Gold Violin’s second act: a print catalog

Online gifts marketer Gold Violin hopes its fall catalog rollout will make beautiful music with seniors and baby boomers with aging parents. One million copies of the fall 2000 edition, a 32-page digest book, will mail this month to names rented from gifts and home goods catalogers Gump’s, Williams-Sonoma, and Coldwater Creek Home, and to names gathered from its Website.

Charlottesville, VA-based Gold Violin bills itself as “the first online brand dedicated to delivering upscale everyday products, unique gifts, and trusted services, designed especially for seniors.” Merchandise includes stylish walking canes, magnifiers with accompanying leather carrying cases, and decorative eyeglass holders. The company’s name comes from the adage “the older the violin, the sweeter the music.” Although much of the merchandise is decidedly high end – walking sticks cost $145, while the Winemaster Ergonomic Corkscrew is $59 – Gold Violin’s research show that the 43 million adults ages 35-54 with household income of more than $50,000 are willing to treat their older relatives to such luxuries.

Gold Violin CEO Connie Hallquist launched the company in March after she couldn’t find a suitable birthday gift for her 87-year-old grandmother. New York-based Web incubator Brand Farm provided capital and strategic advice.

A multichannel plan Rather than springing for a glitzy advertising campaign to drive traffic and build its house file, Gold Violin opted to follow the online launch with a test-mailing of 525,000 copies of a print catalog, with drops prior to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

“When we launched this brand, we knew that it would be a multichannel business,” says chief operating officer Ann Taylor. While the business primarily targets baby boomers buying gifts and personal care products for aging parents, it also targets older consumers directly. The management team also felt that seniors are less likely than younger consumers to shop online, so mailing a print book was key.

“Mailing a catalog has been an effective way to gain customers,” says Taylor. She claims that the test catalog mailings exceeded expectations, though she declines to give specific figures.

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