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The trends, the issues, and productive business strategies.

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Increasing the Size of the Pie 

Attracting newcomers by creating an identity. 

By Lisa Kanak, The Cropper's Coprner (April 4, 2005)

People are saying that the scrapbook industry is "mature," that we’ve grown as much as we can, and now the battle ahead is to simply stay in business. I’m going on record to say that I don’t think this is true. If the scrapbook industry was truly mature, the average Joe on the street would know what scrapbooking is and why people would be interested in this hobby.

The fact is, the average Joe does not have a clue what scrapbooking is. Walk down the street, and ask people to "define" scrapbooking; what responses do you get? Here in Virginia you get everything from a "Huh? Never heard of it," to "Oh, isn’t that where people spend hours and hours puing a couple of pictures on a page with a bunch of stuff?"

Our industry has an identity problem: people don’t know what scrapbooking is. They don’t know why they would ever want or need a scrapbook. And our industry needs to step up to the plate and tell them.

Until now, everything we have talked about has essentially revolved around making the current "pie" more profitable. As a retailer, I do wish that just some tweaking with purchasing, better inventory management, and current advertising by manufacturers would solve all of the industry’s problems. Unfortunately, that’s simply not true.

Every industry is fighting for our customer’s attention. Customers are being told they "need" this, or they "should have" that. How long have digital cameras been available? More than 10 years, yet they didn’t start becoming widely accepted until the last few years.

Kodak, Sony, and Canon have had to campaign long and hard to first convince people that digital cameras were easy to use. Next, they had to convince people that they should switch from film to digital; and now the pressure is on to educate consumers to print their own photos, too.

These companies have developed excellent educational advertisements that make digital photography seem easy, fun, and more convenient than standard film cameras. Digital photography is becoming the standard format because the manufacturers created the market by creating an identity for digital photography.

The identity of the scrapbook industry is vague. Most people do not have a clear concept as to what the hobby is – or what it could be. Instead of developing an industry message that the public could identify with, we have relied mostly on word-of-mouth.

At first, this form of "advertising" is great, because it’s cheap and easy. Unfortunately, like the old game "telephone" – the message and meaning often gets lost. I believe this "lack of identity" is what is now holding our industry back from its second and greatest potential growth spurt.

If the scrapbook industry is going to survive, and more importantly, thrive, we must increase the size of the pie. This requires increasing repeat business, and finding new customers.

A plethora of articles have been written on how retailers can keep current customers happy. Suggestions have been made as to how we can inspire them to purchase more, or purchase greater numbers of things. Yet comparatively little has been shared with retailers about how we can find those new customers.

Finding new customers is the most expensive type of advertising – even more so when the identity of a "scrapbook store" is not something the majority of people grasp. Yet this responsibility falls almost exclusively to the local independent retailer. The lone retailer’s advertising budget is fairly small – and the larger the potential audience the more expensive the advertising.

Comparatively, a manufacturers’ advertising budget is fairly substantial. Yet the lion’s share of most manufacturers’ advertising budget is being spent in the attempt to convince current consumers now purchasing product A to purchase product B.

Happily, there are a couple of ways manufacturers and retailers can share this burden. The easiest, by far, is for manufacturers to offer retailers co-op advertising dollars.

Essentially, co-op advertising rewards retailers who achieve a certain level of purchasing by returning a percentage of their accumulated purchases to be used in joint advertising campaigns. These joint efforts enable the manufacturer to help direct consumers to the stores that are carrying their products – which means the local scrapbook store gets more business, turns more products, and becomes more profitable.

Co-op advertising is used successfully in many industries, and would greatly help retailers reach their local market. The only potential downside is that co-op advertising still relies (in part) on people already having an idea that scrapbooking is something they are interested in. More people will definitely know that the store exists – but not many more will understand why the store exists.

Our industry needs to grow beyond the single manufacturer and the lone retailer to create an image for our industry tailor-made for each major demographic (Baby Boomers, Millenials, Generation Xers, Yers, Seniors); if we unite, we will have a much greater and lasting impact. This is not a new concept. It’s been used successfully for years. Here are some very popular and successful industry campaigns:

Beef. It’s what’s for dinner ... Got Milk? ... Pork, the Other White Meat ... The Incredible, Edible Egg.

Each of these campaigns was started because sales of the food category were suffering due to scientific studies proclaiming these to be "bad" foods responsible for heart attacks, strokes – even cancer. These campaigns helped to not only change the public’s perception of the foods – they allowed the industries to rebound, and in some cases grow.

These campaigns have one additional factor in common – they were industry focused instead of being brand focused. The manufacturers and retailers all knew that they had to address one major problem – the consumer’s perception of their product – in order to increase sales. If the industry couldn’t change its identity in the minds of the public, it wouldn’t matter if the label on the product read "Pet" or "Safeway" – it was all the same to them.

I realize that the scrapbook industry is not beef, pork, milk, or eggs – but we do have something in common with these industries. We share the same identity problem. Consumers do not know what scapbooking is the same way they "know" what knitting, needlepoint, puzzles, games, cars, or golf is.

We must educate consumers about the need for our products and services. We must address – as an industry – their misconceptions and pre-conceived notions about photo storage, scrapbooks, and crop events. We must invite them to get acquainted with our industry as a whole – and make them want to join our "club."

There are many different avenues for a joint educational and promotional campaign including DirectTV, magazine bind-ins, newspaper blow-ins, direct mail offers, bulk coupon offers.

Even better, we can use these vehicles and target our message to address the specific needs or goals of each segment of the population. We can target men differently from women, teens differently from seniors – we can give each consumer market their own reason to scrapbook.

This type of campaign is not easy – and would be impossible if it were undertaken by the single manufacturer or lone retailer. However, by joining together to create a unified message and identity for our industry, we can overcome our biggest obstacle to growth – our identity.

The best part is that we already have this message. It’s in the stories our customers tell us. It’s the widowed mother who wants to make an album about the husband she lost in the war – so that her children will be able to know him. It’s the grandmother creating a simple album so that her grandchildren will have a better understanding of what life was like when she grew up. It’s the genealogist who wants to put all of the information and photos they’ve gathered into a more organized and visual format so that more family members can learn about their heritage. It’s the child who loves to create pages about the things that are most important to them.

Scrapbooking can be simple or complicated. It can be done for a one-time gift, or become a part of everyone’s life. But the average Joe doesn’t understand this – and he should.

We must present our message with one voice. We must speak from the heart in a tangible, visible way. And we should do this now.

The best part is that direct marketing is less expensive than you might think – even DirectTV. It can be tested in regional mass markets or in small local markets. We can track results, and the results can be known overnight.

If non-profit (and even for-profit) groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Feed the Children, Coral Ridge Ministries, and many, many others can use these methods successfully, so can we – but we have to work together.

I am excited about the potential for an industry-wide campaign – one that will create an identity for the industry while providing an offer and a mechanism for funneling new customers into local and/or on-line stores.

The question now is what will we – as an industry – do?

We know that the industry has an identity problem. We know that neither the single manufacturer nor the lone retailer can solve this problem by themselves. Partner groups such as Crafter’s Home or The Smart Group could easily lead this charge – but in the end, the decision rests with each of us. The choice is ours. We can do the same things we’ve been doing – and get the same results – or we can try something different.

(Note. The Cropper's Corner is at 1621 Carl D. Silver Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA 22401. To contact Lisa, call her home office at 540-752-1935 or email lisakanak@adelphia.net.)

Comments from Mike Hartnett

1. What Lisa is recommending is exactly what the acrylic yarn companies did by forming the Craft Yarn Council of America. When CYCA was formed a few years ago, knitting and crochet were almost dead, kept alive by our grandmothers making afghans.

Make no mistake. Today yarn is hotter than scrapbooking, all due to CYCA's publicity and promotion efforts, and the industry introducing new yarns and projects that appealed to a younger generation.

Wouldn't it be nice if the scrapbook industry formed its own version of the CYCA NOW, and didn't wait until the category fades?

2. As I understand it, the ad campaigns Lisa referred to (milk, beef, etc.) are helped along by federal legislation regarding agricultural products. I believe businesses who participate in those campaigns get some sort of tax write-off.

3. The Craft & Hobby Assn. is testing a billboard campaign in four cities to promote "Crafts. Discover Life's Little Pleasures." If the program raises awareness in crafts, it will be rolled out, according to CHA's budget, to other cities. But because of the nature of CHA (a trade association for a wide variety of craft categories), CHA can't focus all its resources on promoting any one particular category.

So if scrapbook companies want to promote scrapbooking, they'll have to join forces and work together.

(Note. In CLN's next issue, Lisa will write about merchandising strategies. To read previous entries in the Memory, Paper and Stamp section, click on the headlines in the right-hand column.)



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