Good Response Is All Tied Up

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Good attendance numbers were all tied up for The Merchandise Mart's February Men's Wear Collective after it adopted a trendier look for the show's direct mail efforts. The 16 percent increase in attendees produced by that effort persuaded the company to repeat the strategy for the show's Aug. 7-9 edition.

Until recently, the 15-year-old Men's Wear Collective was viewed by the industry as somewhat traditional, said Michelle Benson, managing director of marketing communication at The Merchandise Mart, a wholesale market center based in Chicago.

But when the show's buyers began expressing that they wanted more diversity in the selection of brands, it was time to consider a shift in direction. At the same time, the sales and marketing team was hearing that traditional men's apparel stores were carrying more contemporary lines.

"We know that that was an area that we needed to go after," Benson said of the company's decision to try to attract trendier brands to its Men's Wear Collective and to reflect this new direction in its direct mail efforts to potential attendees.

Previous mail campaigns for the show focused on the clothes. For the February show's campaign, however, The Merchandise Mart's in-house design team took more of a lifestyle approach and photographed a model in an upscale environment.

Since the company had recently opened LuxeHome, a collection of luxury boutiques for home building and renovation, all the images for the campaign were shot here. They included one of a model in a contemporary kitchen holding a glass of wine and a few of the model sitting in different high-end modern chairs.

These lifestyle images conveyed that the show attracts high-end brands and showcases them in a high-quality environment, Benson said.

"We're trying hard to communicate that this men's show is different from our competitors, and we wanted to make sure our communication materials transferred that," she said.

The images appeared on a series of postcards and self-mailers sent over a period of time beginning in November 2004.

Other design elements reinforced the message that buyers could find the latest trends for their stores at the Men's Wear Collective, Benson said. For example, the tagline "Be Inspired" appeared on all of the mail pieces as well as a list of the contemporary brands on display at the show. In addition, all of the pieces employed the same orange color as an accent. The Merchandise Mart also used this color for its show signage.

In total, 28,000 pieces were mailed to prior attendees, buyers who had expressed interest in the show via telephone or e-mail and prospective attendees targeted by the company's sales team. The Merchandise Mart does not buy or rent mailing lists, Benson said.

Benson sees a correlation between the new direction for the show's direct mail efforts and the rise in attendance.

"When our sales team hit the circuit, it was a lot easier to sell the show with this more contemporary piece," she said.

In addition, the campaign won an award from Graphic Design USA magazine's American In-House Design Awards in the direct mail and direct response category.

The company hopes for a similar lift in attendance at next week's show. The mail campaign started in June and features the same model as the February campaign as well as the "Be Inspired" tagline. While it was being designed, the marketing team spoke with exhibitors to ensure the mail pieces were on top of the latest fashion trends. The featured color for the August campaign is sky blue.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting


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