One of the fastest growing industries in the United States in the past ten years has been the direct marketing of a wide variety of consumer goods and services. Today it is not unusual for most of us to shop by mail (or use some other form of direct marketing) for almost anything imaginable. Among the most well-known and successful direct marketers is Neiman Marcus, a retail department store that also discovered the additional profits of selling such unusual gifts as elephants, airplanes and USD 1,000 boxes of chocolate candy—all by mail.
However, Neiman Marcus is certainly not alone. There are literally thousands of companies selling via direct marketing. One of these companies is American Import Corporation. American Import was started in 1969 by Tom and Sally Struven. They started their business by importing a line of Japanese-made sports watches and selling them for USD 29.95 with advertisements in The Wall Street Jour, The Rotarian, Elks Magazine, and the Legionnoire. At that time, comparable watches were retailing for USD 49.95 to USD 79.95. The Struvens were successful, and in the next few years they continued to expand their product lines, compiled their own customer list, and eventually issued a shopping catalog. Although the catalog was successful, they discovered the most successful way to introduce a new item was to advertise it separately.
In early 1980, Tom and Sally Struven made arrangements to purchase 50,000 micro-recorders from a Korean manufacturer. These recorders measured 1 x 2.5 x 5.5 inches (approx. 2.5 x 6.35 x 13.97 cm) and were supplied with a built-in microphone, a vinyl carrying case, a wrist strap, and a 30-minute micro-cassette. The micro-recorder is operated by 4 AA batteries or an optional AC adapter.
This type of recorder became very popular in the past few years, particularly among businesspeople. A traveling executive or salesperson could dictate letters on the micro-recorder and then have a secretary transcribe them onto letterhead. The micro-recorder is also ideal as an audio notepad, substituting for paper-and-pencil note taking.
The first micro-recorder was brought to the mass market in 1975 and retailed for USD 400. Since then, several companies entered the market, and today there are approximately twelve major brands available through traditional retail locations. The prices of micro-recorders vary by the sophistication of the individual piece of equipment; however, the retail price range is USD 90 to USD 250.
American Import Corporation decided to offer its micro-recorder for USD 39.95. Although American Import's product was a technically simply product, it did a very capable and reliable job of performing the basic task of recording and playing back the human voice.
With several years of direct marketing experience behind them, the Struvens decided to introduce the micro-recorder via direct marketing. They were planning an advertising campaign in Barron's, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and a spot television campaign in selected markets.
The Struvens were very excited about the sales prospects of their new micro-recorder, and while the media portion of their advertising campaign was rather obvious, they could not decide on the best creative approach for the product.
Several possible themes came to mind. For example, should the product be sold on the basis of its comparatively low price? Its simplicity of operation? Its flexibility of use? Its size/convenience? Perhaps they should use a competitive-comparison strategy? How about their no-risk, 30-day trial?
The products had arrived from Korea. The media schedule had been set. Shipping procedures were established. Contractual arrangements with service organizations had been made. The only obstacle between American Import Corporation and a new source of profits seemed to be the selection of the most promising creative strategy for this new mini-recorder.
- What creative strategy would you recommend to the Struvens?
- Suggest three alternative creative executions of the recommended strategy for a print advertisement.