For teens, word of mouth is a prime driver of purchases. Ada, MI-based Blu Sphere hopes to capitalize on this with its debut catalog. Owned by Alticor, the parent company of Amway Corp. and online mall Quixstar, Blu Sphere was slated to mail in early August to 350,000 individuals who had bought from a Quixstar affiliate such as IBM, Orvis, OfficeMax, or the Disney Store as well as to rented names.
Teens on the mailing list first received an e-mail containing a link to click on to receive a catalog, says Blu Sphere manager Kay VandenElst, because anti-spam and Federal Trade Commission laws regulating marketing to minors prohibit companies from sending unsolicited commercial mail to individuals under the age of 18.
The 40-page catalog sells about 250 products — roughly half geared for male teens, half for female — such as a wallet that looks as though it’s made of duct tape, a purse shaped like a bowling ball, and a CD of pop music with a different lip-gloss color to go with each song.
The Blu Sphere Website, which was scheduled to be up just before the catalog’s drop, will feature all the products listed in the catalog, plus 50-100 additional items and accessories. Prices range from $12 to $300, with an average price point of $25.
Making their points
With each purchase, shoppers will receive points that they can use in lieu of cash to make additional purchases. And here’s where the word of mouth comes in: Customers will also receive points for each friend they refer who ends up making a purchase. Once they rack up at least 100 such points, shoppers will be able to choose from a selection of higher-end products, such as Coach handbags, karoke machines, and cordless phones.
“My dream would be if the teens who receive this catalog open it up and say, This is all for my life,” declares VandenElst. She notes that Alticor was eager to tap into the buying power of the teen market: “The idea really came from our parent company wanting a way for us to find a market we weren’t reaching — teenagers.” Northbrook, IL-based youth market research company Teen Research Unlimited estimates that Americans between the ages of 12 and 19 spend $170 billion annually on items ranging from CDs to movie tickets to software.
In addition to the August mailing, Blu Sphere drops are planned for October, November, and December, to a combination of prospects and house file names, for a total of 1.5 million catalogs mailed this year, VandenElst says. The company will most likely produce four issues a year, with a fall catalog, a Christmas catalog, a January/early spring book, and a spring/summer edition.
A summer e-marketing campaign enters every individual who signs up to receive a catalog into a drawing for a Vespa motor scooter. Initial e-mails were sent to the same teens on the mailing list, who were encouraged to forward them to friends. For each friend that ends up registering to receive the catalog, the individual who forwarded him the e-mail containing the catalog request link receives another chance to win the prize.