Letter: Oh, Come On

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Some months ago, I found myself compelled to write in about Kmart's direct marketing campaign. I wrote to question how my very small purchase had justified me for the mailing, how there were no incentives to get me to the store and, most importantly, how it couldn't possibly do anything but lose Kmart millions of dollars.

Today, I find myself writing about a new magazine (cough) from Buy.com called Buy.com Magazine. Sorry, now it's BuyMagazine ("Buy.com Tightens Catalog Database," Nov. 18), which talks about the wonders of this innovative approach to marketing and how the company has eliminated 2 million names for this mailing.

This 2 million name elimination, in the words of the publisher, "represents the work we did on our database and identifying our best customers. We wanted to alert people who had been good customers over the past year to the name change."

In May 2000, I purchased $44.68 worth of inkjet cartridges from Buy.com because they had the lowest price for HP ink cartridges at the time. I haven't bought from them since. Why? Prices are better elsewhere. I got the magazine earlier this year, and now I received the latest issue -- the one sent to "good customers over the past year." Unless I'm mistaken, I would have been a 25-36 month buyer, which is the equivalent of dirt to most direct marketers, especially in these tough times.

Well, maybe Buy.com did some work with one of the great modeling companies out there and found out that I'm an active Internet buyer from other companies. Well, they might have! Surely there's an incentive to reactivate me? Nope. Dot whack? Nope. Inkjet message? Nope -- maybe there wasn't room in the 13.5 square inches of white space on the back cover.

The latest issue features an Austin Powers sweepstakes on page 3 (giving up prime selling space to name acquisition in a mailing that goes to buyers only?), a model with cleavage on page 14 reading "Lord of the Rings," on page 59 and the best on page 52 -- a shot of a model giving a big smile to a Viking CompactFlash card (maybe she likes Vikings). We all know that many of the technology marketers sell pages in their catalogs to vendors, right? Vendor ABC gets better placement in the book if they contribute more (too bad it doesn't work that way for the rest of us).

When a very visible company issues a "magazine" and announces a "TV show" that isn't yet being produced and doesn't have an expected air date, and coincidentally, this article is timed by Buy.com very nicely to the Nov. 11 press release issued by the company describing the network and its board (which includes several very notable names), surely we can't be duped into thinking how great it is that a direct marketer is doing such innovative things? Nah.

Rick Isenberg, President, RBI Direct Marketing Consulting


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