November 01, 2016

A Unique Voice

Ten years ago, I said on this very blog that catalogers had to become media brands.

How did our industry do at fulfilling the prophesy?

Not well. Not well at all.

How did Amazon do at fulfilling the prophesy? 

Better than catalogers did, that's for sure. 

You've watched Amazon Style Code Live, right? RIGHT? If not, click here. The show streams live weeknights at 9:00pm EDT / 6:00pm PDT.

In a modern world, Amazon hosts a nightly online television show. Catalogers "compete" by all making sure that all catalogs from all catalog brands are delivered into your mail box on the exact same day each week, fully diluting the viability of your mailing because the customer just received 27 mailings on the same day. That's called "co-mailing" - yet another vendor-supported idea that sounds good but is destructive to the heath of your business.

Facebook is saying that 70% of online traffic will be video-centric traffic within five years.

Amazon has a nightly television show.

Catalogers put paper in the mail..

Here's what happened, folks. Catalogers lost their unique voice. It's gone. Well, not all catalogers. Look at a Duluth Trading Company, for instance. You might find their male-centric underwear ads offensive or gross or whatever, and that's fine. But they sure do have a unique voice, don't they. And they've more than doubled their business in the past decade. What has happened to your business?

Have you read catalog copy lately? Seriously. Have you read catalog copy lately?

Let's go with an example. Instead of picking on a catalog brand, we'll use JCP as an example. Look at the copy surrounding this flannel shirt (click here).

Hey. HEY! Wake up!


Can you see the difference?

One reads like a textbook - one possesses a unique voice. Which copy stimulated your buying bone more?

The catalog brands that survive will have no choice but to have a distinct, unique voice. If a unique voice doesn't exist, then there's no reason for the customer to step out of the Amazon ecosystem.

Catalogers ... why not reduce your catalog ad budget by 10% (you'll never miss the sales, because sales won't go down when you cut back on circulation to online-centric buyers) ... and then reinvest the ad dollars in a program that yields a unique voice? What would stop you from doing this? What would stop you from creating your own media channel? You love channels, right #omnichannel? Why not have a media channel?

I know, I know, you have a PR department, and they issue press releases and they support Cancer Research and all that. That's 1% of what I am talking about. And supporting Cancer Research is great, but it does not lead to sales. You need to sell something ... right now.

It's time to create a media channel ... your own media channel. Repurpose the content on Facebook and Snapchat. Advertise your media channel. Feature new items on your media channel. Have a contest next March ... pit the top 64 best selling items against each other, and have your customers fill out a bracket to see which will be the best selling item ... broadcast the items and outcomes publish those who have "perfect brackets" on your media channel. Hire writers with actual chops ... not "copy" writers ... heck, your "copy" writers are probably dying to do something meaningful. Let them do something meaningful. Let them program your media channel. Let your creative people develop content/programming that supports your key items.

This is not a campaign. Campaigns don't last. This is the development of a media channel, one that give you a unique voice - it gives your catalog brand a reason to exist.

What are the odds that you will implement something like this?

I know, I know. The odds are zero. You just want to get to retirement and keep the wheels on the bus before the co-op lists die.

It's time to change. Again, what stops you from moving into the future?

It is time for stale catalogers to create A Unique Voice.

P.S.:  Take a look at this image from the Duluth Trading Company home page.


You might find this offensive. You might find this gross. You might say that "you'll never ever do something so stupid, you are a class brand (but please, buy now and get 40% off plus free shipping because our classy brand cannot sell anything right now).

This is what having "A Unique Voice" looks like.

Obviously, you won't do this.

But there is a version of this that aligns with your "brand". So again, what stops you from having an answer to what Duluth Trading Company does, but in a manner appropriate with your "brand"? What stops you? Is it you? Is it your CEO? Is it your Creative Director? Is it your co-op sales rep? Is it your Marketing Executive? Please ask the person stopping you from doing something why the person is content with tepid sales and 40% off plus free shipping?