June 29, 2011

Youth and Catalogs and Brands

By some accounts, there are more than 22,000 catalog companies in the United States.

Yup, you won't hear that stat bantered on Twitter.

What's interesting is who shops these brands.

Many of you are contacting me now, pointing out how a half-dozen brands are using catalogs to attract 18-29 year old customers.

I've never said that catalogs can't work among younger customers.

I repeatedly say that catalog brands that targeted a 25-54 year old audience in 1995 kept targeting the same audience, and are now left with a 40-69 year old audience with an average customer age of 55 years old, +/-.

This is the problem.

If you create a catalog for an 18-29 year old customer, and you combine that with a brand experience for the 18-29 year old customer, then that can work.

If you've followed the Baby Boomer generation for the past two decades, then you have a very different set of decisions to make.  This is the business that I tend to work with, one that is having a very hard time acquiring customers, one that is having a hard time growing, one that can achieve profit optimization by reducing catalogs to customers with a high organic percentage.  This type of catalog brand has not, over the past fifteen years, demonstrated the ability to acquire younger customers.  

This isn't good or bad, it just "is".

Catalogers take a very different approach to target markets than do online pure plays.  I frequently meet with online business leaders.  These folks will craft four online brands, one targeted to older customers, one to younger customers, one to full-price customers, one to discount buyers ... all fulfilled out of the same distribution center, all with different search and e-mail strategies.  Each brand attracts a different audience.

Catalogers try this, but are less successful ... creating different titles, then using similar tactics that result in each title having a similar demographic composition.

We need to strategically think about titles, brands, and demographics.  We need to think less about channels.

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