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Profile on: Time to #ReadAtlantic

Launched in the summer of 2020, the Time to #ReadAtlantic Campaign has seen great success connecting readers to books published in the Atlantic. Spearheaded by the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association (APMA), this multi-faceted initiative created themed, curated reading lists with books published by APMA members. The lists were marketed under catchy categories such as “Time to Discover”, “Time to Laugh”, and “Time to Escape”.  The objective of this campaign was to support the ‘Atlantic book ecosystem’, from the author to the publisher to local retailers. Throughout the summer books featured on the atlanticbooks.ca website had an impressive 36,000 views which resulted in 8,986 external click throughs to partner (library and bookstore) websites.

How did they do it? CIBA sat down with APMA Chief Marketing Officer Alex Liot to find out.

How did the Time To #ReadAtlantic campaign get started?

If we go back to the summer of 2019, the APMA decided to double down on their marketing initiatives. We had two main hypotheses that we’ve since studied and validated. The first, primarily, is that the biggest challenge for Atlantic publishers is discoverability. It is not inherently a product problem; it is a product discoverability problem.

The reality is, independent booksellers sell more Canadian books than the chains. It is because the bookseller themselves, and their staff, are providing that discoverability tool. If we think of them as computers, they’ve got all that data stored up there and they are able to help the consumer through their purchasing process and utilize their knowledge of authors and locations and all those things. We really saw that when everything went online during COVID or when you go to a big box because you don’t have that resource so naturally what rises up are the mass-market multinational titles.

We did a survey just after our Time to #ReadAtlantic campaign and we basically looked at people exposed to the campaign and not exposed to the campaign and we asked the question, “Do you feel local books and local publishing are important to support?”. Pre-exposed to the campaign 79%– almost eight out of ten people polled on the street told us local books are important. After the campaign, almost no difference, 81% said the same. So, we really didn’t do anything to change people’s perception of the importance of local books. But then we asked the question, “Do you feel well equipped to be able to find local books?” Pre-campaign – 35%. So you’ve got this delta where 80% think it’s important but only 35% fell they can do it. Post-campaign – 55%. And we reached about a third of Atlantic Canadians. So meaningful impact meant simply helping people find where they need to go.

Tell us how the pandemic influenced your approach to rolling out the campaign?

2020 started, it was just another year, and then COVID hit. Basically, everything stopped for all of us. We were just about to publish our 92nd consecutive magazine and then all the advertisers understandably pulled out.

In a weird way, this was a really important year for us. And I equated a lot to that analogy, you know, If you put a frog in a pot of cold water and turn up the heat it will boil to death. If you throw a frog in a pot of boiling water, it jumps out. Well, COVID was boiling water. I think about a lot of your members who may not have had websites before and, it’s an awful thing, that boiling water really hurts but that’s why you get out – it forces you into action.

Inherently we realized we had a data problem because the information about local books and authors is stored in the minds of booksellers - and that issue got thrown wide open when COVID hit and many were only able to fulfil orders online or over the phone.

We wanted to respond to COVID in a really interesting way, so we developed the Time to #ReadAtlantic marketing campaign. We took 2–3-year projects and turned them into 2–3-month projects. There’s actually been two distinct campaigns now. There was the summer one, The Time to #Read Atlantic but we basically replicated and scaled up and did it through the holiday – The Gift of #ReadAtlantic.

How did you get buy-in for the project from publishers and booksellers?

A key reason I was able to get buy in was because of the unique way we were positioning the purpose of the website to support what I call the entire Read Atlantic ecosystem which is all the way from author, to retailer and everybody in between.

Our mantra was: sample, borrow, buy. Our number one purpose was discoverability. So, we had extended full length samples, we had additional information. We used the best user interface we could. When we were looking at buying, we prioritized trying to connect people with their local bookstores before ultimately having an e-commerce transaction at the bottom of the Read Atlantic website.

A lot of our objective was to drive benefit without having the bookstores to do much, or anything. We actually included all bookstores regardless of whether they connected with us or not. We pushed people to bookstores who didn’t even know they were getting traffic from this program.

Then there was the next level, where we start to talk about integration with bookstores. Two things that the website does uniquely is it is geographically sensitive and also sensitive to bookstore inventory. We’ve been working with Bookmanager on that. When a sale is directed through the Atlantic Books website we’ll prioritize who’s closest with the book in stock because that’s the best experience for the reader. Amazon is 24 hours but my local bookstore with a click and collect can be 20 minutes. We want to give booksellers the confidence that the book will be purchased because we’re out there with these sizable, impactful marketing campaigns. We have a machine that’s built to actually try and find that person and push the sale to you, locally.

What opportunities does this campaign provide booksellers?

I really think believe that there is continued opportunity to explore the locality of books, relative to the consumer. What’s the opportunity for bookstores? It’s the direct integration with our promotion and selling mechanism is one side. The other side is the ability to use this brand, this point-of-sale material, this wayfinding system to build displays, leverage promotion and not have to design it or print it – we’re going to pay for it all.

If you’d like more information about this program or would like to get involved, please contact admin@atlanticpublishers.ca


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