David Carr writes in the New York Times today that American Express is publishing a no-name magazine that's sent out exclusively to Centurion cardholders. With a sleek, black-on-black cover designed by the creative director of Bottega Veneta and articles about a luxe sailboat and an exclusive lodge in Africa, the company hopes the magazine "will serve as a point of identity," writes Carr, for the lucky few who have enough cash to join the Centurion black card club. The don't-leave-home-without-it company already publishes Departures, which it sends to both its Centurion and Platinum card holders.
The story reminded me of something that came in my own mailbox the other day. "B," a new magazine from Bloomingdale's, is not just another glossy catalog designed to make young urban sophisticates drool over the new fall fashions. And it appears that it's trying to be more than just a custom-published marketing vehicle. It's actually looking for subscribers — four quarterly issues cost $12 — and the pages are filled with everything from music reviews and horoscopes to, of course, fashion. There are the expected array of fashion advertisers, but a few — Mercedes, W Hotels, Ciroc Vodka — don't sell their wares at Bloomingdale's.
As Bloomingdale's opens a location in Soho and asks its employees to clad themselves completely in black ("B-style," the company calls the dress code), publishing their own glossy magazine is a creative, if journalistically questionable, step toward a more comprehensive brand experience. The magazine reinforces the downtown chic image the company is clearly trying to convey as it fights the long slow death march of the department store. The real question is whether people will pay for it.