Wiland Direct Jumps Into Co-op Database Fray

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Veteran direct marketer Phil Wiland said yesterday that his new firm, Wiland Direct, is in the beta phase for a Wiland Direct Cooperative Database with some lofty goals for consumer catalogers.

"I see the catalog industry as having a lot of problems currently," said Wiland, chairman of Wiland Direct, Longmont, CO. "Margins are down, growth is more difficult, and I think the most important element to fixing those problems will always be internal to the company ... but I think technology has yet to address the issues that the catalog industry faces. I want to bring our 30-plus years of experience and make an effort to apply it in a way that brings superior profit margins and growth rates back to catalogers."

The technology Wiland referred to is what he calls his firm's next generation software and predictive modeling tools, which he hopes will differentiate the Wiland Direct Cooperative Database from others in the space.

So far the database has 30 participants, all consumer catalogers. It is a blind database, and mailers' data are collected at the SKU level.

Wiland started a database management and information services company called Wiland Services in 1971. It served the direct marketing industry exclusively and did predictive modeling, database management, merge-purge and presort, and it was noted for innovative software, according to Wiland.

"We had about 500 clients ranging from the big guys like Lillian Vernon, Bank of America, Sears and lots of other recognizable names to smaller catalog companies, publishers, retail and nonprofit clients," he said.

Wiland Services was sold to an investment group that merged it with Neodata in 1992. Neodata was acquired by Electronic Data Systems Corp. in 1997.

After selling Wiland Services, Wiland began catalog firm Concepts Direct in 1992. Colorful Images was one of several titles run by Wiland under Concepts Direct. Others included Linda Anderson, Snoopy etc., Garfield Stuff, Linda Anderson's Collectibles and Music Stand.

"We created that business and rode the roller coaster with it," he said. "We ran it up to $80 million in sales and made a lot of money."

Several years ago, when hard times hit the catalog industry, Concepts Direct suffered. But Wiland rebuilt the Concepts Direct brand and sold it last year.

Wiland credits his background on the service and mailer side of DM as giving him the tools to build a successful cooperative database.

"In a way, I think my experience at Wiland Services, serving so many different kinds of direct marketers, gave me a very broad perspective on data and the use and processing of data in the direct marketing industry," he said. "The software that we developed there was really solution-oriented, and we did some innovative things that we haven't forgotten how to do."

Regarding his statement about restoring growth and profit margins to the catalog industry, Wiland acknowledges that he has set a sizable goal for his new co-op database.

"I know that is a huge global statement, and I am not yet prepared to make the claim that we've done it," he said. "We have merely put together a plan involving sophisticated software and data mapping and predictive modeling that we think has a chance to do it, and I'm simply asking the industry to give me a shot."

He said his theory probably won't be proven until the Wiland Direct co-op reaches critical mass around 300 or more catalogs.

One way Wiland hopes to help catalogers is by offering low-cost active customer file modeling. He thinks making more money from a cataloger's house file is crucial to the industry's health.

Though cooperative databases typically charge $40-$60/M for modeled names, Wiland said his firm will charge $10/M for active customer file modeling. Wiland Direct also offers the same service to anyone who signs up by June 30 for $7.50/M.

"The $7.50/M rate is guaranteed for two years," he said. "That's an example of putting some meat behind my statement that what's good for the client is good for us."

Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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