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#70 The Most Wackadoodle, Nuttiest Catalog I Have Ever Seen!
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Issue #70 – Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Posted by Denny Hatch

The Most Wackadoodle, Nuttiest
Catalog I Have Ever Seen!

Let me share with you a bizarre story told to me in the late 1960s by a former employee of the fabled jeweler Tiffany.
     During a late November rainstorm, a wet, disheveled young salesman ducked into the main Tiffany store on New York’s Fifth Avenue. He went over to the silver department and produced a small signature robin’s egg blue Tiffany gift box and opened it for the clerk at the counter. It contained a delightful little silver keychain.
     “Last Christmas I bought 15 of these for my best customers as thank you tokens for the business they gave me. Everybody loved it, especially in a Tiffany box,” he said. “My business has expanded and this year I’d like to buy 27 of them.
     The sales clerk, a nicely dressed (very) young woman, fingered the keychain and said, “I’ve never seen one of these. Let me see if we still stock them.” She went to the back of the store and the guy waited.
     A few minutes later she returned shaking her head in the negative. “I’m sorry,” she said, “we don’t carry these any more.”
     The salesman looked crestfallen. “But these were wonderful little gifts—and from Tiffany! All my customers loved them! Could you tell me why you stopped selling them?”
     She said, “Excuse me. “I’ll see if I can find out.”
     Moments later she returned and handed the salesman his keychain. “These were very popular and sold well,” she said, “but we found they brought in the wrong kind of customer.”

Fast Forward 2019
Several years ago Peggy lost her gold wedding band. We splurged and went to Tiffany in Philly where she picked out a (very modest) platinum ring with tiny diamond chips. Hence our inclusion on the Tiffany mailing list.
     Last week—from our little mailbox off the lobby of our Philly apartment building—I removed a fat folded Tiffany blue envelope containing the 64-page, 8-1/2” x 11” Tiffany Catalog No 9.
     The cover of Catalog No 9 is the lede illustration at the top of this post. I opened the catalog. Page 2 was a blank in solid Tiffany blue. Page 3 on the right hand side is the first thing you see:

“The most essential gift for a good writer
is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.”
—Ernest Hemingway

When I read page 3 above, the red flags of my in-built detector started wildly waving in my brain.
     I adore catalogs. I grew up when the massive Sears Roebuck catalog was still thriving. First published in 1896, it was always thrilling. It changed America.

     The Sears catalog put a giant department store on the shelves of every home in America—from the major cities to farmsteads and cattle spreads in the wildest, most distant areas in the land.
     Sears’ huge business was made possible by Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution:

“Congress shall have to power to
establish Post Offices and post Roads.”

You could send in an order for anything—from a thimble to a pre-fab house [sic]—and the kit would be delivered to you.
     As publisher of the WHO’S MAILING WHAT! direct mail newsletter and archive service, I handled and logged into the archive hundreds—no thousands—of catalogs over the 18 years we ran the business. My favorite was always the glorious, gaudy and deliciously outrageous Neiman Marcus Christmas book.

The proprietor of Neiman’s—the pixyish bearded Stanley Marcus (1905-2002) with the perpetual twinkle in the eye—made absolutely sure his catalog copy (gleefully) explained exactly what he was selling and precisely how to order it.

Here’s the first Tiffany two-page spread—pp. 4-5:

Alas, with Tiffany, the reader hasn’t a clue WTF is for sale here.
     Okay, the illustration at right is a bracelet. Or is it a ring?
     What is the item # or design? What is it made of? Gold? Platinum? What is the cost? How can I order it?
     Here’s the mouse type copy in the upper middle of the right hand page:

Notice the teeny-tiny thin black perpendicular line at the extreme right. This is a message in absolutely unreadable 4-pt type:

Select styles launching throughout fall 2019. Please contact 
Customer Service at 800 843 3260 for additional information.

Another Spread Early in the Book

The three mouse type lines of centered copy at left:


Note the perpendicular black line next to the gutter at right. This is the teensy 4-point sans serif line of copy:
Select styles launching throughout fall 2019. Please contact 
Customer Service at 800 843 3260 for additional information.

Moving Right Along to Two More Successive
Spreads from Tiffany’s Weirdsville Catalog

Absolutely no copy anywhere—no descriptions of the items, no prices. Nuttin’. Zero. Zip. Nada.
     Below is the two-page spread that follows.

Here is the Mouse Type Copy 
Under the Spoon with the Cherry:
Previous pages: Designs from the Seguso Vetri d’Arte collection, from $3,000. Designs from the Tiffany 1837 Makers collection, from $325.
Also featuring designs from the Home & Accessories collection from $225, and a necklace in platinum with diamonds, price upon request
Above: Designs from the Tiffany Ampersand collection, from $25.Also featuring designs from the Home & Accessories collection, from $775.

Takeaways to Consider
• The entire book is about Tiffany—"we celebrate," "we explore," "we believe."

"The customer doesn't give a damn about you, your company or your product. All that matters is, 'What's in it for me'?" 
   —Bob Hacker, Seattle Direct Marketer

• "Always listen to W-I-I FM." —Old marketing rule.

• My bet: The designers were told by clueless management to “Do your thing and be creative.” 

The key copy seems to have been written by Tiffany's corporate historian: "Designs from the Seguso Vetri d'Arte collection from $3,000... Designs from the Tiffany 1837 Makers collection, from $325... Designs from the Tiffany Ampersand collection, from $25."

• Huh?

• The gold standard for measuring the success of a catalog is: 
Square Inch Analysis.
 1. Putting more items on one page makes more sense.

2.  The items should be sold not only on the website but also in the catalog.

3. Pruning out the unprofitable page by removing some items or pages.

4. Feature those products in which the customers are more interested in make it more attractive.

5. All white space should be taken into account for every inch of space on the page.

6. Items which perform better should get more space whereas those performing below average should get less space.

7. If a product is generating adequate sales even in small space then give that space to an underperforming item to measure its performance.

The ultimate goal of square inch analysis is to understand whether the items are profitable or not.
MBA sKool.com

• Alas, in the spreads above, there were no descriptions, no prices and no order mechanism. It does not take rocket scientist to deduce that with nothing to buy and no way to buy it, ipso facto the catalog is a money loser.

• Maybe this catalog was an attempt by Tiffany to bring in the right kind of customer. But with nothing to order, it could not have brought in any customers.

"Make it easy to order."
   —Elsworth Howell, Howell Book House 

“Every time we get creative, we lose money.”
   —Ed McCabe, President, RCA Record Club


Word count: 1196
At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.


Denny Hatch
The St. James
200 West Washington Square, #3007
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk)

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