In the many hats I have worn in the stationery industry as a retailer, wholesaler, writer, speaker and marketing consultant, I try not to just respond to challenges but also seek to understand their derivation. One thing that I have learned even in the sale of exclusively, dealer sold invitations, is the importance of retail brand recognition. Brand recognition can be accomplished by advertising to the target audience. There are a number of invitation brands that take ads in magazines like Martha Stewart Weddings. These brands usually invest in the ad and then promote opportunities for dealers to be listed for a fractional cost, that subsidizes the investment. It is a good strategy. The brand enjoys the exposure and creating a consumer preference while the participating dealers receive the response as the dealer closest to the bride seeing the advertisement.
However, an even greater opportunity lies in editorial exposure. A bride scours through wedding magazines for ideas and invitation resources that are editorialized in articles and product showcases. These exposures often carry more weight than advertisements. The reason is simple. Writers have the perception of having expertise and reporting their findings objectively. Unfortunately for the stationery industry and particularly brands and retailers who rely on the bride going to a brick and mortar location to purchase invitations, a great deal of reporting is not done with the depth and knowledge of a true industry insider.
Here is what is happening with media reporting:
- National magazines are putting the spotlight on online retailers. Even though their advertising is not supposed to influence editorial. Online retailers are more on the radar screen of editors because of their presence in the magazine as advertisers.
- Newspapers and local magazines that have bridal sections do not have the resources to have dedicated staff to focus on bridal or stationery or any other special sections. Editorial staff often purchase ready-made content from companies that license their information to media sources as filler for their publication. Often that content that is provided by these news providers come from articles they charge businesses to provide that should be educational but also offers at least one line promoting the company providing it. Because online stationery retailers are national, they are more likely to be a provider.
For many years I have had informal conversations with editors, publishers and salespeople from wedding magazines explaining their profound effect on shaping trends and preferences. I contended that a lot of the material published on topics concerning invitations were done more from research than first hand knowledge. Many of the tips were inaccurate, invitation designs that were publicized were often unable to be easily purchased by the bride and most of the choices did not beat to the real pulse of what is in demand. My ideas were always acknowledged respectfully but never honored. Lately other than in local wedding magazines, the editorial exposure is predominantly online retailers with occasional exposure to brands.
Editorial exposure that exclude brands that are dealer sold or brick and mortar retailers are putting a dagger into the retail environment. It’s challenging enough that the online retailers dominate the search engines. One would expect magazines to want to support the retail environment as they undergo similar challenges as retailers to losing market share, advertisers and consumer support because of the power of the internet.
Editors will be hearing from me but they should also be hearing from you. Sure you can complain like I do but how about knocking their socks off with samples and images of custom designs that invitations sold online could not hold a candle to. Also do your own publicity and seek out your local bridal publications and special section editors of your local newspapers and offer to be a resource. Who knows better about providing accurate information for the media to disseminate to their readers than you!