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Catalog Redesign Favors Testimonials Over Famous Face

The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine doesn't want consumers to think of its namesake diet as a fad, so its newest catalog has shifted focus from the product and its maker to testimonials of people who use it.

Gone are page after page featuring pictures of Dr. Robert Atkins, the center's founder, and product shots. Instead, the front spread features a two-page testimonial from Shelley Stahl, who lost 65 pounds.

“The [old] catalog wasn't a very well known entity. As a result, we've tried to establish the branding of the direct catalog, which lends to the credibility of the [center],” said Jim Murtha, account director at AGA Catalog Marketing & Design, New York, which redesigned the catalog. “The previous executions lacked some of that visual representation of how it can be incorporated into your lifestyle. It was a whole bunch of product shots. It's got to be more about lifestyle.”

Indeed, the cover of the new book presents a couple who has been successful on the Atkins diet, compared with an older book spotlighting a protein bar and Atkins. The back spread of the spring book features the Atkins Center's director of clinical nutrition offering a fact-vs.-fiction consultation with dieters. An older catalog's back spread sold Atkins' books and information about its Web site.

The new catalog also differs from an older version in that it includes recipes, which use Atkins' products as ingredients; tips for staying on the diet; and more prominent success stories from Atkins diet followers. It also features only three photographs of Atkins himself, as opposed to an earlier book that featured him on the cover and 18 times throughout the book.

The marketer's older catalogs were oblong and folded into a 5.5-inch-by-8-inch booklet and consisted mostly of product pictures ranging from diet shake mixes to vitamin supplements that the center claims help lower blood pressure.

The summer catalog is set to drop in June. The spring catalog — the company's eighth print book since it entered into the catalog business in June 1998 — was mailed a few weeks ago to prospects and 600,000 Atkins dieters who can request the catalog, dubbed Atkins Direct, via its Web site or toll-free number. The size of the redesigned catalog is 8.5 inches by 11 inches.

NRL Direct, Cresskill, NJ, handles list brokerage for the diet center, but prospecting is a tricky task for Atkins.

“The customer already has to make a commitment to being on Atkins in order for this to work, which is not an impulse decision,” said Susan Morse, director of direct marketing at Atkins Nutritionals Inc., New York.

Atkins' combined direct sales, which include its catalog, direct mail effort and Web site, www.atkinscenter.com, generated more than $17 million last year, a 70 percent increase from the prior year's figure. The company anticipates a 25 percent to 40 percent increase in sales this year, according to Morse, who added that the company also generates revenue from its wholesale division.

The “nutriceuticals” industry — a term used to describe the cross between vitamins and herbal products — seems to be increasingly entering into remote selling.

“There certainly has been a trend of retailers and manufacturers going direct to consumer,” Murtha said. “A lot of them are using the Internet. A lot of them are going through catalogs in some cases, and some are going just going by direct mail pieces.”

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