September 08, 2021

Lies

Can I tell you a story?

I once worked with a retail brand who mailed catalogs to retail customers. We executed years of mail/holdout tests, and we knew inside-and-out that mailing catalogs to retail customers ... DID ... NOT ... WORK.

Here were the results:

Mailed Group = $10.00 spend per month across all channels (most of the spend was in retail).

Control Group = $9.70 spend per month across all channels.

Cost of the Mailing = $0.60.

Profit Factor = 40%.

Profit per Mailing = ($10.00 - $9.70) * 0.40 - $0.60 = ($0.48).

Every catalog mailed to a retail customer hemorrhaged $0.48 ... it was like taking a half-dollar coin and throwing it into the ocean ... over and over and over again, a million times a year.

So one morning my phone rings (about five years ago). It is an Executive working for a Catalog Vendor. The Executive begins yelling. The Executive tells me that their Agency is now in charge of the account with the retail brand, and that my services will never be needed again. 

The yelling continues ...

"HOW COULD YOU BE SO STUPID AND STOP MAILING CATALOGS TO RETAIL CUSTOMERS? THIS IS THE DUMBEST THING I'VE EVER HEARD OF. WE ARE IMMEDIATELY REINSTATING ALL OF THE CATALOGS AND WE ARE TELLING EVERY RETAIL BRAND THAT WE WORK WITH TO NEVER WORK WITH YOU AGAIN."

I then shared the mail/holdout results, showing how the mailings were absolutely awful.

"YOU CAN'T TRUST MAIL/HOLDOUT TESTS, THE TESTS DON'T CAPTURE THE INTANGIBLE BRAND BENEFITS OF PRINT. ARE YOU DUMB? FOCUS ON MATCHBACK RESULTS. YOU DON'T MEASURE RESULTS WITH TESTS. AND YOU KNOW THAT."

Yeah, I remember the Executive asking "are you dumb?"

For some reason, I kept trying to defend my decision via data. And if there is one thing we've learned as a society in the past five years, it is this ... there is a significant fraction of society that does not want to hear about data. A significant fraction of society just wants to believe a narrative.

This individual ... this Catalog Agency Executive ... this person lied. This person lied in an effort to grow business for the Agency ... at the expense of the truth, at the expense of what was/is right for the retail brand.

And yeah, this Executive is still doling out advice to catalog marketers who do not understand math.

Why am I telling you this?

Because if you work in the catalog industry, you are at times fed a series of lies. You are misled by "trusted partners". Ask anybody impacted by the paper crisis of 2021. You're being told that nobody wants to work on a bindery line so there may not be capacity for your job. That's a lie. Nobody wants to work at the wage offered by the printer. People seem to want to work for Amazon. 

You're being told that print is being reborn. That's a lie. Your paper partners have been shutting down mills for a decade - they wouldn't do that unless demand for paper was ... decreasing! Demand doesn't decrease when something is being reborn.

You're being told by industry experts to ignore actual experiments ... A/B test results (mail one segment and not mail another segment, measure the incremental lift between the two groups). The industry would rather have you use a highly flawed technique of attaching every order generated within "x" days of a catalog mailing. Terrible logic. Highly flawed. Analytical malpractice. And the industry would tell you that this is a "best practice". It is not a best practice. It is a lie.

In 2022, you have no choice but to re-evaluate your print efforts. Your "trusted partners" are telling you to do things to protect THEIR business. You need to protect YOUR business. And you have literally thousands of digital strategies you can employ to replaced failed tactics. Why not employ them? 

What stops you from moving into the future? 

Most importantly, what motivates you to continue believing their lies?

Contact me right now (kevinh@minethatdata.com) if you want help protecting your business in 2022. We'll get busy doing what is right for your customers and your business. Don't let industry lies trap you in a paper-based cul-de-sac.


P.S.: The Vendor Executive reached out to me two years ago ... said we should "chat" about what is going on in the industry, as if there wasn't a prior conversation at all.

P.P.S.:  I read an article today from a Catalog Industry Consultant, who said that there is a labor crunch for bindery line employees at printing facilities. Another person on Twitter said that "nobody wants to work". Saying "nobody wants to work" is a lie. If nobody wanted to work, explain how Amazon has hired more than a million ... A MILLION ... people in recent years? Explain how they'll hire another 50,000 this fall? Why is it that Amazon has no problem hiring people? Wouldn't Amazon be impacted in a dire way if "nobody wanted to work"? Of course, Amazon pays a minimum of $15/hour and benefits ... and yes, some of you are about to beat me silly because you know that there are problems at Amazon. So have at it. But always remember that the issue isn't that "nobody wants to work". The issue is that "nobody wants to work at the wage being offered." That reflects on the brand trying to hire somebody.

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