November 26, 2019

Catalog Craig Paperman: The Great Pivot

Yes, this is business fiction. It's the day before Thanksgiving. Why would there be business-defining content on the day before Thanksgiving?

So here, enjoy this. And if this isn't your thing, simply delete and we'll see you on Monday. But given my email stats, you don't delete this stuff, so here we go ...


SCENE:  The SYNERGY EIGHT conference, a conference where professionals attend the conference after their airfare and hotel are fully funded by the conference hosts. In exchange, SYNERGY EIGHT attendees must listen to a "fireside chat" between the CEO of SYNERGY EIGHT, Travis Cozenage, and Catalog Craig Paperman. The lights go down, and Mr. Paperman's walk-on music ("Eternal Flame" by The Bangles) is played to nearly 600 attendees. Mr. Paperman takes the stage, and sits down on a couch next to a faux fireplace, seated with Travis Cozenage.


Travis Cozenage (CEO, SYNERGY EIGHT, effusing fake excitement): Craig, thank you so much for being here today!

Catalog Craig Paperman (Catalog Influencer):  Travis, I'm so happy to sit in front of close to six thousand industry experts. Please, ask me any question about Amazon or Walmart.

Travis:  I was hoping you'd say that!

Craig:  It's been such a big year in catalog marketing. Literally, we've re-invented the entire industry. I'm serious. You couldn't envision a world five years ago where catalogers would be going out of business in epic numbers but the industry would be in great shape because Amazon and Walmart would be mailing catalogs.

Travis:  You said the industry was in "great shape". Could you say more about that topic?

Craig:  I call this moment in time "The Great Pivot".

Travis:  The Great Pivot?

Craig:  Yes. 2019 was the year that my industry, the Paper industry, pivoted away from Catalog Brands and saved the Catalog Industry.

Travis:  Who saved the Catalog Industry.

Craig:  Well, I did.

Travis:  You did?

Craig:  Who do you think convinced Amazon and Walmart to smartly add Catalogs to their Marketing Mix???

Travis:  Was that you?

Craig:  I don't want to take all the credit, but yes, it was me.

Travis:  How did you convince Walmart to put ten million toy catalogs in the mail?

Craig:  You start the old fashioned way. You lie to a Receptionist.

Travis:  Brilliant!

Craig:  Eventually you get through to a Divisional Vice President who is about to be fired for poor performance. You convince this putz that their job depends upon innovation. Next thing you know, you are introducing yourself as a Catalog Influencer to a Vice President, who forwards your business card to a Sr. Vice President, who contacts her Executive Vice President, who then speaks with the Chief Operating Officer, who contacts the Chief Marketing Officer, who speaks with Chief Financial Officer who calls the President who ultimately connects via Slack with the Chief Executive Officer who needs Board Approval to mail ten million catalogs. Just like that, BOOM, you're rolling in money. 

Travis:  But the process began with a lie, correct?

Craig:  Travis, in case you haven't noticed, in 2019 everything starts with a lie. Lies are a Best Practice.

Travis:  You're looking great, Mr. Paperman.

Craig:  You simply tell the Receptionist something that scares him ... you tell him that if he doesn't adhere to an omnichannel business model his career is dead. Dead!! You should see how quick you get a deep referral into the organization.

Travis:  I assume these lies work.

Craig:  Absolutely. Professionals are easily terrified.

Travis:  Give me an example.

Craig:  You eventually get in front of the CEO, and you need to come of with a whopper of a lie. So you pit Amazon and Walmart against each other.

Travis:  Really?

Craig:  You tell Walmart that Amazon is generating seventeen dollars per catalog mailed. This frustrates Walmart. Simultaneously, you tell Amazon that Walmart projects they'll generate twenty-four dollars per catalog mailed. This causes Amazon to compete, and compete at a high level. Next thing you know, both sides are buying paper from me, and I earn a $100,000 bonus. What is wrong with taking home "one large" as the kids say for curating a few well-intentioned lies? Nobody gets hurt, and I take home a generous block of cheddar.

Travis:  That's all you have to do? You just lie to pit both sides against each other?

Craig:  Exactly.

Travis:  And that's what you did?

Craig:  Nah, I'm lying. Lying is a best practice.

Travis:  So what do you think happened with Amazon and Walmart?

Craig:  As you already know, I am what people refer to as a Thought Leader. Therefore my opinions, right or wrong, carry more weight than the average person. My opinion is that Walmart and Amazon are capitalizing on the death of Toys 'R Us using the medium most likely to resonate with a time-pressed consumer.

Travis:  That medium, of course, is the Catalog?

Craig:  Precisely!!

Travis:  But why a catalog? The merchandise is already available online, correct?

Craig:  I call this change in business direction "The Great Pivot".

Travis:  What a fascinating name.

Craig:  The digital industry told smaller catalogers that there were riches to be had online. Those riches, of course, were gobbled up by Amazon. By some accounts Amazon is responsible for 40% or more of all e-commerce. So as smaller brands abandoned the greatest marketing channel of the past century, large brands realized the raw power of the catalog, and are now pivoting back to catalogs. This is the best news for my industry since the printing press.

Travis:  Wow.

Craig:  Think about it. A paper rep used to have to schlep door-to-door across New England, begging dozens of small catalogers to increase circulation in October from 150,000 to 160,000. Now we just go to Walmart and get them to print 10,000,000 toy catalogs. What do you think is better for the industry, begging individual owners to add 10,000 in circulation, or partnering with mega-brands to put 10,000,000 mailings out there? Now the paper rep sends a text message and boom, an order for enough paper to harvest half of the rain forests in South America.

Travis:  The numbers speak for themselves.

Craig:  So that's where we are going to invest our energy, my energy. My industry is pivoting away from the brands that historically paid the bills. We're betting our future on partnerships with mega-brands.

Travis:  Is this an industry-wide trend?

Craig:  Absolutely. All of the vendors I speak with are looking to the future. We're pivoting away from begging catalog brands to smartly continue the tradition of catalog marketing. Instead of dealing with a thousand small brands, we deal with fifteen mega-brands. Less work, more pay.

Travis:  What do you have to say to the catalog brands who have been loyal to paper all these years, brands you are now abandoning?

Craig:  Increased circulation results in increased engagement with your favorite Catalog Thought Leader.

Travis:  Brilliant.

Craig:  By the way, I'm on Instagram now. I'm an Influencer. I'll be in the lobby after this presentation accepting sponsored post opportunities.

Travis:  How many followers do you have?

Craig:  Three hundred thousand.

Travis: Congratulations!

Craig:  I'm lying. Lies are a best practice in 2019, so that's what I'm telling people. Nobody fact checks, so what difference does it make when I tell a lie?

Travis:  Brilliant insight from Industry Influencer and Thought Leader Catalog Craig Paperman. Craig, thanks for being here today.

Craig:  Thanks for letting me pay $20,000 for the opportunity.

Travis:  Oh stop lying.

Craig:  I'm not lying.

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