by Melynda Fuller of MediaPost
Six months ago, Hearst Auto Group Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Panzer mentioned the idea of launching a subscription box and magazine geared to kids to the group’s CEO Matt Sanchez.
In January, that idea will come to life with the launch of R&T Crew magazine accompanied by a subscription box, designed around the theme “Snowed In.”
Consumers have two options: a magazine-only or themed curated box plus magazine subscription option. R&T Crew and the accompanying box will be mailed every two months. The first box includes a beanie with a designable patch, trading cards featuring different cars, socks with auto graphics and a car kids can put together and paint.
The magazine includes an interview with the directors of the movie Spies in Disguise and features quotes from Will Smith, a story with Danika Patrick, an interview with a Corvette designer and games and quizzes focused heavily on STEM in an educational and engaging way.
Panzer told Publishers Daily: “We want to tap into the enthusiasm of the kids and get them interested in how cars work.”
The new subscription offering comes just months after Hearst Auto Group rebranded and bolstered its data and ad capabilities. In October, the group entered a multi-year licensing deal with Crain Communications to operate the digital and experiential businesses of Autoweek. The print edition was shuttered.
Accompanying the rebrand is a new focus on how the group’s brands, such as Road & Track and Car and Driver, can move beyond the bounds of a published magazine as the group embraces experiential offerings, like the recent inaugural Hudson Quattrocento.
As Sanchez noted, many of today’s subscribers to Car and Driver and Road & Track began engaging with those brands as kids when they either read a family member’s issues or subscribed themselves.
R&T Crew offers the Auto Group a chance to “meet kids where they’re at and getting them excited about cars early on,” Sanchez told Publishers Daily. Panzer added the team had “many conversations about what the right age would be for this membership. We found that by 12 or 13, [kids] want the real thing.”
The team plans to monitor engagement and adjust those age limits as needed.
“We absolutely expect that kids who are R&T Crew subscribers will one day be Road & Track subscribers. We can grow with them as they grow,” Sanchez said.
The R&T Crew subscription box is being marketed across all of Hearst with a focus on specific outlets: Country Living, Food Network, HGTV, Oprah and Woman
A separate campaign that reads “This season pass along the passion” will appear across Car and Driver and Road & Track.
The first box and issue will launch without attached sponsors.
“We think this is a product that’s strong enough to stand on its own with its audience,” Sanchez said. “We’ve been talking a lot about how to build new products and experiences that connect with and provide substance for our audience, opting to bring sponsors along with us after.”
Hearst Auto Group is using data to study what its audience responds best to and seems to want from its offerings.
With R&T Crew and the accompanying subscription box, Panzer and the Hearst Auto team have also looked at expansion in a new way. “This is a new brand positioned for a younger demographic and that hasn’t been done before. We’re not only extending our brands in terms of activation, but expanding them in terms of audience,” said Panzer.