The longevity is remarkable. It is a living example of niche marketing at its best.
I remember playing the board game for the first time twenty years ago after receiving it on my ninth birthday. Back then I found it quite funny…. But now, after picking up the March 2008 issue (issue #487), I am astounded at how little has changed, but it still remains humorous the cheesy kind of way. Have you guessed which publication I’m referring to? I’m talking about MAD Magazine.
I can’t say that I’ve ever witnessed many purchases of their brand products (either books or magazines); but to have stayed in business since their first issue of October/November 1952, they must have been enjoying some degree of economic success.
On the surface, the recent issue appears to be much like the ones I remembered as a kid—the same cast of characters led by Alfred E. Neumann, the token Spy vs. Spy comic, and some clever satire of both celebrities and pop-culture. Newer contents include excerpts from an Internet blog, and marketing of their madmag.com website. One feature that had escaped me as a kid, or perhaps had just forgotten, is the impressive quality of the comic artwork. Aside from this positive attribute, I found some other thought-provoking elements in MAD when looking at it on a deeper level (yes, there really is a deeper level to MAD if you really want to see it).
First, there are relatively few “real” advertisements in MAD, although there are many parody ads. I found this surprising, in light of their relatively low cover price of $5.99 Canadian for the fifty-page issue. Compared to serious ad-heavy, special interest magazines of similar price, I’m curious as to how MAD’s sales and profit figures are maintained despite (speculatively) lower advertising revenue. To make this even more noteworthy, is that content of the ads (mostly video games) appear to target a lower income clientele of adolescents and younger adults. The age range of the Letters to the Editor authors seems to confirm this.
Secondly, MAD is clearly not a new fad, or even a resurrected throwback trend like vintage sports jerseys or ‘80s fashion statements’. It has maintained a certain comic appeal for over five decades, while countless other entertainment trends have come and gone. What is their MAD business secret?
Thirdly, a few quick inquiries in my local comic shops revealed that issues of MAD Magazine have not been regularly stocked items for years. MAD seems to appear more in newsstands and larger bookstores that carry a vaster array of periodicals. Does this mean that the MAD market has shifted to the “mainstream”?
Finally…how does MAD continue to obtain their content? Look at the magazine credits under Contributing Artists and Writers—“the usual gang of idiots”. I’m not sure about idiots—perhaps just mad genius.
About Howard Wu: Howard Wu is a Canadian entrepreneur, whose writing interests are primarily off-beat research material. His most recent anthology is Random Thoughts, published by Trafford Publishing. It can be found online at www.trafford.com/4dcgi/robots/07-2847.ht
* MAD Magazine exists online at http://www.dccomics.com/mad/.