All Hat and No Cattle

When I was in college, I saw a movie called Rancho Deluxe about cattle rustling in Montana staring Jeff Bridges and Slim Pickens (it did not win any Oscars). The ranch from which the cattle were being stolen was owned by a couple, which at the beginning of the movie, are portrayed as being hearty Montana livestock barons. But, at one point, as she is looking out the window across a wide range towards distant snowcapped mountains, the wife turns to her husband and says, “Sometimes I miss New Jersey. Don’t you ever miss the hair salon business?”

Her comment reveals the lack of authenticity in the couple’s commitment to cattle ranching. It’s what they call in Texas “All hat and no cattle.” I see the same thing in so many catalogs today.

Why would a customer buy from you today unless you stand for something? Last week, I wrote that you must have unique product or your business will die (UPOD). Coupled with unique product is the fact that customers want to buy from a company that stands for something, and is authentic. Otherwise, those customers are just one click away from Amazon.

Below is an extreme example, the CH Kadels catalog. The tag line on the cover reads, “When it all goes down, be ready for anything”.  I realize that this cover might be troubling for some of you. But for those of you for whom this cover resonates, it screams authenticity. Discussing this cover solely on the merits of whether it is authentic, and stands for something, I love the fact they chose to show a female, complete with grease and tattoos. If you are a buyer from this catalog, you probably know someone like her. And she stands for something – she’s going to use her all-in-one-holster to make it hard to get past her.

That cover is authentic. So are the ones below from Athleta. They speak to the athleticism that the company’s products support.

These catalogs, not just the covers, but the whole catalogs, have product assortments that resonate with their audience. This is catalog authenticity.

I’ll bet that you all feel that your catalog stands for something. You probably even have a persona of your customer pinned to the wall in the conference room. You think to yourself every day that you are meeting your customer’s needs and that they love you because you stand for something. Most of you are kidding yourselves.

Look at the catalog below – 28 pages of industrial door mats. What do they stand for? How can you stand for much with a name like Consolidated Plastics? (And why do they keep mailing me one at my house?)

Some of you may well be saying to yourself, “Come on Bill, they’re doormats. What do they need to stand for?” That’s the point. Somewhere, every day, there are people ordering new doormats for their business. They’ll look at this catalog and for many, their reaction will be, “So what? Why should I buy from these guys? What’s so special about them?” At that point, the catalog industry loses another buyer to Amazon.

I’m not a doormat expert, but someone out there is. Maybe the Bell Captain at Caesar’s Palace. Maybe the guy in charge of doormats for the ER at Massachusetts General Hospital or the Mayo Clinic. Why not have an endorsement from a source like that? Use your imagination to communicate to your customers what you stand for.

Having authenticity is not just having great creative. It’s not about copy, headlines, or photography. It’s the products – the UNIQUE products – first, followed by having a “voice” that says “we are the authority for this product”. That is what most of you are missing today – you simply don’t stand for anything.

If you truly develop unique product, the next step is to move out of your comfort zone and make yourself the voice of authenticity in your market.  Give your customer every reason to think that you are the one place – the only place – to go to get these products.

As Slim Pickens’ character says at the end of Rancho Deluxe, “If you’re dealin’ with people, you gotta be human.”

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by Bill LaPierre

VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics

Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235

blapierre@datamann.com