Cabin fever at mall

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Consumer, advertiser interest builds for magazine's log house

Burned-out holiday shoppers in North America's biggest mall are seeking refuge in a cozy log cabin that recently appeared inside the shopping center.

The full-size log home, festooned inside and out with holiday decor, was erected Nov. 15 inside the Mall of America near Minneapolis, sponsored by Meredith Corp.'s Country Home. The magazine specializes in the design, construction and decoration of getaway homes.

Co-sponsored by a long list of Country Home advertisers whose products are showcased inside the home, the cabin provides consumers with product promotional pamphlets and the chance to attend related product seminars at the mall.

The log home has been a hit with consumers. To enter, they must fill out a card specifying their interest in vacation homes and remodeling; they can also enter a drawing to win the $375,000 home, which will be in place through Jan. 1.

"We've had model homes inside the mall before, but this is really drawing crowds. People are lining up before it opens each morning to get in," said Mike Tvrdik, Mall of America's sponsorship manager.

The success of the "Holidays at Home" cabin is also awakening many participating sponsors to mall marketing, a rapidly evolving channel.

"More companies are recognizing malls as a viable marketing venue for targeting families, and marketers are getting much more creative about conceiving programs that promote products while driving general mall traffic," said Nancy Walters, president of San Diego-based mall marketing company Very Special Events.

The power of mall marketing

Mall operators have also recognized the power of mall marketing, and they're starting to charge more for events run by outside marketers.

"Everybody's getting smarter about how they're using malls for marketing outside companies and brands. Retailers have to worry about what they're getting out of events, but if you have the right fit, it's a win-win for everyone," said Rosemary McCormick, president of McCormick Marketing, Minneapolis.

Country Home negotiated its program directly with Mall of America; each co-sponsor is also an advertiser with the magazine and will be featured in a special issue dedicated to the Mall of America log home next year.

Building materials and butter

Most of the co-sponsors are building materials suppliers. Among them are Armstrong World Industries, American Standard and Andersen Windows, but also on board are Cuisinart, Frigidaire and Land O'Lakes.

This is the first mall marketing opportunity for most of the co-sponsors, who are pleased so far with the results.

"The cabin and Land O'Lakes are synergistic in that both are very respectful of tradition but at the same time offer features consumers demand," said Morgan Clawson, associate media director at Land O'Lakes agency Campbell Mithun Esty.

The Mall of America is also pleased. "Seeing the log cabin fulfills a lot of people dreaming of owning a cabin or a vacation home," Mr. Tvrdik said, "and home decorating these days is a sport."

Copyright November 1995 Crain Communications Inc.

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