Insert Media: A Miniature Resurgence
Like other insert media programs, such as package stuffers and blow-ins, miniature catalogs have been around a long time. But in recent times, their popularity among catalogers appears to be on the rise.
Catalogers as diverse in nature as nursing mother products marketer Motherwear International and B-to-B uniforms mailer UniFirst Corp. have been successful marketing through mini-format catalogs. What’s more, multi-title apparel and food cataloger Crosstown Traders plans to test its first miniature later this year.
Defined primarily as having no more than 24 pages at various dimensions, miniatures can be a more efficient way to get your product offerings in front of prospects at a cost that’s upwards of 50 percent less than a traditional catalog. They also can be used as a reactivation tool, to push buyers to other sales channels, and as a brand-building technique.
While a few miniatures are being mailed as stand-alone marketing vehicles, most traditionally have been part of insert media programs, such as package inserts, statement stuffers and blow-ins, and polybagged with other media, such as magazines.
Here are some key factors to consider:
A mini-format catalog often can be produced for 20 cents or less per copy, notes Anita Priest, a supervisor at Wilmington, Mass.-based UniFirst Corp. UniFirst has been producing miniatures since 2003. Last year, it inserted about 750,000 of them into several of its media programs.
As UniFirst’s full-sized catalog can cost up to 50 cents per copy to produce and mail, “the miniature is an economical addition to our mix,” Priest says.
UniFirst’s miniatures are produced by Web Direct Marketing, a Wheeling, Ill.-based printer and direct marketing agency that specializes in miniature catalogs. President/CEO Vernon Carson says that the 15-cent to 20-cent cost of most of the miniatures created and distributed by his company includes media research, placement, print production, shipping to the post office and mail tracking and monitoring.
While that low price is compelling, there are caveats to consider before producing a miniature. Debra Goldstein, senior vice president of the management division at Leon Henry Inc., a list management and brokerage firm specializing in insert media, cautions catalogers to monitor printing costs.
Most miniatures aren’t standard-sized package inserts or blow-ins, she points out. So the collation equipment often has to be adjusted to fit. As a result, “printers are forced to increase fees to accommodate the specifications for the job,” she says. “And some printers charge those costs back to the cataloger.”
Traditionally, printers have charged a flat, standard fee per thousand for miniature catalogs. “But now we’re seeing a tiered pricing structure that is based on insert size and paper stock chosen,” Goldstein says. A 3-1/2 inch by 5 inch size is standard; anything larger than that typically commands a higher price tag. But even with those possible extra costs, Goldstein says miniatures still are far less expensive to place as insert media than mailing traditional catalogs to prospect names.
Paper basis weight is another production consideration for miniatures. And to keep your costs in line, Carson recommends 40 lb to 50 lb coated stock for a 16- to 24-page, digest-sized miniature.
There are other options with miniature catalogs. B&W Press, a Georgetown, Mass.-based printer, produces several formats, including two-way self-mailers that can include a response envelope and 10 pages of products. They fold down from 8-1/2 inches by 32 inches to 8-1/2 inches by 5-7/8 inches to meet postal requirements, notes Paul Beegan, a B&W sales and marketing executive. B&W also can personalize and mail miniatures. Marketers using them present 30 to 70 products per edition, he says.
Priest at UniFirst says that when the cataloger tested its first miniature four years ago, it did so well that UniFirst has kept miniatures in its marketing mix ever since.
And for the Holyoke, Mass.-based Motherwear International, which produced its first miniature last year, President/CEO Tom Kothman says the program paid for itself and was a good brand-building tool. “We also tracked the miniature’s response to our Web site,” he points out, “and saw an increase in online traffic after the first issue hit.”
Motherwear distributed 750,000 miniatures last year, and placed them in various marketing vehicles, including polybagging them with the debut issue of American Baby magazine. “The response rates weren’t quite the same as with our main catalog,” he says, “but were still respectable.”
Likewise, Tucson, Ariz.-based Crosstown Traders, the Charming Shoppes unit whose catalog titles include Old Pueblo Traders, Lew Magram, Bedford Fair and Figi’s, among others, has budgeted a conservative 0.3 percent response rate, according to Trish Harris, manager of print services/media.
Despite the lower response, Motherwear’s miniature has had long legs, Kothman says. Orders kept coming in months after the first insertion, leading him to conclude that miniatures tend to be keepers.
As for recency, frequency and monetary (RFM) value, Web direct marketing research shows that people who buy from miniatures often have the same RFM as traditional catalog buyers, making miniatures a good addition to a diversified multichannel marketing strategy.
Choose the Right Merch
Those experienced in marketing through mini-format catalogs say that because miniatures are prospecting vehicles, the best items to include are bestsellers and/or products that brand you in the minds of prospects.
Harris says that Crosstown Traders will include core products for each of its catalog brands when it produces miniatures. “The target audience will correspond with the demographics for our regular catalog mailings,” Harris explains. Crosstown will take into consideration age and average household income, and work with its circulation department on previous list-rental results.
Motherwear, too, includes best sellers in its miniature catalogs. What’s more, Kothman says that the items also should be relatively evergreen. Because of the lengthy ordering curve of miniatures, he suggests that catalogers select items that they can keep enough of in stock.
As for the design of miniatures, consider the following points Kothman makes:
1. Don’t treat them as merely a shrunk-down version of your traditional-sized catalog. For example, don’t cram too many items on the page; too many small images on a page can confuse and frustrate recipients. Keep your copy efficient without cutting necessary copy.
2. Design your miniature to be either inserted or self-mailed. This way you can create and print it once, then distribute it by either means. That’s what Kothman plans to do for Motherwear’s next miniature.
So, should you be mailing a miniature? For Crosstown Traders, the prospects and economics make sense, at least enough to test the medium. “Traditional advertising methods, such as consumer publications and special catalog sections, have been moderately successful for us in the past,” Harris says.
Traditional advertising’s conversion rate for Crosstown takes up to 12 months in some cases. This process requires multiple catalog mailings and can get expensive. “So by incorporating the miniature catalog,” Harris says, “we hope to convert prospects much quicker by giving them a vehicle to purchase from that is less expensive for us to produce and distribute.”
Donna Loyle is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and the former editor in chief of Catalog Success. You can reach her at email@example.com.