Tweeks hits the road again

Trying to sell merchandise for Porsches without using an image of one of the gleaming high-performance road machines on the catalog cover is, well, like trying to sell diapers without the baby.

But that’s exactly what Mike Yager, the self-proclaimed chief cheerleader of Mid America Direct, confronted after purchasing Tweeks, a cataloger of restoration and performance products for Porsches. The $40 million Mid America, which produces catalogs selling products for Volkswagens and Corvettes, bought Tweeks from owner Tim Dunlevy for an undisclosed price in June.

The 23-year-old Tweeks, forced to halt catalog mailings two years ago after Porsche initiated litigation over an infringement of trademark rules, is restricted from using “any car or anything on the cover that would make people think that we’re Porsche,” Yager says.

Nonetheless, Yager in October plans to relaunch the catalog – now called Tweeks.com – to reflect plans to offer e-commerce on its Website next year. Six annual mailings will reach 1 million prospects and existing customers, most of whom are males 35-55 years old with income of at least $75,000, Yager says. Wheeling, IL-based Names and Addresses is expected to take over management of the 180,000-name file this fall.

The creative team veered around the trademark-infringement roadblock by using a lifestyle cover theme to jump-start customers’ imaginations. “You’ll see this really sexy-looking stretch of highway,” Yager says. “To an auto enthusiast, an open highway can be a race track, a place to cruise with your significant other, or a highway to escape reality.”

Mid America is also expanding the catalog from two-color to four-color, and increasing the product line to target owners of newer Porsches while continuing to market to restorers of older models. The company plans to add about 40,000 sq. ft. and six freight docks onto its 30,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing and distribution facility in Effingham, IL.

Mid America began telesales operations for Tweeks.com in July, Yager says. Before the title stopped mailing in ’97, sales had reached $5 million, with average orders of $150 or higher. The previous owners continued to take phone orders after the catalog had ceased mailing, but sales quickly dwindled to less than $2 million. Yager predicts that within three years, the catalog will generate 25% of the company’s total sales.

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