Catalog Marketing: Michael Tiernan Details Boston Proper’s ‘Sexy’ Evolution
The Boston Proper catalog has come a long way since it was liquidated back in 1991. So, too, has the company that bought its name and list for a song at that time ($100,000) and propelled it to greater heights ever since. That firm — once known as The Mark Group, so named after its former flagship catalog, Mark, Fore & Strike — renamed itself Boston Proper three years ago, based on the success of the catalog and divestiture of the country club apparel title, Mark, Fore & Strike, as well as the gifts and home furnishings catalog, Charles Keith.
Through it all has been the company’s president/CEO Michael Tiernan, who on Apr. 19 delivered the keynote address during the DMA Catalog & Multichannel Council’s annual dinner in New York.
Tiernan and his company have built off a “Let’s Make it Sexy” slogan/mantra they created for Boston Proper not long after they converted what once sold clothes, gifts, toys, gadgets and even office supplies into a dedicated seller of women’s fashion for upscale baby boomers, ages 35-55.
From his presentation, catalogers could take away the following learning points:
* The challenge to “making it sexy,” Tiernan said, is to push the envelope, “but not cross the line.”
* Boston Proper puts together coordinated looks in its catalog from head to toe in aspirational photography in exotic locales, to give customers a dream-like feeling of how good they could look.
* “You don’t change the customer; the customer changes you,” Tiernan said, referring to the manner in which Boston Proper has evolved.
* Bring in experts. Six years ago, Boston Proper brought in former Victoria’s Secret president/CEO Cindy Fields to join the company’s board. She helped the company improve its front end, and build off its “sexy” image without turning it into Victoria’s Secret wannabe.
The cataloger also received consulting services from the late fulfillment expert Tom Day. “If you’re small and want to get big,” Tiernan said, “seek out people with experience. But in the end, edit their ideas to suit your own.”
* On customer service, Tiernan said, “Success is about treating each customer as if they’re the only person on earth.”
Boston Proper, which Tiernan said would like to eventually launch a specialty store chain, has enjoyed 20 percent per annum growth in recent years, and carries no debt.