WHY & HOW CREATIVE SHOULD TALK TO CIRCULATION
First published on MyTotalRetail.com blog June 2015
© 2015 Susan J. McIntyre
Catalog creatives generally feel like they live in a different universe than circulation folks. But both share the same catalog goals and you'll find you can achieve those goals faster and better by talking together. Here are some tips on how and when to talk.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN YOUR NEXT DESIGN CYCLE...
1. Ask if buyer demographics have shifted.
Your circulation team typically gets demographic reports from the list-modeling companies. Ask to see those reports, and also ask your circ team to help interpret that (often obscure) data for you. Has your audience shifted lately to older or younger, richer or poorer? You can improve results by targeting your copy and design to the new demographic shifts. For example, older audiences often do better with bigger fonts, more explanatory photos, and clearer page organization.
2. Ask when the catalogs' in-home dates are planned to be.
Don't assume this year's in-homes will be the same as last year's. To maximize response, you'll want your cover themes and looks to be aligned with any holidays, and to follow the progression of each season.
3. Ask them to share any test results.
Did you do any creative tests of copy, design, photography, page density? Knowing the results is critical. And don't settle for an answer like "Test-A won, Test-B lost." Ask how the results broke down by recent buyers, old buyers, non-buyers, new prospects. Also by high-dollar and low-dollar buyers. This test-result knowledge you'll find to be critical for informing your next creative direction.
4. Ask about overall results from your house buyer list.
Your circulation folks have a lot of information you may not be aware of. One thing circ people look at is counts of how many customers have bought during the past 12-months. If those counts are shrinking, it usually means that fewer customers are repeat buying now than in the past. Knowing that's so, allows you to work on ways to use creative to encourage customers to return to buying as often as they used to.
5. Ask about results from new prospects.
Are prospects converting into buyers at lower rates? If so, you can work on ways to convince more prospects to buy. Are you not giving them enough information about the products in copy or photos? Are you not telling them why your brand is better?
6. Ask if prospecting volume or direction is changing.
If a lot of new types of lists are being tested, or old familiar lists are being omitted, you need to tweak your prospect-catalog's creative to appeal to the new mix of prospects. If you prospect using the same catalog version as buyers get, and if there's a big increase in prospecting, you may want to reorient the pagination and features to better emphasize proven best sellers and more entry-level-priced products designed to appeal to new prospects. Conversely, if there's a big cut in prospecting, you may want to put more emphasis on new products to stimulate lapsed-buyer interest.
BEFORE YOU DO ANY MAJOR REDESIGN OR REBRANDING
Be sure to tell the circulation folks. If there will be major creative changes, that may also mean the updated catalog will attract an audience with shifted demographics compared with before: younger or older, more urban or rural, and so forth. So the circulation department may need to test a new set of prospect lists. Or they may need to change the mix of house-list names they mail to in order to better align the overall mail plan to the new creative direction in a way that maximizes revenue from the shifted audience.
When creative partners with circulation, it's win/win for everyone. And it's fun and interesting too.