Live From ACCM: Harry & David’s Winning Ways

May 06, 2009 12:57 AM  By

New Orleans – What makes an award winning catalog? Neal Schuler, senior vice president for food gifts mailer Harry & David, took attendees inside his 75-year-old company’s bag of tricks during his presentation, “Secrets of an award-winning catalog,” at the ACCM conference here Monday.

Schuler spoke during Monday’s intensive session, “Project Runway: Creating a Red Carpet Catalog.”

Schuler provided some company history:

  • Brothers Harry & David Holmes took over the family orchard in 1914.
  • Harry & David was established as first gourmet-fruit direct marketing company in 1934.
  • Harry & David is best known for its signature product, Royal Riviera Pears, which require special climate and soil found in only a few places in the world.
  • Harry & David’s annual sales top $500 million.
  • Approximately 85% of all products sold are designed, grown, manufactured and packaged by Harry & David.
  • The company has more than 3,500 employees year-round and 9,500 during peak season.
  • More than 57% of annual shipments go in November and December.
  • It received more than 80,000 orders on peak day last season with 265,000 gift shipments on peak day last season.

Schuler said the company has and will always focus on fundamentals: scarcity, difference, establishing high value, and storytelling. There must be visual interest on the cover, he stressed. For Harry & David, its cover strategy involves: consistent execution of brand-right imagery; visual interest; whimsy; “yum factor”; timing relevancy; no more than two marketing messages; and identify product.

Harry & David’s design strategy, according to Schuler, includes:

  • Make it easy to shop. Copy connects to product.
  • Make the copy easy to read.
  • Prominent placement of key messaging.
  • Consistently positioned contact information.
  • Pop product off the page.
  • Design with eye-flow in mind. Leverage “hot spots” on the spread.
  • Provide a visual resting place.
  • Pace the spread designs to create interest.
  • Hygiene: Build style sheets for consistency.
  • Use an agreeable color palette.
  • Build templates and grids for consistent spacing.

Graphics are a huge part of Harry & David’s winning game plan, Schuler said, and requires four ingredients: uniqueness, heritage, quality deconstructed, and abundance. They’re unique because Harry & David designs them in its studio; heritage: American’s original tower gifts – and still the best since 1947; quality deconstructed: explains how Moose Munch treats are made; and abundance: “pound for pound, you won’t find gift baskets that tip the scales likes ours anywhere else.”

In a shifting market, creative refinement is crucial: In this economy, Schuler noted, there has to be value, entry pricing, and reduced shipping costs. With increased competition, there has to be a difference and trustworthiness. And there is a desire for something new, which means looking for new product introductions, line extensions, and online for greater assortment.

Schuler said Harry & David uses a slim-jim catalog, and he’s found that up close depictions of food help mitigate the slim-jim book format. In 2005, Schuler related, a test showed that when the catalog featured a person on the cover holding a tower of boxed food, results diminished. “Apparently, our customers don’t want to see themselves with a tower over their head,” he said.