Whatever Works: Where Product is King
The people depicted in the catalog would look well—not sick. Those with sore backs would not be bent over in pain, but walking upright and smiling—the result of ordering a product. And the approach would be whimsical and fun to read.
What to name the catalog was a question. Feldman was a chiropractor, so they called it Dr. Leonard’s. Leonard was a common name in the Midwest, and they figured many of their customers would be older folks from that region and would be more comfortable with the name than, say, Dr. Larry.
The Great Toe-straightener
The partners didn’t have a lot of money with which to buy space ads to launch a catalog. Parade magazine was too pricey, so they settled on its lower-end competitor, Family Weekly, a Sunday supplement that ran in several hundred newspapers nationwide. The cost of the ad would be $1,500.
What to advertise was the next question. “I’m not a fan of catalog request ads,” Brown says. “I want orders.” So they tested a toe-straightener for people with hammer toes—roughly 25 percent of the population. Photography wouldn’t work, so a drawing was commissioned. When their employees saw the drawing and the ad Larry had written and designed, they said, “You can’t run that!” The foot depicted in the ad had six toes.
“That’s when Len and I knew we had to run it,” Brown said. “Ads have to capture immediate attention and this one certainly did.”
The ad ran on a Sunday, and by the following Wednesday it had generated $5,000 in cash. Total revenue from the ad was $30,000—a huge success 25 years ago. A version of it still runs in the current Dr. Leonard’s catalog.
The subsequent run on product sent the partners scurrying to Connecticut to beg the manufacturer for more. When the vendor saw the ad, he burst out laughing at the six-toed foot. But he produced more product, and the ad ran everywhere; in Parade where a $5,000 investment brought in eight times that amount in revenue, in free-standing inserts —anywhere that low-end products sold.