There was a time not so long ago when clocks stood in the place of the modern Wal-Mart as the proud symbol of society. Such representation can be seen across platforms of literature. From Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Norte-Dame to the beloved Pinocchio and, my personal favorite Back to the Future, clocks are a beloved icon. It’s no wonder. Clocks are one of the first complex machines created by humans. What I love the most about history is how it can be applied to just about anything. Just for fun let’s take the invention of the pendulum clock and see what lessons can be derived and applied to catalog marketing.
Be Innovative: The year is 1637. The idea? A pendulum clock. The person? Galileo. To those who have studied Galileo I am sure that this comes as no surprise. Marketers can learn a lot from him. In a way he was a marketer of his own design, always trying to sell his ideas. That aside, he was innovative with his inventions. The concept of a pendulum clock was more than just advanced; it was radical and cutting edge. It had the power to change civilization. Whether they are counted individually or as a whole, most people were (and still are) affected by Galileo’s concept. So although you might not want to go on an imperial march quite yet to change the face of society completely, it is important to remember to be innovative in your marketing technique–to come up with new designs, to be inventive in your approach, to show your consumers exactly what it is that they need.
Don’t be afraid to try new things: Although,he was the first to conceive of the idea,it wasn’t actually Galileo who invented the first pendulum clock because he died before his idea was patented. It wasn’t until 1656 (about fifteen years after his death) that Dutch scientist Christian Hygens finished Galileo’s concept. Here’s our marketing lesson. Never be afraid to try new ideas, even if they are not your own. Theory has it that Galileo’s son tried to construct his clock before Hygens and failed to make it work. It’s okay to fail as long as you try new things. If you’re not seeing a Return On Investment (ROI) from your catalog then try another method—try a new mailing list, try a new trim size, try a new design, consider breaking in to a sister brand and publishing a brand new stylized catalog. It doesn’t have to be your own; it just has to be something different that you make your own. Walt Disney once said “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” This is what Galileo and Hygens did and it worked for them.
Keep progressing: After the invention of the pendulum clock people began to discover that changes in temperature affected the accuracy of the clock. So, implementation of small alterations of the original design was in order. New features were added along with the electromagnetic pendulum such as the familiar repeater that dings at each hour. The lesson in marketing here is to keep getting better. Don’t become too comfortable because the world will move ahead with or without you as it has done to so many companies after the digital revolution hit. Learn from the clockmakers and keep progressing with the times. Better yet, be like Galileo and be master of the times.
Be resourceful: Mathematician, assistant and biographer to Galileo “tells us that Galileo observed the curious behavior of the pendulum whilst watching a lamp swinging back and forth in Pisa cathedral whilst still a student. He noticed that the time that the lamp took to swing back and forth was independent of the amplitude – apparently he used his pulse to measure the period of the swinging lamp” (See article Galileo and the Pendulum Clock). But how is this applied as a marketing lesson? Resourceful marketing is becoming more popular each day. Think about personalization techniques. What do you do if a customer leaves items in a shopping cart online? You target them with a personalized email. That is using the resources around you. What can catalogers do to be more resourceful? Behaviors such as segmentation, research, measuring your ROI, personalization through PURLS are all good ways to start being more resourceful. In other words, use your consumer to drive your product and let them sell to themselves just as Galileo allowed the resources of nature to conceive the clock for him.
Aim for precision: Did you know that every time a pendulum clock is moved, it needs to be reset? Because each environment is different the pendulum must fall precisely in order to accurately tell what time it is. If the clock is not level, the pendulum will not swing correctly because it will sway more one way than the other. The same can be true for your consumers. Your job is to aim for absolute precision in your marketing approach. With direct mail marketing, it’s about reaching the right person at the right moment; otherwise you can almost guarantee your catalog to be trashed. Blindly sending out catalogs to masses of random people, not really knowing who they are and if they’ll even care about your brand, is kind of like setting a pendulum on an uneven surface. A clockmaker must always aim for precision and so should we. After all, in the world of marketing, timing can be everything.