EMS Scales Heights of Catazines -- Again

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EMS is returning to its roots as a pioneer of the catazine.


From the outdoors outfitter's founding in 1967 to the early 1980s, EMS regularly dropped a mailer that included in-depth editorial coverage of the products it sold as well as of several outdoors sports -- a type of direct mail piece that has become known as a catazine.


Since discontinuing that publication in the early 1980s, EMS has communicated with customers by various means. For the past decade these have included direct mail brochures of 18 to 24 pages. These pieces focused mostly on apparel and sought to drive recipients to EMS stores, said Scott Barrett, the company's chief marketing officer.


"EMS hasn't been a traditional catalog retailer in the past 10 years," he said.


That changed Nov. 15, when the Peterborough, NH, company mailed a catazine to 650,000 households from its database. Another 100,000 copies were distributed through 85 EMS retail stores and through outdoors clubs at major universities in the Northeast. The book is priced at $2, but most people receive it free in the mail or with a purchase, Barrett said.


The 180-page book features dramatic photography of outdoors sports, new gear and apparel for hikers, skiers, mountain climbers, campers and other outdoors athletes, provides tips on training and performance and profiles outdoors adventures. Articles include "Why High-Tech Fabric Is Not Ripping You Off." Prices range from $5.50 to $660.


EMS returned to the catazine after focus groups indicated that the messages the company had been sending were neither engaging nor compelling.


"We wanted a vehicle that better spoke to where we're headed as a brand and that would better engage our customer," Barrett said.


Over the years, EMS had gotten away from its original mission as an outdoors outfitter, shifting its focus to apparel, he said. As a result, it lost relevance among the younger outdoors set.


"The way that we've been communicating to the marketplace, we've become less relevant," he said. "We need to have marketing out there that is edgier."


The new catazine, with risque cartoons, suggestive humor and a spread featuring a photo of the backside of a naked skier is an attempt to talk to a younger audience.


The overall message, though, is one that celebrates the outdoors athlete. That can include anyone ages 5-75, Barrett said.


"We wanted to speak about our brand in a fun and engaging way that characterized the exuberance of the outdoor athlete," he said.


Barrett admitted that the catazine potentially could turn older consumers away from the brand, but he thinks the chance is small. Focus groups conducted by the company consisting of people 35 and older were just as enthusiastic about the catazine as groups with younger consumers.


The book's combination of editorial content and product presentation aims to stay in homes longer than the typical catalog and EMS' usual mailers. According to a survey of recipients completed by EMS on Dec. 7, 60 percent said they plan to keep the catazine in their homes three to four weeks.


EMS plans to mail the catazine twice yearly, during the holidays and in the summer.


EMS will improve readability for the summer 2005 issue, as one complaint from recipients is that the book is difficult to read. Also, EMS plans to integrate the catazine's look and feel into its stores, Web site (ems.com) and other visuals to create a "seamless connection between [them]," Barrett said.


EMS did no prospecting for the premiere issue because it wanted to get the book to consumers it knows and track results to see how well the catazine drives sales. The company will use these results as a baseline to measure the results of prospecting lists it acquires in the future.


Chantal Todé covers catalog news for DM News.com. To keep up with the latest catalog news subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter DM News Daily by visiting http://www.dmnews.com/cgi-bin/newslettersub.cgi


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