.’s Essence magazine has evolved into a publication with a monthly readership of 7.5 million. Read by 70% of black women in America every year, Essence has expanded into digital publishing with Essence.com and also hosts the annual Essence music festival in New
- In the rapidly evolving media landscape, Essence needed to continue to deliver value to readers and advertisers. The brand also wanted to expand beyond the US into the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa.
- Essence conducted customer research largely on an ad-hoc basis through customized studies. The company wanted an efficient way to gather ongoing customer feedback and insight in order to provide advertisers superior end-to-end service and to effectively build loyalty among readers and advertisers. “Each time, we were reinventing the wheel,” says Carmen Bryant, research director at Essence. “We were coming up with a new sample of audience, coming up with a new set of questions and there was no learning we could take from study to study.”
- Essence worked with Vision Critical to launch Essence Insiders, an insight community made up of 10,000 highly engaged Essence subscribers and readers who participate in various activities roughly twice per month.
- The company taps into the Essence Insiders for cover testing, creative testing and ongoing tracking studies.
- Essence also uses its community to facilitate product testing on behalf of advertisers.
- The Essence Insiders insight community has shifted the perception of
customer feedback internally and put readers at the center of the business. “The Essence Insiders has built a strong reputation as a means for quickly testing and validating decisions,” says Bryant. “When we’re in meetings, an editorial meeting or a steering committee meeting, people will bring up the Insiders as their way to check decisions.”
- Advertisers have also built credibility with readers by referencing the Essence Insiders community. They often see their own quotes from surveys on the pages of the magazine in reference to products that they have tested. “They saw the original creative and now they see the final piece,” says Bryant. “And, often that piece might reference the Essence Insiders, it might have numbers, it might have quotes, for some it even might have their name.”
- “The Essence Insiders insight community really addresses for us this ability to be complete partners with our advertisers,” says Bryant. “It allows us to be quick and nimble and provide solutions about this market that they don’t already have. At the end of the day, it’s really creating revenue for us.”