Posted On: 2005-10-20
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Greetings and salutations marketing fans. It's that time of year again. The air is turning cold, the wind whips by me in the morning, carrying with it leaves of cinnamon, burgundy and brilliant, brilliant yellow. At outdoor cafes and bars crowds begin to wane down to touch those few committed stragglers. Nary a tourist to be seen in our nation's capital these day, but the sharp wheeze of the school busses harrow the return of the school group. Yes, indeed, it's that magical time of year, and it can only mean one thing, folks. Halloween is almost here.
Submitted for your approval, the 20-Something Marketing Forum's episode #12 aptly named "Too Scary to Interview."
Rise and Shine 20-somethings. It's time for the 20-Something Marketing Forum with your host Jared Degnan.
Ah yes, I love it when the creative muse dances across my keyboard in the fall. It just seems to lend itself to passionate writing, doesn't it? If not over-acting. Anyway, this is the 20-Something Marketing Forum where you can get an informative and engaging look at marketing and the lives of overly-ambitious 20-something professionals dealing with the realities of the modern workplace. My name is Jared Degnan, chief contributor and creative marketing genius for the podcast, and the blog, which can as always be found at 20somethingmarketing.com. And speaking of 20something.com, as a reminder, if you have not already done so, please take a second to visit the site and click the iTunes button on the left side of the screen to ensure you have the right iTunes feed. Now we have about 50 of you stragglers out there, and if you're wondering why the hell you seem to be getting the podcast late, that is, on Mondays or Tuesdays rather than on Thursdays, then most likely you probably need to update the feed. So, today, I am going to try to change things up a little bit for the better. I'm going to try something that my friends like to call, oh, I don't know, brevity. My podcasts have been going a bit long lately, and I want to get them down to about 20 minutes, which basically means more content for you guys, and less rambling on my part. So let's get down to it, shall we?
Today I was going to talk about world domination and the next steps towards it, but luckily, you know what folks, that can wait. Because this week I have a special treat for all you ghouls and goblins out there, and that's basically going to be commentary examination of Halloween as a pure marketing theory and tool. So for fall as we know it, it's basically a boon for retailers. It's a first call of the holiday season, where you get to shake off the doldrums of the summer promotions and hope right on past the uncool traditions of the back-to-school sales, and jump straight into the Halloween promotions. And why do we do this? Well, the fact of the matter is that's where the bucks are. Halloween, really represents a boon for marketers. It's a holiday that's completely predicated on pop culture, parties and you know what folks, let's face it. If you're 20-something it means large massive consumption of alcohol. So, in the end, everybody wants something out of Halloween. Kids want candy, 20-somethings want to dress up and go to parties, and parents, well, in my experience they just want to be left mostly alone. The fact is, though, that Halloween is a ton of fun for marketers and everyone from drugstores to Starbucks likes to get in on the action. In fact, a coworker of mine brought in an extra Starbucks pumpkin spiced latte, which he promptly left on my desk cause he knows of my hatred of the evil green watery tart that is Starbucks coffee. Now it wasn't that it was that bad, per se, but you know what, the temperature just hasn't dropped below that level at which I feel the need for extra sugar in the morning. Not like I really need extra sugar now. But, why do a promotion like this, I thought, and the answer is really self evident, and that's because it's there.
Marketers like to build on relationships with their customers and what a better way to do it than snag a couple bucks with a hot steaming cup of artificially gourd flavored java after a long day of shopping for candies that you can toss the little rug rats who think they have free rein to taunt you like the French parliamentarians they are. Anyway, to examine more about the Halloween commercial phenomenon, I have brought in a specialist today on the podcast, Christina Marlow, marketing director for the Fright Catalog's here, and of course we also have plans to do quick recap of the game plan, and so let's right now skip to the my Lou my darling and hit it with this week's feature segment.
You're listening to the 20-Something Marketing Forum.
So we're back now and I'm with Christina Marlow the marketing director for the Fright Catalog. First of all, thanks so much for joining us Christina.
Oh you're welcome. Thanks for having me on.
No problem. I guess let's start off, can you tell me a little bit about the Fright Catalog, just for those of us in the audience who may have not been to the site yet?
Sure. Fright Catalog was spawned from the Halloween Outlet, which is a retail store. We have the catalog, frightcatalog.com, and also the Halloween Outlet, and there was so much growth in the catalog and online side of things that we actually became our own company in 2000, and we've actually grown the company just in you know that short amount of time into a multi-million dollar company. So, we've seen a lot of growth. One of the largest online and catalog retailers of Halloween merchandise. And we offer a lot of unique items that you know a lot of other companies don't offer. We, you know, we feel like we have a unique site, and are doing well in our markets.
Very much so.
It's a fun company.
I can definitely imagine. I mean some of your marketing has been absolutely innovative and I mean, just for those people who haven't been to the site yet. You guys carry a lot more than just the traditional realm of Halloween costumes. You guys have what upwards of $2,000 and more new audio animatronic dolls.
Right. We have, yeah we have the whole collection of the animatronics that are, yeah, they probably start, maybe like $600 and go up to you know, maybe even $5,000. They're really cool, though. I mean a lot of people you know who have high-end parties, order them specially, you know if they're throwing a huge bash, and they haunt their house, you know, have different rooms with different displays and things like that. So, and also professional haunted attractions, you know, purchase things like that as well for different displays. Yeah, we have, I mean we have a whole range of different products. I mean we also carry special effects and make-up and prosthetics for you know, potentially theatre companies or people that are putting on different performances as well. So we have a full range. Yeah.
Now, one of the things that some people might say when they look at a Halloween business is that it's very, very seasonal. How do you guys overcome that? How do you guys extend that revenue throughout the entire year?
I think that I would say that's one of our biggest challenges as far as you know, how to market to people in the off season. But I think we, we've done a good job of it as far as marketing for different holidays throughout the year. You know we always put a Fright Catalog spin on Valentine's Day or Christmas with, last Valentine's Day we promoted, we have Teddy Scares which are sort of scary teddy bears. And black roses, so you know, we always put a spin on things like that. And for Christmas time we promoted Grinch masks and Nightmare Before Christmas. So, we always try to think up innovative and sort of, I guess you could say Fright Catalog eyes, different holidays and also if horror movies come out throughout the year, we also sort of tie products to those events as well. For instance, Amityville Horror came out and sort of create your own Amityville display and here are some products that sort of tie with that. So we're very creative in keeping in touch with people throughout the year as well. And we found that it's very effective.
And that was actually going to be my next question. When you're talking about really creating an effective marketing model, you're talking about forming your relationship with your customers. And one of the things that struck me most about Fright Catalog in terms of just the way they relate to their customers, is that not only the fact that they do it year long through email campaigns, through multiple publications of your catalog, but also in terms of just kind of like relating it to people's lives. And I mean, I can imagine you guys have a really solid base of customers here, and do you want to talk a little bit about that? How you guys view your marketing tactics in terms of email and how you create that relationship?
Sure. Off season we usually e-mail twice per month just to keep in touch with people and that way it's also relevant if you know, as I said, you know, other holidays or events that are taking place, or whatever is relevant at that time, that's when we try to keep in touch with people and let them know if we have specials or sales or anything else during the year. We found that people appreciate that. That we're not at that time, you know, everyday when it seems, you know, it's not really necessary at that time. And then in season we do ramp up and we pretty much email people every day when we usually have different specials every day. Sales, or you know free shipping offers, or we send out a newsletter with relevant content. Halloween tips, and things like that.
So you're always putting in that extra value for the relationship. And actually one of the coolest things that I wanted to ask you about? Did you ever get rid of that life-size alien predator character?
Right. We did. We actually selected a winner a couple of months ago, and she was very excited, you know, we sent an email just to announce the winner. We actually just got some, the woman had to send us pictures, but she sent us pictures, they had set it up and took pictures with their kids, and you know, it generated a lot of excitement for us among our customers, so that was really great. And we always try to you know give away unique trips, or props, or just to add a little bit of excitement you know throughout the year. Right now we're giving away a Transylvania holiday trip. So someone will take a trip for I believe it's a week, I don't know, I believe it's a week, for next Halloween to Transylvania. So, people
That's very, very cool.
Yeah, you know people are getting excited about that.
Fantastic. So you guys have seen a pretty robust Halloween this year?
Oh definitely. Definitely. Sales are up and we're very happy with how things are going. A little crazy right now, but it's a good crazy. And you know, we've seen a lot of great feedback as far as we, updated our look this year, our site and features and functionality. So we're finding that it was a good move for us.
Fantastic. So let's quickly talk and wrap it up with just a quick discussion of what's your marketing department like. A lot of the things we talk about here on the 20-Something Marketing Forum is kind of the inner play between bosses and their colleagues within the workplace. So tell me, do you have many 20-somethings in your marketing department? Or are you yourself a 20-something, and how do you kind of view harnessing those talents if you do?
Me, myself I am 20-something. And I find that we have a really good dynamic here. Most, actually most of us are 20-somethings here at Fright Catalog. There's a really good dynamic, I mean you know, we're always looking for innovative ways to market you know, trying to stay ahead of that technology curve where things, you know, now are just are developing and changing so rapidly that we're always looking for new ways to deliver our content, keep things fresh for customers and really that's what, you know, that's what it's all about for us. As far as 100% customer satisfaction and making our customers happy, because ultimately they're the ones, you know, we're around because of them. You know, that's sort of what we consider number one. And as far as our dynamic here, I mean it's a really fun place. You know we get down to business, but at the same time you know, it's a pretty, it makes things a lot easier to be creative and to be innovative and, but at the same time you know we can be serious, and that's sort of why we've gotten to where we are today, because there's sort of that combination.
SO I guess just as a quick wrap up, do you have any advice for 20-somethings going out there that are kind of looking to create the kind of synergy that you've created over at the Fright Catalog, and are trying to do that within their organizations. Do you have any advice to give them?
I would say that do a lot of research. You know, sort of as far as keeping ahead of that technology curve, and researching to see what you know what other people are doing, or what's up and coming, and always trying to be innovative and I guess don't hold back, too, as far as you know, trying something new. I guess don't be afraid to try something new, because you never know, you never know where that will end up.
Fantastic. Well, I thank you very, very much, Christina. It's been a fantastic time talking with you. And you can access the Fright Catalog, I'll put a link up on the site, but I believe it's www.frightcatalog.com?
Well, thanks for having me.
Oh, no problem whatsoever. Are there any specials that you want people to know about right now?
Well, we actually through today there's a free shipping special that's going on, but I don't think that will,
But the important thing is, is you're coming out with new things every we.
We are. Check back. I mean there's always, there's always new fresh content each week, so just check back often.
And get on the email list, too. Yeah, definitely get on the email list too, that way you'll be kept up to date with all the fantastic things that are going on. And if you're a Halloween freak like I am, you'll love it. Well thank you so much Christina.
And you are welcome back on the 20-Something Marketing Forum any time.
The following is graphic, clinical material. News and commentary, proving once and for all, reality does indeed bite.
And welcome everyone to the 20-Something Marketing Forum news room. As you can hear in the back we are on for news you can use. News from business, marketing and of course beyond. Let's go to press.
The first story I have for you guys today is actually out of Ad Age. Ad Age is reporting that the Direct Marketing Association at their annual convention in Atlanta has just announced its ad spending report for direct marketing. They quoted that $161 billion was spent in direct mail advertising in 2005. Some significant shifts went on this year. Direct mail advertising, especially online grew three times faster than any other medium. Now, I find this interesting because I do a lot of direct mail advertising, and I guess you guys do too. And the article actually brings in a very interesting question, and that is, how do we begin to create better emails that are more authenticated and I mean, it's an interesting footnote to this whole story, because I mean we all use email a lot and we all hate to spam. So how do we conquer this, how do we go up against it? And I think that it really does come down to content versus just annoying people. So I'll tell you what, I'm going to put this up on the boards as a question, so if you have some tips on how to create better direct mail advertising, especially direct email advertising, go ahead, go on to 20somethingmarketing.com, click on discuss, and there will be a new question posted in the At Issue section.
Next thing up, some news out of America's Promise. As you might know, America's Promise is the organization headed by former secretary of state Colin Powell and his wife, Alma. And America's Promise is, in case you don't already know, is committed to fulfilling five promises to kids, and it's all about a really interesting spin on creating a good environment for kids to grow up in, and one of the things that they do, is they do co-branding. They do Banks of Promise, they do Restaurants of Promise, and apparently now they're doing Cities of Promise. And kind of leveraging competitive spirit with branding. They've actually selected St. Petersburg and Bradenton, Florida as the most youth-friendly cities in the country. Now it's a couple of different areas that they judge here, but I think it's pretty interesting. Check out America's Promise. Americaspromise.org and I'll put a link to the website. Cause I think this is a great marketing tactic in terms of being able to take your organization, identifying it with a really strong community service, philosophy, and being able to promote your city, in this case, a little bit more effectively.
And let's see. Oh! A story very near and dear to my heart. Atlanta is in the news. And Atlanta has actually, about to undergo a branding campaign, so Brand Atlanta is going to be a campaign that leverages ATL, of course the sticker thing for the Atlanta airport, which I think is now known as Heartsfield-Jackson-Atlanta International airport, but nobody really uses Heartsfield-Atlanta, but everyone just basically refers to it as ATL because they usually have to fly through it. So, essentially here it's going to be a street level guerilla marketing campaign where they go out into the streets and kind of promote Atlanta. But the question here is, what's the identity of Atlanta? Now I'm originally from Atlanta and I find this really, really interesting because it's essentially a city of contrasts. I mean it's southern, yet it's cosmopolitan. One of the greatest things you can think about it is it's the peach state. Well that refers down to Peachtree Street, in Atlanta, and if you've ever been there, there's more traffic than you can shake a stick at. Of course there's the Olympics, but then you have to harken back to the Olympic Park bombing. And when it really comes down to it, beyond maybe like the wonderful world of Coke, there aren't really any other attractions there. And I think there's only one other city that kind of, it's either, I think it's JWT, sorry, no, never mind. HWT is another promotional campaign, but I think it's Florida, FLA did something like that for the Tampa area. So, I mean, I think it's interesting and I think that it really comes down to what do you want your city to be known by, and the only take away that I have from this at all is just the fact that it's an outsider's perspective versus an insider's perspective. An outsider's perspective, this might work. But as an insider as somebody who's lived in Atlanta for a bunch of years, I really don't know. I happen to like the idea that there are a lot of different neighborhoods. And I think that it really does take an insider to know Atlanta because it is a city of contrasts. I mean, it grew up as a southern city, it was burned to the ground by Sherman, nobody will ever forgive him for that. And of course it's basically bounced back. It's now the hub of many many businesses, including Delta, UPS, Coke, I mean, all these organizations call Atlanta home. And of course, CNN. So I mean, it's interesting and I'm going to watch this closely because I am a big fan of destination marketing. But, I mean, I don't know if you guys have other things that you want to rant about, but if you have any suggestions, or if you have any examples of this, please go ahead and send it to me at Jared@20somethingmarketing.com.
All right. And for the last part of news today I have a new segment to introduce. Well, it's not a new segment, it's a new feature. And it's PR quote of the week. I've been trying to figure out how the hell I can integrate this, and I finally got it. USA Today is reporting that Anheuser Busch is shocked that its Bud pong program is being used with actual beer. And our PR quote of the wee comes from Anheuser Busch spokesperson Francine Katz, and she said, and I quote, "It has come to our attention that despite our explicit guidelines, there may have been instances where this promotion was not carried out in the manner in which it was intended." Folks, I've been in college. You've been in college. Have you ever played beer pong with water? With the exception of maybe to clean the damn ball off? But at the same time folks, what were they thinking. So, congratulations Francine, you get our PR quote of the week.
And that of course wraps it up for news you can use. I hope you guys have enjoyed it. And now on to the wrap up.
And now on to the game plan. My particularly favorite part of the show where I get to distill all the fun and the morals that we have learned during the show into a short little snippet. And our game plan today actually comes form Christen Marlow, who I thank again for appearing on the show, and it's basically research. You guys have a ton of potential. And the difference between a great idea and one that simply stays on the table and does nothing is the amount of research. Go out there and become a research junkie. Identify what you need to learn about your project, about your marketing campaign, and what information is going to help you sell it to your superiors. So, as I always say, thank you guys so much for tuning in. I appreciate it. If you guys have any questions or have any comments whatsoever or would like to participate in the 20-Something Marketing Forum, please don't hesitate to email me at Jared@20somethingmarketing.com, and you can of course find everything else about the 20-Something Marketing Forum at http://20somethingmarketing.com. Thank you guys, and I will see you on the flip side.