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Challenges, problems, and triumphs -- from a manufacturer's perspective.

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CHA and PMA: Should It Be Either/Or?

Why not take the best of both worlds?

by Nancy Nally (June 18, 2007)

(Note: The CHA-PMA discussion continues. If you haven't read the previously published articles on the subject, click on Memory, Paper & Stamps and Business-Wise. Nancy operates a blog, Scrapbook Update, at www.scrapbookupdate.com. She has written numerous articles on scrapbooking for various publications, including CLN, Creative TECHniques, Scrapbook Business, and DesignerZine.)

With the recent acquisition of the SMART Group by the Photo Marketing Association, Dennis Conforto, CEO of SMART Group's previous owners A-Z Media Group, has been quite vocal in expressing his opinion that the scrapbook industry needs a strategic alignment with the photo industry for the betterment of both industries. And while on the surface his arguments seem to make sense, I believe for several reasons that the scrapbook industry is better off not choosing to solely align itself with either the photo or crafts industries.

The obvious reason for having to choose between declaring "allegiance" to one industry over the other is that their winter trade shows conflict. In 2008, the PMA's show is Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Las Vegas. The CHA Winter show, the larger by far of CHA's two annual shows, is in Anaheim Feb. 9-13. While these dates don't technically overlap, they allow precious little time for disassembling and transporting booths from one location to the other, not to mention the burden on a company's show staff of two trips in that short of a time period. The bottom line may also be a problem: many companies simply cannot afford the expense of exhibiting at two shows.

So which show should scrapbook companies attend? And does only attending one show mean a company should shrug off any interest in the other organization and the opportunities of its market?

I believe that the most productive answer to the show question is for the scrapbook companies to continue to attend the CHA Winter show. The larger companies that can afford to do so should of course take advantage of the opportunity to attend the PMA as well, if it fits with their marketing goals.

But since many scrapbooking companies make products that reach other craft markets outside the scrapbook niche, it seems to me to be imperative that these companies continue to exhibit at CHA Winter to maximize their reach to other areas of the crafts industry. Plus, many of the store buyers can only afford to attend a single show. Since many of these buyers purchase from other craft categories in addition to the scrapbook segment, these buyers will need to continue to attend the CHA show. By necessity it follows that the scrapbook manufacturers will need to be there as well to reach these buyers.

Another reason that the scrapbook companies need to remain part of the CHA show and central to the crafts industry is to maintain their flexibility in a changing market. For the photo market, scrapbooking is a marketing tool for photos. Unless companies want to become photo companies, there are not many ways for them to adjust to a changing market. They are tied to marketing scrapbooking as a way to use photos in a marketing partnership with the PMA.

On the other hand, a presence in the CHA and in the crafts industry offers scrapbook manufacturers flexibility to take advantage of markets created by crafts trends that utilize their products but which don't necessarily use photos. In addition to marketing the concept of scrapbooks as photo journals that don't necessarily use photos, these include activities such as cardmaking, home dcor crafts, and gifts. Marketing solely with a focus on utilizing photos is limiting, losing out on all of those potentially lucrative markets. Marketing scrapbooking as a crafts segment provides non-photo marketing options, which can help keep companies flexible as various categories ebb and flow in popularity.

But does the value of the crafts segment in marketing scrapbooking mean that scrapbook companies must cut themselves off from the PMA and the opportunities of the photo marketing angle? Does it have to be, should it be, an either/or choice? Absolutely not, and the very nature of the scrapbooking market is the reason why.

Visit any group of scrapbookers, either online or at a real-life cropping event, and you will find two distinct types of scrapbookers. One category of scrapbookers views the activity as a creative pursuit, and their scrapbooks are not necessarily always created as homes for their photos but rather as expressions of themselves that may or may not include photos. Another group of scrapbooking participants views their scrapbooks as enhanced photo albums. This is the market targeted so successfully by Creative Memories with its "Simple Pages, Completed Albums" program. These scrapbookers view their scrapbooking success in terms of being "caught up" with their albums.

The parallel between those two types of scrapbookers and the two trade associations is striking. CHA's approach is more tailored to the "scrapbooking as creative outlet" consumer, and PMA's interests are more in line with the consumer interested in scrapbooks as a home for their pictures and in being "caught up". The savvy scrapbook company that is looking to maximize their potential market reach should be trying to reach both types of consumers. Thus, both organizations could potentially provide useful marketing assistance to scrapbooking companies, even if companies have to choose to exhibit at only one organization's trade show.

Don't let a trade association turf war scare you into limiting your options. Instead of choosing sides in the battle of CHA vs. PMA, the smart scrapbook marketer will take the best of what both organizations have to offer for their particular company and use it to their advantage.

(Note: To add your comments to the discussion, email CLN at mike@clnonline.com. To contact Nancy, email nanally@gmail.com.)



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