The Brief

Shifting brand perceptions and connecting to their audience, were important for Mills & Boon. They wanted a compelling and welcoming destination for their customers, with the key focus of discover, read, shop and share. Never losing sight of increasing book sales, engagement with an omnipresent shopping experience was the ultimate goal.

Our Approach

We set about reading as much Mills & Boon (M&B) as possible. Before thinking about anything online, unraveling the reader and brand was key to our offline approach. After brain-picking family and friends together with revealing user-testing, we found the real M&B.

There’s been a quality shift in the M&B’s stories and we wanted to showcase that new perception. They were far more inclusive and not just for the targeted older generations. Romantic fiction and erotica is very popular now. The new site would show this and be confident and engaging. By injecting some social buzz into the site we created a fun hub approach where readers could shop and discover quality reads with ease.

Fun, real, glamorous, cheeky edge, & exciting. Uncovering the new perception of M&B

To create an emotional connection with M&B we carried out brand workshops and asked questions to unmask their new perception. Questions like: If M&B were a lonely hearts ad, how would it read? If M&B were a famous person, who would they be? If M&B were a dog, what would they be? If M&B were a magazine, which would they be? If M&B were a car what make, model and colour would they be? If M&B were a spokesperson, who would they be?

The power of storytelling

In light of the new exciting, glamorous brand perception we then had to give each hub a unique and emotionally charged experience. To do this we came up with an inspired analogy.

Insight:“You can’t judge a book by its cover but you can judge a series by its cover photo.”.

M&B have some amazing cover art and use very emotive imagery. We figured the cover art would act as an emotional pull for each sub genre, or series. This was a great way to reinforce the variety and excite the reader. By using large cover images, type and colour each hub still had a distinctive feel.

A hub approach was stylish never compromising the business or audience needs. We gave each series, author and genre a hub that acted as a mini shop window, presenting a snapshot of books, social activity and content. This gave that series, genre or author clarity and context.

Making discovery easy

We wanted readers to keep discovering new and exciting content to suit their tastes (similar authors, top author themes, collections). Whilst the functionality of the hubs would be the same, each category would have a tailored experience.

We embraced the power of Booklamp giving users a savvy visual way to browse books on themes that interested them. Segmentation and online feedback surveys were also used to bring the user the right results.

We made it fun for new and old customers to sample M&B’s wide range of books. Allowing users to trial new chapters and stories on a daily basis creates trust and boosts customer loyalty. We maximised this free section of the site by displaying promotional books for as little as £1, again making discovery easy. A clear reading experience across devices was also achieved.

Imprints

Not only did we uncover the new brand perception for M&B and devise a unique hub experience for each genre and series. We also created a tailored sub site for each of their publication imprints; Carina, Mira INK, and Mira. So, whether a younger or corporate audience through design we had a sub site for each using the same framework.

Highlights

  • Uncovering what the new brand perception of Mills & Boon should be, and informing our work through that insight
  • Technically achieving without losing the strength of the creative
  • Finding the balance: A times new roman in the street and a webdings in the sheets. (Design tone & style focus revealed a quality shift in literature M&B were now offering)
  • Contemporary design to support display on tablet & mobile