Lois Brayfield is the president of J.Schmid, one of the top direct marketing and catalog agencies in the U.S. She has over 20 years of experience working with many of the country’s leading direct marketers, including Hallmark, American Express, HoneyBaked Ham, Sprint, Better Homes & Gardens, Sears (Canada) and Mark & Spencer (UK). Her expertise covers strategic design and customer experience, merchandise analysis, marketing strategies, brand development and catalog feasibility to start-up strategies, re-positioning and in-house training.
A frequent speaker and writer on all things direct marketing, Lois is recognized by clients and colleagues alike for her expansive insight. Lois spoke with us about the “New Era” catalog and why catalogs are a ‘proactive’ medium…
1. What are the most common marketing problems that companies ask J. Schimd to solve for them?
The most common challenge for our clients is how do their brands not only survive in this new economy but how do they thrive? New thinking is required in this new economy in which consumers are bombarded with extra-sensory messages but are given more options and control than ever before. Marketers must be BOLD in their efforts to move the needle. The status quo is no longer viable.
2. Describe the “New Era” catalog. How has is become a multichannel vehicle?
Any brand mailing a catalog today will tell you the catalog is NOT dying. It’s a proven tactic that still works. Period. However, its role has changed. Those marketers that use this important tool as a transactional tactic only are missing the boat. Catalogs are a wonderful way to engage, impart your brand, move customers to social communications or direct them to an online event. This requires new thinking in how we position catalogs today. The catalog has become a critical “call-to-action” asking customers to engage in multiple ways, depending upon a brand’s marketing strategy. And it’s critical that all channels coordinate their efforts without flaw.
3. As you once noted, “people have been predicting the eventual death of the print catalog. Yet for many multichannel merchants, this predictable and proven tactic continues to generate sales.” What is it about print that makes it effective still today?
The catalog is a proactive medium. It physically “taps you on the shoulder” and allows you a brand experience while thumbing through its pages. Unlike a website that sits out on the Ethernet, you must physically DO something with a catalog. The other reason it still works is because data clearly tells us which customers still prefer a catalog as the primary touchpoint. Data doesn’t lie. That’s not to say that many customer segments do not require a catalog … an email will do just fine. Data also proves that for many brands, a buy decision might come from a catalog but the preferred method of purchasing is an online experience. We know that someday a paperless society will exist; it’s just not here yet.
4. What are the most common mistakes organizations make in catalog design?
Catalogs that don’t do well are those that present their merchandise as a collection of products rather than a brand story. Catalogs must engage, tell stories and present a brand thread evoking a “higher order benefit.” Products should sit under a brand umbrella that offers an emotional take-away and many designers and copywriters forget this critical rule. The other mistake is not spending enough time creating powerful covers that will get opened. Covers (both front and back) are your only opportunity to engage and they must quickly entice you to open the catalog. And one big mistake? Asking customers to do something that they really don’t care about. For instance, do you really think a call-to-action like “Follow us” offers a promise that customers really desire? All copy and directives must be about how your brand is going to deliver on the promise of what you are selling – the higher order benefit.
Watch for Part Two of our interview with Lois next week. She’ll share her insights on when to break the rules of catalog marketing and the biggest trends shaping the way marketing teams operate…