opinion & response

Nov 01, 2001 10:30 PM  By

Offer Article Generates Response

Your October cover article “Making Them an Offer” is overdue and welcome. For many years I’ve worked in direct mail and catalog creative, and the one thing that direct mail folks “get” is that the right offer gets customers off their butts and ordering. Yet it’s been negated and yawned at by many catalogers I’ve talked with. Does it take a recession for them to wake up to this proven concept?

My clients who have taken advantage of this opportunity have improved their response rates and average order sizes far in excess of the cost of the premiums and offers we have used. Republic Home Video went from 5.5% response to 7.5% among its house list, and order sizes rose 50%. The Highlander catalog quadrupled its response and nearly doubled its order size. NFL Films Video doubled its response and increased orders sizes too. And of course, my colleague and former client at Liberty Orchards has been using special offers successfully for years. We have used offers in business-to-business cataloging as well, with good results.

An offer makes the catalog newsworthy and rewards the customer for action — it’s just using human nature as another tool to make your catalog successful. Many catalogers say offers don’t work for them, but they have not tested. It takes patience and guts and imagination and intimately knowing your customer to make offers work, but the results are worth the time.

Those who don’t test because they don’t want to “train” customers to expect too much are missing the point. The reason I spend so much at Talbots every year is that it has “trained” me to expect the best — a twice-annual sale, a free T-shirt for being such a nice customer, a leather keyfob at Christmas.… Talbots has become the one women’s clothing catalog I open when it arrives. This kind of loyalty is not achieved by discounting; it is just good service, good product, and training me to expect some kind of news and offers on a regular basis.

If companies such as Red Envelope and Paragon are not trying promotional strategies because they mistakenly think that discounting is the only way to go, then they get poor grades in the imagination category. There are many ways to provide incentives for a customer to buy without discounting. These guys just need to put on their thinking caps and be determined to find a better answer. In this case, no action is worse than the wrong action.

By the way, a dot whack with an “over 200 new products” is a good idea, but it is not an offer; it is just news. It may get customers looking, but it doesn’t get the ones who are teetering on the edge of “yes” or “no” to say yes. Getting them to say yes is what we want, right? Yes!
Carol Worthington Levy
creative director, Worthington Levy Creative

Old New Economy Poetry

The dot-com crash is old news by now, but some marketers are still looking for the silver lining in the e-commerce cloud. Brian Hyland, an associate of Glen Rock, NJ-based public relations firm Caugherty Hahn Communications, submitted the following verse to describe what he calls the “Public Relations New Economy Lesson #1”:

E-commerce Websites can be tricky
With products that’re hot and pages that’re sticky
But the lessons we’ve learned
About profits lost and earned
Is that it pays to be bricky and clicky

Serena Shuts Out Catalogs

Print and Web catalogers lost a lucrative customer this summer. Tennis ace Serena Williams recently told ESPN.com that she has kicked her remote-shopping habit. Her shopping infatuation peaked in early June during the French Open, when Williams said she would spend three hours a day online on play days and up to six hours a day on the Web during her off days, buying mostly clothing, shoes, and products for her dog. Williams, who started buying online to avoid being recognized when shopping in public, says she is now off online shopping and throws out all catalogs that arrive in the mail. We wonder what she’s doing with her money these days: As of September, the 20-year-old reformed shopper had earned more than $1.3 million this year.

Lands’ End Spots Young Heroes

Kudos to apparel and home products cataloger Lands’ End for its third annual Born Hero Awards. After considering all the nominations sent in by customers, the Dodgeville, WI-based marketer honored three children under age 12 for their efforts in helping people and the environment. The pint-sized philanthropists are featured in the Fall 2001 edition of Lands’ End Kids catalog and on the company’s Website. Better still, Lands’ End has donated $5,000 to causes selected by the Born Heroes.

Swiss Colony Celebrates 75 Years

Given the challenges in the market these days, many catalog companies are lucky to see their fifth anniversary, never mind their 75th. So we are delighted to recognize 75 years of The Swiss Colony, the venerable food gifts mailer. Monroe, WI-based Swiss Colony accepted its first mail order, for a cheese gift, back in 1926. Since then, the company has expanded into savory meats, European-style pastries, candy, fruit — and apparel and home decor: It also produces the Seventh Avenue and Midnight Velvet nonfood gifts titles.

Despite the innovation and expansion, you can see from this opening spread of old covers in the fall book that Swiss Colony hasn’t changed its logo — or its overall catalog creative — much over the years. Through the years, the company has kept the homey, old-timey look it started out with, as well as its “Santa mouse” mascot. And why should it change, since the formula evidently works? So Swiss Colony, we say happy anniversary, and don’t let anyone ever move your cheese!

CONTACT US …or visit us on the Web at www.CatalogAgemag.com

e-mail: ehansen@primediabusiness.com

letter: PO Box 4242, Stamford, CT 06907-0242

phone: 203-358-9900

fax: 203-358-5823