Catalog Rolls Out Welcome Wagon

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Gold Violin will move beyond traditional catalog mailings and e-mail campaigns this month with the distribution of 25,000 Welcome Kits to senior living communities nationwide.

The cataloger, which features gifts for senior citizens, has partnered with Procter & Gamble, Quaker Oats, L'Oréal cosmetics and nine other companies to create the gift boxes.

"It's an innovative way to get the catalog in homes without paying the postage rate," said Ann Taylor, Gold Violin's chief operating officer. "The box is almost like the gift box new mothers receive in the hospital with various coupons. Ours has product samples, coupons and, of course, the Gold Violin catalog."

The boxes are going to the facilities' marketing directors, who will distribute them to new residents, Taylor said.

Gold Violin, Charlottesville, VA, targets two audiences with the campaign: baby boomers with annual incomes of more than $50,000 buying on behalf of their aging parents; and senior citizens with annual household incomes of $30,000 or more. The average sales order is $65, based on the January mailing of 500,000 catalogs.

The cataloger -- which made its online debut in March 2000 before the catalog was launched in April 2000 -- has compiled a house file of 27,000 people and uses rented lists from ALC of New York LLC. The cataloger also exchanges names with other companies as a way to test new lists and uses Abacus, a division of DoubleClick, New York, for additional prospecting efforts.

Gold Violin also has done direct response advertising in a few national publications, including The New York Times Sunday Magazine and The Washington Post Sunday Magazine. The company was featured in Parade magazine, which showcased its Czarina's Magnifying Necklace.

"That generated a lot of response, not only for the item but also for the catalog," Taylor said. "The article ran in close to 28 million copies, which turned out to be great publicity for us."

The current 48-page, 8-inch-by-5-inch book has 142 items. It was designed inhouse and cost 44 cents each, including postage, to produce.

"It's the size of Reader's Digest, which is very popular among older people, and we felt seniors would feel comfortable with it," Taylor said. "We do make an effort to use larger-size type than many other catalogs would use, because we want to be sensitive to the fact that larger type is important to our target."

Each page has between two and four items, and prices range from $4.95 for a bicycle bell to $625 for a three-wheel bicycle. The most popular items are walking sticks, canes and magnifying glasses. Some items have short descriptions, which Taylor said is important because there are items whose therapeutic value needs to be explained.

"It does take a little more copy to explain products like that," she said. "We also use insets fairly frequently to show how a device works, and we'll make use of insets throughout the book."


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