BankAmerica Corp. is hoping a new magazine will bring a little magic to its relationship with African-American customers.

In August the banking company will send out 30,000 copies of Clout with basketball star-turned-businessman Magic Johnson on the cover. The magazine will have a range of financial articles for African-Americans, said David Bland, vice president of ethnic marketing for the San Francisco-based company.

"It's written by African-Americans to address specific needs of African- American households," he said.

Black households are demographically different from other customer groups, he said. For instance, they are less likely to have credit cards than others in similar financial situations, Mr. Bland said. And upper- middle-class blacks are less likely to own mutual funds.

The banking company has contracted with McMurry Publishing Inc., Phoenix, for four issues of Clout magazine. McMurry publishes a variety of items for banking and other industries.

During the next year BankAmerica said it plans to track the quarterly's effectiveness at building relationships with customers.

"A lot of banks feel that this is an effective way of generating good will," said Les Dinkin, a consultant with Oliver Wyman & Co., New York. "I'm not sure how effective it is."

Banks' interest in custom publishing is cyclical, he said. At the moment, many banks are contemplating publications focused on specific customer segments. However, they have not yet figured out how to generate qualified sales leads through the programs, he added.

BankAmerica is the first banking company to adopt McMurry's Clout, but also plans to use the company's Hispanic-targeted magazine Avances.

But BankAmerica is not the first to use custom publishing to reach minorities. This year Citicorp obtained the license to the exclusive use of Avances in Florida.

Both Clout and Avances are syndicated magazines. They are customized for each banking company, but include a similar group of core articles. BankAmerica's version of Clout will contain about 15% bank-specific content, Mr. Bland said. Each magazine has the banking company's return address on the back.

The magazine will carry articles about black Americans' finances, the state of business in black America, and how the weakening of affirmative action will affect black-owned businesses, said Jake Poiner, publisher of McMurry's bank publications.

Clout will also have basic information on reading stock tables and prospectuses, he said.

Recently, BankAmerica experimented with in-house publishing. It produced 10,000 copies of Financial Interest magazine in an effort to build relationships between customers and financial managers at the banking company. Mr. Bland laughed when asked about the difficulties BankAmerica encountered with the project. "It's not what we do," he said.

As the Clout program develops, Mr. Bland said the magazines may be circulated to nonbank customers as well.

It's a "key part" of our strategy, he said, because "it enables us to target important segments of the market."

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