Reader’s Digest American Made: Not for Patriots Only

Apr 26, 2006 6:03 PM  By

Every now and then, a catalog marketer will try to buck the conventional wisdom—not at all a bad thing. Phil Minix, senior vice president of catalogs for Greendale, WI-based Reiman Publications, a division of Reader’s Digest, recently made one such attempt.

With the March launch of the 48-page general merchandise catalog, Reader’s Digest American Made (rdamericanmade.com), Minix dropped 30,000 catalogs to non-catalog buyers. He pulled names from nontraditional lists of disabled veteran groups, NASCAR enthusiasts, religious groups, and the Democratic and Republican national committees, convinced that these patriotic consumers would buy from a catalog that sold only items made in the USA.

“We got a little arrogant when we did the test,” Minix says. “We decided that if there was one concept that could turn non-catalog buyers into catalog buyers, this would be it.”

Well, it wasn’t. The test was considered a failure.

“I think it proved that it’s pretty much impossible, and expensive, to try to convert non-catalog buyers, even if it seems to be a sure thing,” Minix says.

The non-catalog buyer test names made up just a fraction of the 1 million names mailed on March 15. The vast majority of the mailing went to house file names, including customers of Reiman’s Country Store catalog and subscribers of magazines published by Reiman who are not Country Store shoppers.

Based on the results of the nontraditional test mailing, Minix says the company will drop 2.5 million-3.5 million fall catalogs instead of its originally anticipated 4 million. The plan after that is to drop two catalogs in spring 2007 and three in fall 2007.

Though the catalog has a patriotic section, Minix said the catalog was not designed to target flag-waiving Americans. Other merchandise categories include kitchen, outdoors, home, entertainment, apparel, and food. Products range from braided rugs to Wisconsin-made pecan kringle, from gingham dresses to glass cleaner.