opinion & response

Oct 01, 2002 9:30 PM  By

Stop Cloning Around

Bravo! I just read the August editor’s letter “Attack of the Clones,” and I couldn’t agree with you more! We have spoken with many catalogers who are constantly comparing themselves to and wanting to look like the “industry leader” in their category. Argh! When they play follow the leader, catalogers only improve the competitor’s standing and hurt themselves. Ever hear of a “cheap” knockoff? Instead, they should be working hard to be the leader and set a standard for others to follow.

The catalogs that held their own last fall were the ones that understood brand positioning and knew how to build authority with unique creative that differentiates. Granted, this is no easy task. It takes a clear understanding of merchandise concepts and services that catalogers provide to their customers, a clear direction on how to communicate that differentiation, and a catalog team willing to become brand zealots. I truly believe that brand insistence comes through brand uniqueness, and what better way to communicate that than with relevant creative — both on paper and online.

Bravo for a great editorial and bravo for being willing to cite a few well-known catalogs that have become Elvis imitators.
Lois Boyle
president/chief creative officer
J. Schmid & Associates

Conflicted About Two Conferences

I would like to respond to a letter printed in the July Backword (“Sounding Off on Show Business”) concerning the timing of Annual Catalog Conference (ACC) and the conflict with the DM Days New York (DMDNY) event in 2003.

Following the ACC 2002 event, Catalog Age and the DMA commissioned a formal survey of our attendees to gain a better understanding of their likes and dislikes so that we could make improvements for ACC 2003.

One of the many questions we asked attendees was their preferred month for the event. Given the choice of any month of the year, 45% of ACC attendees voted to continue holding the conference in June. The month of May received 25% of the responses, while April received only 11%. This is not the first time we have asked this question of our attendees, and it is why the show has remained in June.

Unfortunately, in 2003 our June positioning means that ACC directly overlaps show dates recently contracted by DMDNY for its 2003 event. The ACC dates of June 1-3, 2003, at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco were booked back in September 1998, as advance booking of three to five years is typical for large events. Apparently DMDNY had no choice but to overlap with our published ACC 2003 dates given what dates were available at the Javits Center in New York when it was planning its event in 2002.

Upon learning of the recently negotiated DMDNY 2003 dates, we researched options with Moscone for other possible 2003 show dates. But Moscone had only alternative dates of Memorial Day weekend and the week of Sept. 11 to offer — clearly, poor alternate choices.

Ideally, the two shows would not overlap, and both shows will likely be affected by next year’s scheduling. I’m certain neither show management group is pleased for the sake of our exhibitors, our attendees, and our events.

For our part, we are addressing the challenges of these bicoastal events with ACC exhibitors through creative exhibit options, in the hopes of providing alternatives to ACC exhibitors who are committed to the show and the catalog marketplace, and who understand the value of the show to their marketing mix.
Angela Eastin
group show director, Annual Catalog Conference
Primedia Business Exhibitions

When Upselling Becomes Upsetting

We thought catalogers were trying to reduce talk time with telephone customers, but apparently not J. Crew. A Catalog Age staffer called to place a phone order with the apparel marketer in mid-August. The order was going swimmingly until it was time to provide payment information. The phone rep informed the staffer that she had been chosen as a preferred customer (never mind that it was the staffer’s first J. Crew order) and would receive, among various coupons, sale catalogs, and promotions, a J. Crew credit card. The staffer politely declined the card, to which the rep said, “You don’t ever have to use it — just sign up for it to be eligible for the benefits.” No, thanks. Then the rep said that just for placing an order this evening, the staffer could try three magazine subscriptions for free for two months. The staffer declined once again, saying she already received several magazine subscriptions. “Well, we have more than 300 magazines to choose from…” the rep continued. Hey, J. Crew — how about taking no for an answer and getting your customers to pay for their goods and get off the phone?

NFLshop.com Gets Personal

Ever fantasized about being a pro football player, perhaps a Tiki Barber (no. 21) of the New York Giants or a Brett Favre (no. 4) of the Green Bay Packers? The NFLshop.com catalog knows that many boys and former boys have, and it’s using ink-jet personalization to appeal to their inner quarterback. A relative of a Catalog Age staffer received a copy of the catalog in August; the back cover featured several replica jerseys — one with the last name of the catalog recipient injected above the number “00.” Moreover, a message addressed the customer by his first name, saying “Be the first to own the new 2002 replica jersey…personalize one with any name — any number…” If this creative personalization doesn’t inspire armchair athletes to suit up in style, nothing will.

CATALOGS WE LOVE

Most of the time when catalogs scream from their front cover “If you don’t make a purchase, this will be the last catalog you receive from us,” we don’t consider it much of a threat. But A Common Reader is one title that we would order from solely to continue receiving the catalog. The purveyor of hard-to-find, quirky, and just plain interesting books features copy that’s as good a read as the tomes it sells. To wit, the description of The Brontës by Rebecca Fraser: “To pass the poised climate of the world of Jane Austen into the stormy atmosphere of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights is — like listening to Le nozze de Figaro and Lucia di Lammermoor back to back — to get a crash course in the conflicting styles of classicism and romanticism….” And of course, any catalog that sells King Camp Gillette: Inventor of the Disposable Culture, by the brother of Catalog Age’s managing editor, is bound to be a favorite of ours.

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