My client, King, sold new and used videos, games and fan collectibles.
He printed a newsletter every month.
When I started working with him, King’s newsletter was mostly canned, with syndicated reviews.
He wanted to produce something original, distributed in-store to bring customers in the door.
The world was changing, though, and people needed a more compelling reason than a newsletter to leave the house.
Problem was, King’s was not a warm and fuzzy destination, and King was not that kind of guy.
Tall and handsome, King reminded me of the ranch owner Bick Benedict Jr. in the movie Giant.
Like the character played by Rock Hudson, King had intense looks and an abrupt, impersonal manner. Few people knew how quirky he was.
“King,” I said. “We need to change your image.”
We dug in.
We looked at King’s best customers. Over the years that King owned his shop, his customers had grown up. King needed to write his newsletter for adults, not teens.
We changed the publication from a slick product to a newsprint tabloid. We chose a modest typeface that seemed more personal.
We moved his press day from Monday to Friday. We had to funnel shoppers into the store on Friday nights, to fill the retail space and create a buzz. We wanted the paper delivered fresh off the press, still smelling of ink.
We increased the press run. We hoped customers would read at the store and take copies home to share.
We enlisted local reviewers. We picked people of all ages with strong personalities and points of view. We expanded the genres. We added more women writers.
We fine-tuned King’s writing style. His writing voice was a combination of Gomer Pyle and Hunter S. Thompson — goofy and naive mixed with acerbic and profane. We amped it up. In his column, he would write open letters to celebrities and elected officials about that week’s current events. Then he would write (clearly) fake replies. He had inside jokes and running gags. It was timely and hilarious.
We asked customers to submit content. There was a section devoted to King answering strange personal and dating questions. There were caption contests and photos of funny pets. Customers loved opening the newsletter on Friday, laughing at King’s “advice,” and seeing which letters made the cut.
By that point we still hadn’t addressed King’s gruff image… but we didn’t need to.
His newsletter fans had softened him up.
People started quoting him and giving him ideas for the newsletter. He was tall, so he would bend down to hear them, very endearing. He shook people’s hands and gave hugs. Customers brought their pets to have a photo taken with King.
He took to wearing Hawaiian shirts.
Transforming the newsletter transformed King.
It was a golden age of video and game stores. We nurtured a sweet community of people with lots in common, centered around laughter.
What worked then I think can still work now.
People want to feel included and important. They want fun, friendships, and a place to go where they see familiar faces.
If you have a retail business and you’re not using print to attract customers and build community, think about it.
Why not, right? After all…
Print is the cool KING of content!
Sandy Hubbard is a Marketing Strategist and Consultant who has served the print, publishing and media industry for decades. She helps her clients use a combination of well-written print media and respected digital platforms to add interest and excitement to their marketing campaigns. Sandy hails from a long line of printers, publishers, authors, and newspaper owners. Service to the industry runs in the family. Sandy’s dad taught printing at the community college in the next town over while he ran the Print-Mail-Stores department at the University of Michigan. With such a legacy, is it any wonder printing ink is in her blood!