Multichannel Marketing: Channel Surfing
As the number of channels through which catalogers promote their products increases, so, too, does the need for consistency among an organization’s marketing materials. If you want both existing customers and prospects to recognize your brand, the elements that are used in your catalog must appear on your Web site, in your e-mail campaigns and, if applicable, at the retail level.
It sounds like common sense, but if your creative processes aren’t streamlined, consistency can be difficult to achieve.
“Some companies, like Harry and David, are really good at keeping it all aligned: their Web sites, e-mails and stores,” notes Carol Worthington-Levy, partner of creative services at Lenser, a catalog consultancy. “One of the real keys to success is that catalogs, when they get to a certain size, start bringing all the creative in house.” In this way, companies can implement what she refers to as “brand police” — people charged with ensuring that all creative elements remain consistent.
Even when organizations outsource creative services, they still can enforce seamlessness in the form of a brand standards guide — a sort of styles manual that details how creative elements should appear in each channel. “Those working on the channels — from the person designing the store to the designers and production people working on the catalog — must understand the value of teamwork and give up their own personal expression of who they think the client is,” Worthington-Levy says. “Instead, they need to embrace the value proposition that’s been cited as the right one for the client. They can’t reinvent things every time.”
Instructions on color palettes, logos, fonts and photography should be readily accessible to everyone involved in the process. Worthington-Levy says the best way to present this is on an FTP site, where members of the creative team can download the information they require. On the FTP site, place all photography your company owns. Take-away tip: If you don’t own photos outright, have instructions on the site on whom to contact to get a contract extension from the photographer. Says Worthington-Levy, “Most photographers don’t sell photography outright; they sell usage rights.”
Everything should be on the FTP site, including proper versions of your logo and copies of your type fonts, she continues.
Consultant Regina Brady, president of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions, cites Brooks Brothers as a strong adherent of seamless multichannel creative. “Their catalog is extremely important, but they’ve done a nice job of integrating e-mail and the Web from a creative perspective,” she notes. “The catalog cover image is on their homepage when they know the catalog is supposed to hit in home. It’s also featured in their e-mail campaigns. Immediately, you know the catalog is coming, and you have a picture of the cover. And if they’re offering a sale or free shipping and handling, that’s graphically displayed. A few days later, their next e-mail might feature one of the catalog spreads. All these are examples of taking the creative and leveraging it in three channels.”
Catalog as Creative Basis
At Harry and David, the creative channels are all in house and divided among the company’s seasonal catalogs, Web content and the visuals (signage and window banners) for the organization’s 125 stores. “We’re structured in a way that ensures creative is consistent across all divisions,” explains Estin Kiger, senior vice president and creative director of the creative services division at Harry and David Corp. “As we go through our process, the products and packaging for the seasons are created first. We use a typical trends committee structure to look ahead and see what the styles, formats, color trends and palettes are going to be about a year ahead of the catalog’s publication.”
The catalog serves as the basis from which all creative elements are developed. “The catalog is what most people will have in their hands, so we build the styles for e-commerce based on what we’ve done with the catalog,” Kiger says. “Wherever possible, we multipurpose our images, so we don’t have to re-shoot a lot of things for e-commerce. We want that consistency. If the customer has seen our catalog and then goes online, we want her to have the same shopping experience as she has with our catalogs.”
While separate teams are assigned to each channel, Kiger says consistency is achieved through regular communication between all creative staff members. Moreover, two art directors travel between each group, a tactic that helps ensure logos, colors, fonts and other creative elements remain the same throughout. Through weekly creative meetings, all team members are briefed on their colleagues’ work. Before a direction even is decided on, the creative services division presents its vision to the marketing and merchandising departments, so everyone is kept in the loop.
Differences in Creative
At Duncraft, a Concord, N.H.-based manufacturer and marketer of bird feeders and related products, there are two principal sales channels: a catalog and a Web site. “We want them to be harmonious, but each channel has its own nature,” explains Sharon Dunn, Duncraft’s president. “We produce only two editions of the catalog a year; therefore, our merchandise is pretty stable over a six-month period. With the Web, we have the advantage of how quickly things can be done and how soon you can post products. We use the Web to get new products up before we can get them in the catalog, so we can get advance sales. This also can serve as a test for how the customer responds to a certain item, which helps when we do the catalog.”
It also provides an opportunity for catalogers to promote and sell related accessories. “On our Web site, there’s an opportunity to include specific items to cross-sell: If you bought this product, these are some of the items that go with it,” Dunn explains. “In my business, we sell bird feeders, so we might suggest a particular seed that goes with it, or a particular accessory from which it hangs. It provides a flexibility that you don’t have as much in cataloging, because the page is set.”
While some argue the average consumer’s attention span doesn’t allow for abundant amounts of copy in a catalog or on a Web site, this largely depends on the nature of your business. In Duncraft’s case, customers are seeking specific information, and are willing to read a little more to get it. “My customers are creating a beautiful backyard habitat, and they need to know about particular fountains and so on,” Dunn explains. “They’re not buying on impulse; they’re buying because they’re creating something. They’re willing to read the copy explaining how to implement these items.”
For Harry and David, it makes sense to feature more copy in the catalogs and less on the Web site. “We tend to be more copy-heavy in the catalogs, because that’s point-of-purchase, and that’s what convinces people to buy, even though they may go to the Internet to place the order,” Kiger explains, adding that the Internet still doesn’t lend itself to browsing as much as a catalog does.
Kiger thinks a distinct advantage of keeping your creative division separate from your marketing department is that you’re better able to achieve consistency in your creative endeavors. “You must have creative management that flows over all ofthe divisions,” he says.
While many merchants like to have the e-commerce creative as part of the e-commerce marketing group, and the catalog creative directed by a head merchant or a head marketer, that’s not ideal, he notes. “In our case, because we’re divided in a way that all the creative is done under centralized visionaries, it works very smoothly.”
Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer. Reach her via e-mail: email@example.com.