November 11, 2019

Complex gets more complex with foray into product development

Digiday’s Tim Peterson explores media company Complex’s foray into product development that includes helping companies to reach its audience. We look at how this move fits into the bigger picture of connecting media, product and paying customers.

Complex gets more complex

In 2002, Complex started as a menswear magazine founded by Marc Ecko, founder of streetwear brand Eckō Unltd, known for its silhouetted red rhino logo. Over the years, it’s grown beyond its print origins to become a multifaceted media company that’s helped to popularize street culture and fashion. As can be expected of most media companies, there’s a lot of branches to it, all which are named after and tie back into the master brand.

  • Complex Networks: The video-centric network of creators and brands that includes other publications and shows.
  • ComplexCon: The multi-day event that is normally hosted in Long Beach, but recently hosted its first edition in Chicago.
  • Complex Collective: A research product that gives companies access to a panel of individuals signed on to provide feedback on any number of things including products and media.

What is Climate?

As Peterson writes, ComplexCon saw the company launch its first NextFront event, which helped the company to pitch its content and commerce business to over a hundred companies. It was here that Complex announced both Complex Collective and Climate.

Climate is a new division of Complex that will help use its expertise with working with both advertisers and audiences to develop products for other companies — and targeted at Complex’s discerning audience. Under Climate, this type of consulting work would become more formalized, where they’d already done so on an ad-hoc basis. For example, earlier this year, they connected Anwar Carrots and PepsiCo.’s Brisk to produce a line of special-edition beverages).

Hot Sauce, anyone?

This isn’t quite the first time Complex has worked with developing successful products. First We Feast is itself an online food-culture magazine and YouTube channel owned by Complex Media. Its channel produces several video series including The Burger Show, The Curry Shop and most notably, Hot Ones.

Hot Ones has host Sean Evans grill his celebrity guests as they dine on increasingly spicier chicken wings. What seems like a simple if entertaining concept has helped Complex to produce its own line of hot sauces, including Last Dab XXX, which generated $500,000 in sales within 48-hours of its October 17 launch.

As further proof of the company’s ability to leverage its properties to create opportunities elsewhere, that series is also being adapted into a 20-episode game show hosted by WarnerMedia Entertainment-owned TV network truTV (and shot in Atlanta in case you were wondering).

The Takeaway

Complex Networks isn’t the only media company to head in this direction and joins BuzzFeed and Clique Brands (formerly Clique Media Group). The basic idea is to use all of that experience gained from engaging a given audience and creating media products for them to form a profile other brands can use to then produce physical products that speak to that same audience. Done properly, this ensures a win-win-win situation for the original brand, the brand crafting the product, and the end buyer.

In the same vein, we recognize the benefit — and for a primarily digital media company, the importance — of having tangible connections between people and a brand. It’s not always about trying to sell merch (though our upcoming web store will certainly do that). Rather, it’s sharing with our supporters and audience the same experience we’d like to physically hold in our own hands. This means working with brands we either already respect and whose products we’d eagerly integrate into our lives anyways or those we know would be a good fit for our audience.

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