Nike competing now in the mail

Female athletes have been asking Nike to produce a print catalog of its women’s line for some time. What did the marketing executives at the Beavertown, OR-based footwear giant say to themselves in response? “Just do it!”

Beginning in November, the company dropped 900,000 copies of a 56-page Nikewomen catalog to Nike customers and prospects. Though Nike has had a direct marketing division since 1998, when it launched Nike.com, this is its first consumer catalog. In addition to its Website, The company has four stand-alone Nikewomen stores and 13 Niketown stores, along with in-store boutiques at retailers nationwide.

Like the year-old Nikewomen brand, the catalog focuses on footwear and apparel for yoga, running, and fitness training. Prices range from $6 for a pair of reflective socks to $225 for a jacket. The company says that the catalog’s numbers are trending to plan, with an average order value of nearly $200 — 50% higher than it forecasted. About 45% of the orders have come from the Website.

“Expanding our direct retail channels to include direct mail catalogs is the next step to an integrated approach to the women’s business,” says Patrick O’Neill, general manager of Nike.com. “We have an opportunity to fill an awareness gap in a channel that Nike is sorely under penetrated in.” The catalog, Website, and stores “allow us to build deeper relationships with our consumers.” Nikewomen is slated to mail 11 times a year in the U.S. O’Neill says the company has no plans to mail a men’s catalog.

Gathering “low-hanging fruit” Nike.com tapped San Francisco-based Haggin Marketing and Peterborough, NH-based list services firm Millard Group to assist in its direct efforts. While Nike had a list of inhouse names from its Website, it couldn’t mail to them because of its privacy policy. Nike had to change its privacy policy in September so that customers could opt in to receive mailings, says Mike Wychocki, Haggin Marketing’s executive vice president/partner.

Nike Website customers received e-mails from the company presenting an opt-in catalog request; the company recieved 200,000 opt-in responses to the e-mail in 60 days. Nike also rented lists of female catalog buyers from sports apparel catalogs, or as Wychocki describes it, the “low-hanging fruit.” Database marketing services provider Experian performed modeling and segmentation profiles on the Web purchasers to detect demographic profiles.

“Seeing that this was a launch,” Wychocki says, “we did not have past historical data trends to start building square-inch analysis or product response indexing.” So branding drove decisions on which lines and products to showcase, “rather than a pure catalog return on investment.” Some spreads sell just three items; some pages feature full-bleed photos without copy. But future catalogs may take product density into consideration, Wychocki says.

“The Nike strategy involves more than selling product in a catalog,” notes Andy Russell, president/CEO of New York-based AGA Catalog Marketing and Design. “It’s a brand.” If the company had simply showed spread after spread of products, it wouldn’t be doing the brand justice, he says. And lifestyle shots, such as a photo of a woman running clad in Nike gear, can very effective, Russell adds: “Many times the customer will end up buying the entire running ensemble, not just one item.”

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