Discovery Shifts Focus to Seasonal Mailers

Discovery Commerce, the merchandising division of cable giant Discovery Communications, is retooling its catalog strategy in favor of higher-frequency mailers supporting specific seasonal events and increased circulation for the regular books.

As part of this makeover, the Silver Spring, MD, company in late January dropped its first postcard for Valentine's Day, with another spring-themed mailer planned for March.

Two Discovery mailers drop in the second quarter for Mother's Day and Father's Day, plus a regular catalog in the fourth quarter, albeit with three drops and different covers.

Discovery catalogs were sent three times last year, one for spring, another for Father's Day and one for the holidays. The books targeted the brand's audience of mostly women ages 35-55.

“We're seeing greater migration from a pure catalog as an order-taking device to the catalog driving store and e-commerce sales,” said Sharon McCarthy, executive vice president of marketing at Discovery Commerce.

The smaller-format mailings include 6-by-9-inch postcards, multi-page mailers and 12-page booklets as well as the regular 8-by-10.5-inch catalogs.

Each mail piece will feature a hero product surrounded by a seasonal-driven assortment to create interest and urgency. For example, the $99.95 Roboraptor remote-controlled techno dinosaur was the best seller in the 2005 holidays from all the electronics, DVDs, telescopes, gear, books, home furnishings and toys sold by Discovery. That dinosaur toy was featured on the holiday 2005 catalog cover.

“Depending on the holiday, we'll have a different format,” McCarthy said. “We want to date our spending with the importance of the holiday.”

McCarthy wouldn't disclose the current circulation of Discovery catalogs or the drop sizes planned for this year. But she said circulation was raised 15 percent this year.

The entire customer file will get the Christmas holiday catalog, pushing for sales through telephone, e-commerce or in a Discovery Channel store. During the rest of the year, catalogs and mailers will drive traffic to stores and online. The shorter the season, the more store-driven the catalog.

“It's more focused, it's a smaller ROI, so we can reach out to them on a more frequent basis, and they want to hear from us more frequently,” McCarthy said.

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