CASE STUDY: Things Remembered relies on folks' urge to personalize

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Before catalogs and postcards began boosting revenue to record heights at Things Remembered, the retailer made sure it could live up to its new tagline,"The place for personalized gifts."

Things Remembered rid its inventory of products that couldn't be engraved or monogrammed, said Deirdre Girard, co-founder of PreVision Marketing, and that was the key to turning around sales.

"All of the marketing success falls back on their ability to own personalization," said Ms. Girard, whose Lincoln, Mass., company began managing catalog and database marketing for Things Remembered in 1998.

Corporate and consumer catalogs are the platform on which Things Remembered has established communication with its customers.

Before hiring PreVision, Things Remembered produced limited catalogs that included products engraved before being photographed, limiting their usefulness in different books. Instead of having a database, customer addresses were maintained by individual stores, sometimes written on scraps of paper.

"The problem was the consumer saw no need for personalized gifts," Ms. Girard said. "We found by showing them the catalog with tips and suggestions we created the need and incentive."

Things Remembered mailed 3.5 million catalogs in 1999, more than double the number sent in '98; postcards with incentives for buying personalized gifts jumped to almost 500,000 in '99 from 115,000 in '98, said Susan Gustafson, VP-marketing at Things Remembered, which also includes 800 stores.

"Last year, we had a record year for Things Remembered," she said. "It was the result of all the direct mail efforts and a combination of many things: in-store efforts, sales training in the stores, a new look to visuals in the window displays, promotions, and merchandising."

The company in September launched thingsremembered.com, offering online sales, and it plans a general ad campaign via Grey Direct, New York, later this year.

"Now [marketing] is definitely targeted," said Ms. Gustafson, whose marketing budget more than doubled for 2000. "We're really understanding our customer."

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