Restoration Hardware’s Mail-Order Extravagance

Amy Merrick, writing in The New Yorker, explores why Restoration Hardware mailed a 17-pound catalog: 

Why do we still have catalogues? Web and mobile browsers have improved dramatically in the past decade. It’s hard to argue that catalogues, like books, are objects worth preserving for their aesthetic value; they will be obsolete within months. Yet Americans received nearly twelve billion catalogs last year.
Marketers say that people who browse catalogues buy more than those who shop only online. The U.S. Postal Service works hard to promote catalogues, which have become an increasingly important segment of U.S.P.S. business as people mail fewer first-class letters. The online retailer Bonobos, which began shipping catalogues last year, told the Wall Street Journal that twenty per cent of its new Web customers placed orders after receiving their first mailings, and spent more than other new shoppers.
Those incremental sales are accompanied by enormous waste. Industry surveys from groups like the Direct Marketing Association estimate that catalogues get average response rates of four to five per cent. In the case of Restoration Hardware, that means that for every sixty thousand pages mailed, approximately three thousand pay off.

In Modern Marketing, a Big Dose of Data in the Creative Juices

Claire Cain Miller, NY Times Bits Blog:

Computers are once again transforming the business of marketing, infusing the art with science. This time, though, the change is being driven by cloud computing and the processing of huge amounts of data about what customers do and what they desire.
Unlike the computer on “Mad Men,” which took up an entire room, the computers processing the data are not even in marketers’ offices but in far-off data centers. But just as in the fictional company depicted on “Mad Men,” the new technology is causing tensions among the quants, or quantitative data analysts, the artists and the information technologists.
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For consumers, the result is personalized marketing.
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Ideally, consumers do not notice the computing and data-crunching in the background and instead just see more relevant messages from brands, said Ian Schafer, chief executive and founder of Deep Focus, a digital agency. But when marketing is too personalized, it can feel creepy.

Massimo Vignelli: A Collection of Experiences

Massimo Vignelli, The Vignelli Canon

Throughout our creative lives we have sifted through everything to select what we thought best. We sifted through materials to find those for which we have the closest affinity. We sifted through colors, textures, typefaces, images, and gradually we built a vocabulary of materials and experiences that enable us to express our solutions to given problems - our interpretations of reality.

It is imperative to develop your own vocabulary of your own language - a language that attempts to be as objective as possible, knowing very well that even objectivity is subjective.

I love systems and despise happenstance.

I love ambiguity because, for me, ambiguity means plurality of meanings. I love contradiction because it keeps things moving, preventing them from assuming a frozen meaning, or becoming a monument to immobility.

As much as I love things in flux, I love them within a frame of reference - a consistent reassurance that at least and at last I am the one responsible for every detail.

And that is why I love Design. 

The Commercial Allure of the Eighties

Amy Merrick writing for The New Yorker’s Currency blog:

By choosing the eighties, marketers are taking advantage of what we know about when people experience nostalgia. As people enter their fifties and begin to take stock of their lives, they become more susceptible to nostalgia, according to Erica Hepper, a psychologist at the University of Surrey and a leading researcher on the subject. Because we tend to form lifelong preferences in our early twenties, adults in their fifties are now nostalgic for the nineteen-eighties—the time when their lives seemed full of promise and their tape decks were blaring heavy-metal bands. That thirty-year retrospective glance might explain the popularity of “Back to the Future,” a 1985 movie set in the nineteen-fifties, or why “That ’70s Show” was a television hit in the early aughts. (Adam Gopnik has written about a similar cycle, which he calls the Golden Forty-Year Rule.)