A&E Tries a New Look for Catalog

A&E Television Networks ships a newly designed fall catalog this week via AGA Catalog Marketing & Design, New York, which was hired by the cable network just months after it launched its premier mail-order catalog designed by competing catalog designer Pluzynski & Associates, New York.

“From a corporate-culture standpoint, we just meshed better with AGA,” said Donna Krampf, direct and online marketing manager at A&E. “They've provided a lot for us in strategic thinking and marketing support, in addition to design.”

Pluzynski's original effort performed well, she said, even exceeding its revenue projections. That initial foray, combined with existing direct response TV sales, contributed to the development of a customer database of about 1 million names. The 32-page revamped catalog, which will test two different covers, features home videos and boxed sets of A&E and History Channel programming, as well as nonvideo-related gift products with tie-ins to the programming subject , organized by themes such as British Humor, the Civil War era and spirituality.

A freelance merchandiser and in-house staff at A&E handled research and gift product selection for the current book. AGA handles design, production and distribution now, but, according to Krampf, the agency might get involved in more research and merchandising strategy in the future.

“I'll be looking to them down the road for potentially using them for more of these services,” she said.

The September, October and November mailings of about 300,000 each will ship to a combination of A&E's house list and rented lists. List management is handled by DJ Associates, Ridgefield, CT. Obvious list targets include other video lists, book buyers, museum lists, and any other lists with similar demographics to A&E.

“We're prospecting heavily because we feel there's a big market outside of our customer base that's going to be interested in these products,” Krampf said, adding that the ideal A&E mail-order customer in comparison to an e-commerce shopper is an upscale, educated woman and tends to be a little older, so the catalog strategy is the way to snag that offline universe of customers.

The growth strategy for catalog marketing is aggressive.

“I expect the catalog business to grow substantially,” said Krampf. Identifying new customers — as well as new product categories — is a priority. Catalog revenue currently represents about 15 percent of overall home video income for the year, she said. A&E first launched its direct-to-consumer business in 1992 with direct response TV video sales, followed by retail video sales and e-commerce.

The attraction to AGA had much to do with A&E's acknowledged need for strategic guidance in addition to good design.

“AGA offers a very complete solution to marketers in that they really offer good design with a very marketing-oriented plan,” Krampf said. “Everything they do from a design standpoint comes from a very strategic place, and gives me a high comfort level that we're offering creative not just for design's sake”

AGA is currently discussing the next catalog edition with A&E, which will likely debut in the spring, but no plans have been finalized yet.

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