The Cover's the Thing for Cataloger

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Don't mess with the cover. That's the lesson electronics cataloger Crutchfield learned in two tests late last year.

"From these tests, we've really come away with the notion that our cover is one of the most important tools for us," said Alan Rimm-Kaufman, Crutchfield's vice president of marketing. "It's just as important as the body and it can't be obscured by any covering."

In October, the cataloger tested an eight-page wraparound on supplement catalogs. It mailed 50,000 books with the wraparound and 50,000 without. The wrap was printed on non-glossy white paper and featured articles on electronics items found in the catalog.

While the book with the wraparound did generate slightly more sales, Rimm-Kaufman said, the added revenue did not cover the cost to produce it. He would not disclose specific sales figures or production costs.

Despite the performance of the first test, Rimm-Kaufman said Crutchfield re-tested the same piece in March to confirm results. This time it was placed inside the book. Rimm-Kaufman could not comment on the spring test because results had not been completed.

He added that Crutchfield is trying to rework the wraparound idea and might try it again.

The cataloger had considered mailing the piece separately but decided against it.

"Onto itself, it's incomplete because it really doesn't sell you anything. It just creates excitement, so it really needs to be coupled with the catalog," Rimm-Kaufman said.

Another test that confirmed the value of an unobstructed cover was a November mailing of 10,000 thank-you letters to its best customers. The letters, which included the company's logo, were attached to a catalog and placed in polywrap.

"We took a thin slice of our very best customers, the creme de la creme of [our] file. There was no offer, there was no pitch, it was just a sincere thank-you," Rimm-Kaufman said. "It was a much more costly piece, but it didn't perform well because I think people didn't recognize it was from us."

Rimm-Kaufman declined comment on the cost to mail the catalogs with the thank-you letter wrap, although he said the cost was relatively small because it was done for a small percentage of customers. Nevertheless, sales from catalogs with the letter did not cover the cost to produce and polywrap it.


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