Catalog Doctor: Break Out of the Catalog Mold
PATIENT: Doc, I'm worried that my catalog program is in a rut. I'm tracking my competitors, but they're in ruts, too, so I'm not getting new ideas there. How can my team and I develop some new, innovative ideas instead of the same old retreads?
CATALOG DOCTOR: It's hard to envision new ideas when you keep staring at the same old bag of tools. To stimulate your thinking, break away from the catalog world, see what the rest of the world is doing, then think about how you can apply that to your catalog.
Collect All Your Junk Mail
Most catalog marketers save all the catalogs in their mailboxes, but throw out the rest of their ad mail. Start saving those unwanted direct mail envelopes, postcards and self-mailers; then study them. Look at copy, design and offers to stimulate new thinking for your covers and intro spreads. Study formats, too. There might be great ideas to spice up your contact strategy between catalog mailings.
Attend Noncatalog Conferences
Take Ty Pennington's keynote at the DMA08 Conference. What does the host of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" have to do with catalogs? Nothing. But he explained how he meets and learns about each family for whom he designs a home. Catalog mailers study data, demographics and pie charts about their audiences. But slicing and dicing numbers about audiences isolates you from them, too. How often do you meet them one on one? Not often enough, if at all. You can't meet everyone, but meeting even a few customers makes your?catalogs more relevant.
Read What Customers Read
Conduct a survey to learn what magazines your customers read. Then subscribe to them all. Study them for type treatments, use of negative space, color palettes, copy voice, etc. Are they busier than you thought? More serene? More fun? Are there clever graphics that aid scannability, or interesting callouts or tips? Reading these magazines helps you to get into your customers' heads and see a piece of the world they see. Magazine ideas can help you update copy and layouts so they're more relevant to today's customers.
Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or email@example.com.