Tea Cataloger Brews Movie Tie-In

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The Republic of Tea hopes to cash in on the popularity of the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with a mailing next week of 240,000 catalogs featuring a "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" tea and book for sale.

The cataloger even delayed printing the book until after the Academy Awards were presented so it could call "Crouching Tiger" an Oscar winner. The cataloger had already completed the photography and layout of the catalog.

"We held [printing] production of the catalog until the day after the Oscars," said Stuart Gold, CEO of The Republic of Tea, Novato, CA. "The next day, we rushed it into production. We've been watching the history of the movie when it was in Asia and how well it did there and thought it would be a wonderful item."

He said the company received usage rights two weeks before the Academy Awards show. "Crouching Tiger" has become the highest grossing foreign film, earning more than $110 million at the box office. It received four Oscars, including Best Foreign Film.

The "Crouching Tiger" book sells for $19.95, while the tea is priced at $10. The cataloger did a similar promotion when it offered the novel "Memoirs of Geisha" with a tin of orange blossom tea that featured the book's cover and Geisha teacups, Gold said.

The latest catalog follows the layout The Republic of Tea has been using for five years -- a 40-page, color book measuring 6-by-11 inches and printed on 80-pound sterling web paper with elaborate photography. The company has been chastised for using the heavy paper, but Gold said the expense is worth it because the catalog is used as a branding tool and has lifetime value for some of its customers who collect them.

"We're advised all the time that it's a waste of money, that we should be doing a lighter paper. But our response is [that] when it comes to branding, the quality of paper is very important to us and we're sticking with it," Gold said.

He would not comment on the cost to produce the catalog but said it probably costs more than the production of most other catalogs of similar size.

Though the cataloger occasionally rents lists, that's not the core of its prospecting efforts. Instead, it gets a large volume of catalog requests through its toll-free number, the catalog request section of the order form and from its Web site, which became e-commerce enabled in November. The high number of requests also allows the cataloger to keep its customer acquisition costs low.

Last year, The Republic of Tea received 100,000 catalog requests and expects to surpass this number now that prospective customers can request a catalog online. The last 12 months have shown a customer conversion rate of 85 percent. The Web site produced nearly 90,000 requests, while phone requests averaged 600 to 700 a week.

"If we see there could be an adjunct to update the business or a new marketing target, then we would rent lists," Gold said.

Demographics for The Republic of Tea are primarily women ages 18 to 49, well educated with annual household incomes of $75,000. Gold would not comment on the catalog's average sales order.

The front and back covers of the catalog always display the featured tea. The cover carries the drawing, while the back showcases the actual product. Inside, teas and tea products are placed in varying categories, including Green Teas, Organic Teas, Black Teas and Herbal Infusions. Prices range from $5 for a scone mix package to $100 for a Brush Stroke Iron Teapot. Each page displays one to six items.


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