Tofu or Steak? Critic Picks Apart Several Catalogs
In a session during the recent NEMOA conference in Portland, Maine, that had catalogers ducking for cover, Bill LaPierre, senior vice president of the Millard Group Inc., list brokerage division, provided a veteran’s critique of several catalogs he recently observed and of the catalog/multichannel business at large. His overall finding? Today’s catalogs are boring!
LaPierre pulled no punches as he picked apart catalogs, referring to them as “tofu” (lacking in flavor) or “steak” (full of flavor), though he found plenty more tofu than steak. He provided tips primarily focusing on creative design.
* Adapt, make timely changes to your catalog. LaPierre praised Cuddledown’s catalog for its timely inclusion of comments on one of its products, with the comments appearing in the catalog less than a month after they were written.
On the untimely side, he lampooned an unnamed catalog that featured a skier and snowy mountains on its cover, which he received at his New Hampshire home in August on a 90-degree day.
* Include one “hero” shot on each page. LaPierre stressed not giving each product the same weight in the catalog. Feature best-sellers prominently to drive customers’ attention, he said. He praised Orvis for featuring the same set of luggage two times in the same catalog. To many people, this may sound like a waste of valuable space, but he argued Orvis had determined this product was one of its best-sellers and was giving customers what they wanted.
* Use the catalog as a traffic-driver. The catalog should make numerous and prominent references to the company’s Web site and/or retail locations, LaPierre advised. “Hit them over the head with it,” he said.
* Publicize that you’re environmentally conscious. “If you’re a ‘green’ catalog, make this known to your customers in your book,” LaPierre said.
* Don’t allow theme to take over your book at the expense of response. LaPierre finds there’s a disconnect today between what catalogs provide and what customers want (and look for). One example of this was a catalog company that featured a hat on its front cover. LaPierre opened the catalog up expecting to find the hat prominently featured, and it wasn’t included anywhere in the book.