Take the example of J. C. Penney, which made marketing headlines today when it announced that it would be discontinuing its semi-annual Big Book catalog after the Fall-Winter 09 season. Over the years, J. C. Penney was finding that its catalog was less a direct selling channel than a way to prime the pump for online sales. Instead of wasting volumes of paper, ink, and coating — not to mention the fossil fuels to deliver the 800-1000-page books — it decided to slim things down.
Going forward, the giant retailer will be replacing the hefty volume with slimmer, more targeted specialty catalogs with content targeted based on the recipient’s past purchases and invest more in its Web store and digital services (including an iPhone application) and social media.
What’s key here is that J. C. Penney is not simply reducing its print volumes. It’s making a smarter use of print. Why send customers a massive, expensive volume 90% irrelevant to its customers and prospects? Customers are more likely to buy something if the catalog is slimmer, more accessible, and more targeted to their interests and needs anyway.
Furthermore, it is not just switching print for electronic media for the sake of monetary savings alone. It is splitting up its mix to suit the needs, preferences, and purchase habits of its customers. It is going where its customers are, putting its message where their eyeballs are naturally going to be anyway. Follow the customer. It’s a smart marketing.
Greening is just a fortunate by-product.
In fact, what’s interesting to me is how the media coverage focuses on the media mix and seeming hit to the pride of print. But the green story here is just as powerful. By eliminating the Big Book, the retailer expects to reduce catalog paper use by 25%-30% in 2010.
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