Scale & Scope
In Penella’s words, “We see ourselves as an entertainment catalog. We offer gifts that complement the videos we offer.”
Unlike most video catalogs, which can carry thousands of titles, Acorn doesn’t serve the mass market. Rather, it focuses on more mature customers, public television watchers and the gifts that might appeal to them, including war memorabilia, handcrafted apparel and stately home décor. This strategy has worked, Acorn executives say, because the customers initially attracted to the catalog as video buyers often find themselves drawn to the gift items, and vice versa.
Reach Out to New Markets
But developing a solid and diversified product line was only part of the story behind its success. As noted earlier, Acorn executives had another thought in mind when they expanded their assortment. Video buyer lists weren’t performing as well as they’d like, so they had to find other means to acquire new customers.
Working with their list broker, Mokrynskidirect, Acorn executives sought out gift lists whose buyers would likely be interested in their growing merchandise selection. Specifically, they used lists such as Smithsonian, the Sovietski Collection and Travelsmith as jumping-off points to attract new buyers. The eclectic array of products and gifts offered by these catalogs matched Acorn customers’ tastes, so why, Acorn executives thought, shouldn’t it work the other way around?
In addition to a wider variety of lists, Acorn officials also pursued cooperative databases as a way to grow their customer base. Although the catalog had used cooperative database Abacus since it began mailing in 2001, Acorn began to take advantage of other databases, such as I-Behavior and Next Action.
Provide the Right Merchandise
Having worked first at Rivertown Trading and now for Acorn Direct, Bonnie Marron has a good idea of what her customers want.
“Everything in the catalog needs to have a story,” she says. She calls Acorn customers discriminating, and says they have a wry sense of humor and a desire for quality entertainment that’s so strong even the gifts they buy must possess an air of the extraordinary.