June 02, 2016

Another Interview With Catalog Craig Paperman

If you don't like business fiction, please move on and read my Brand Ecosystem article!

Kevin: Nice to have you hear today.

Craig: Right.

Kevin: You sound crabby.

Craig: I'm fine.

Kevin: It's the whole Victoria's Secret issue and the death of their catalog, isn't it?

Craig: It's you.

Kevin: It's my fault they stopped mailing catalogs.

Craig: You are like a pox on the innocent face of catalog marketing.

Kevin: What?

Craig: I heard your talk at the VT/NH event a few months ago.

Kevin: You are still grumbling about that talk?

Craig: Everybody is still grumbling about that talk.

Kevin: Why?

Craig: You said that 30-39 year olds should be given the keys to the catalog car.

Kevin: I did say that.

Craig: That's illegal, and you know it.

Kevin: It was a metaphor.

Craig: It was irresponsible.

Kevin: How old were you when you were promoted from Manager to Director?

Craig: I was 37 years old.

Kevin: So in your case, it was a good thing to see a 30-39 year old given responsibility, but otherwise, it's illegal?

Craig: I was talented.

Kevin: Interesting use of the past tense.

Craig: The 30-39 year olds who work for me aren't talented enough. They need seasoning.

Kevin: How long do they need to be seasoned?

Craig: Until I retire.

Kevin: So you don't trust younger employees with running your business?

Craig: I don't trust them, period.

Kevin: Why?

Craig: They haven't earned their stripes.

Kevin: What stripes?

Craig: Catalog Marketing stripes.

Kevin: But how useful are catalog marketing stripes? It's 2016. One can make the case that classic e-commerce skills are largely outdated.

Craig: Like I said, you are a pox on our innocent industry.

Kevin: How has the industry done leveraging catalog professionals with three decades of experience?

Craig: What do you mean?

Kevin: Has the catalog industry grown?

Craig: Not really.

Kevin: So the most skilled and talented catalog professionals are managing an industry that is not growing?

Craig: Oh oh.

Kevin: Shouldn't these folks be held accountable for poor performance?

Craig: That means I would be held accountable for poor performance.

Kevin: Keep going.

Craig: But I have thirty years of experience. That means something.

Kevin: Twenty years ago, somebody promoted you to a position of authority. You were thirty-seven years old. You already had fifteen years of experience. Fifteen! And the person who promoted you probably had thirty years of experience. Isn't this the way the world works? Older professionals pass the torch on to younger professionals, and then younger professionals take the industry in new and unique directions that older professionals could not previously imagine?

Craig: No.

Kevin: Why not?

Craig: The way it works is that I keep control over my profession until I retire. Then the 30-39 year olds give me a cake and a watch, and honor the ground that I walk on. It'll be a moving experience. Then I get to enjoy my 401k while the 30-39 year olds get blamed for running the company into the ground. 

Kevin: You are motivated by spite?

Craig: I'm motivated by being right.

Kevin: Which brings us back to Victoria's Secret.

Craig: Idiots.

Kevin: Why are they idiots?

Craig: Catalogs are a part of their heritage.

Kevin: Merchandise is their heritage.

Craig: They're making a huge mistake.

Kevin: They executed tests. The tests showed that they didn't lose sales when they stopped mailing catalogs. Some of those tests went on for six months or a year.

Craig: But what about the long-term impact?

Kevin: A year-long test isn't long-term?

Craig: It's foolish.

Kevin: They have data on their side. They have profit on their side. 

Craig: They have some idiot data scientist running tests. They're making decisions based on the fact that some beaker of fluid didn't change colors.

Kevin: What are you talking about?

Craig: Lands' End did a test back in 1999.

Kevin: Stop it.

Craig: And that test showed that when they stopped mailing catalogs, sales declined.

Kevin: Nordstrom stopped mailing catalogs in 2006 and sales increased.

Craig: That's cherry-picking the results that benefit your argument.

Kevin: Isn't that what you just did?

Craig: You are so glib. You and your Brand Response Marketing Team comprised of infants. You and your "just test it" strategy. You and your focus on merchandise and customer acquisition.

Kevin: Those things aren't important?

Craig: People lose jobs when Victoria's Secret abandons print. There's a whole facility in Indiana that will have to close down. What did these people do to deserve the loss of a job?

Kevin: They didn't do anything wrong.

Craig: Exactly.

Kevin: So Victoria's Secret should keep mailing catalogs, even if they are unprofitable, so that print-based employees can keep their jobs?

Craig: We have to keep the ecosystem moving in the right direction.

Kevin: But if the co-ops weren't absolutely floundering right now, wouldn't circulation be on the increase and then the industry ecosystem would be healthier and printers would see improved performance? If you're going to blame Victoria's Secret because their tests showed that catalogs were not profitable, shouldn't you also blame the co-ops because their names are increasingly unprofitable?

Craig: Oh oh.

Kevin: Why aren't the printers jumping all over the co-ops?

Craig: You are a co-op hater.

Kevin: I don't understand why you beat up brands like Victoria's Secret for doing what is right for them, but you will not hold your own industry accountable when your own industry is causing catalogers to have to find digital sources for names, sources that do not include print? Your own industry is causing your own industry to mail fewer catalogs, for crying out loud!!!

Craig: Millennials are the problem. Those thirty year olds.

Kevin: They are not the problem.

Craig: Of course they are the problem. We need to train them. We need to train the employees how to cherish catalogs. We need to train the customers how to cherish catalogs.

Kevin: Is that your job?

Craig: Absolutely.

Kevin: How good of a job have you done training "them"?

Craig: Oh oh.

Kevin: Is it possible that you should be held accountable for not training your employees well enough and for not training Millennials, whoever they are, to shop your catalogs?

Craig: I blame the iPhone. It gutted cataloging.

Kevin: So what are you going to do about all of this?

Craig: I'll blame you. I like 90% of what you say. But the other 10% is way out there, and it allows me to refute the remaining 90% that makes sense. The 10% I disagree with allows me to reject 100% of the argument.

Kevin: You aren't going to change, are you?

Craig: Why don't you give me some actionable findings that will turbocharge my business immediately? Do a series of tips that are guaranteed to work. Give away all of your ideas for free. That should help!

Kevin: But I did that for more than two hours when you heard me speak at the VT/NH event. I spent four months working on the content, generating nearly 20,000 downloads on Slideshare. And then I followed that up with a two month series on my blog, all for free. Did you listen to a word I said? Did you implement any of my findings? Or did you simply talk about the 10% of the argument you didn't like with the rest of the industry ... yapping and talking and doing nothing about improving business.

Craig: Your series was garbage. Nobody wants to hear nonsense about giving 30-39 year olds responsibility.

Kevin: Even though you were given comparable responsibility at age 37?

Craig: Exactly.

Kevin: I think we're done here.

Craig: Let me know when you're going to write about Eight Ways That Cataloging And Retargeting Can Be Used In Tandem To Turbocharge Your Business, and I will be there to consume your tips for free.

Kevin: Even if you agreed with me, you wouldn't hire me, right?

Craig: Correct. I just want free tips that I agree with.

Kevin: Alright.