5 Content Marketing Lessons from SkyMall Magazine

August 18, 2015

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If you have taken a commercial flight in the past 25 years, you have probably thumbed through the SkyMall catalog while you waited for takeoff. Even if you have never purchased a life-sized bronze yeti or a kitty litterbox hidden in a potted plant, odds are SkyMall has brought you minutes of entertainment over the years.

If you shed a few tears when SkyMall’s parent company filed for bankruptcy (and wiped them away with a microfiber chamois), good news! They’ll be relaunching the magazine at the end of this year. So now is the perfect time to contemplate the marketing significance of SkyMall. It’s more than a collection of weird and wonderful consumer products: SkyMall is a genius piece of content marketing.

While you await the triumphant return of SkyMall to seatback pockets everywhere, you can reflect on the content marketing lessons the catalogue teaches. So put on your Foldable Polarized Yellow-Filter Reading Glasses and dig in:

5 Tips Every Content Marketer Can Learn from SkyMall Magazine

  1. Show, Don't Tell

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The pictures in SkyMall may elicit some giggles, but they also allow you to visualize your life with the product. The above picture of a folding guest bed tells an entire story about the product’s usefulness. It’s Christmastime, guests are visiting for the holidays, and you need a place for them to sleep. Set them up by the tree with a vintage clock and stack of antique books, and you’re good to go!

Creative visuals can help you convince your audience, too. You may not be able to persuade them to buy a half-buried garden zombie, but you can certainly get them to download your eBook.

  1. Lead with the Benefit

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SkyMall’s copywriters know that benefits sell their products, not features. In the above image from the website, you can see they don’t even mention the product’s name before the click. The focus is entirely on what the product can do for you.

Ideally, the copy you write should complement the visuals and continue to tell the story of how your product improves your reader’s life. While your product may have compelling features, it’s important to make sure each one is tied to a specific benefit.

  1. Identify Your Audience

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Zany products that only make sense for select people are a trademark of SkyMall magazine. For example, the above product is from a line of dog hoodies in a variety of colors, with a variety of slogans printed on the back. The dog-hoodie-buying demographic may be a narrow one, but you can be sure these products appeal directly to that particular niche.

Your offering may appeal to a wider audience, but it’s not for everyone. Hone in on the exact people who will benefit most from engaging with your brand and make it clear you're speaking to them.

  1. Give Them Something to Remember


You may not currently be in the market for a six-foot tall replica of the Statue of Liberty, but you’re likely to remember that particular product long after you’ve tucked your copy of SkyMall into the seatback pocket. Some of SkyMall’s most memorable products seem designed to encourage the “wow, what?” reaction that prompts you to hop on social media and share the link with your friends.

You can help your content reach a wider audience by providing memorable hooks that compel your reader to share it with their networks. That hook can be a funny image, a good joke, or a killer customer story. The best way to ensure people share your content is to make it share-worthy.

  1. Be Entertaining

“Whatever we do with SkyMall, we'll always make sure we have some sort of Bigfoot in there. I look at that as part of the content — editorial almost, not part of the product offering. You open it and expect to see it in the format of a catalog, but you're really reading it for entertainment purposes. SkyMall will always look for that.” –Chaim Pikarski, C&A Marketing Executive Vice President

One of the main reasons SkyMall has endured in popular culture is that it’s entertaining as well as promotional. It’s a look into a bizarro world of personal air purifiers, cat spas, and giant bronze yeti statues. You may not open the SkyMall looking to purchase a specific product, but once you’re sucked in, the odds are higher that you might make a purchase—or at least take the catalog with you to share with your friends.

You can make your content more compelling by making sure it’s designed to entertain as well as inform. You can combine all of the above lessons into this one: add storytelling visuals to your content, lead with benefits, speak to your specific audience, and leave them with a hook worth sharing.

If you can take a few pages from SkyMall’s playbook, you can write informative content that connects with your audience. And that’s worth its weight in Toilet Roll iPod Docking Stations.

Bonus: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions' Most Coveted Skymall Magazine Items

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Learn how to earn and retain your audience's attention with remarkable content by downloading Attention Is Currency.

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