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Lesson #5: Do Not Go Wild with Your Marketing
Despite that, however, Bean was a simple man. He liked the easy pleasures of reeling in a fish and reaching the end of a hiking trail. He enjoyed being surrounded by nature and hearing nothing but the sound of birds. It was that message that he wanted to convey through his company. And, it was that image that Bean decided to infuse throughout his marketing.
What started off as Bean’s first simple three-page marketing brochure quickly became a 12-page catalogue, filled with not only hunting boots, but also books, clothing, and a wide range of sporting equipment. The Bean Catalogue was one of the things he was most proud of. There were no snazzy gimmicks; it was just twelve pages filled with images and detailed product descriptions for over 400 products, which were arranged in no apparent order.
In his catalogue, Bean kept the text simple. Products were given clear, straightforward and unembellished facts about the products. He wanted his marketing message to be honest, believing that the quality and usefulness of the products would sell themselves. He did not need catchy slogans or fancy titles, when he had a hunting shoe that actually worked, and worked well, or a tent that he guaranteed would withstand even the hardest rain.
By the time Bean passed away in 1967, the catalogue that he created had expanded to 100 pages. But, while the range of products the company offered had grown, its message had remained the same. Where one product featured a whistle, Bean did not write its description to read: “A whistle that will blow your mind.” Instead, Bean’s description read simply: “Loud enough to be heard at a great distance.” Honest, simple, and practical. That, he believed, was what people really wanted to know.
Bean was one of the first entrepreneurs to seize the power of direct-mail advertising. After finding a list of all the hunters who had acquired hunting licenses in Maine, he sent each and every one of them his catalogue. Aside from the straightforward text, Bean also included real pictures of the Maine outdoors. He wanted to give his readers an image they would be familiar with, and show his understanding of their lifestyle. The models he used to outfit the L.L. Bean clothing were also relatively plain and wholesome in appearance.
Despite believing in his simple marketing strategy, Bean knew that it might take more to keep his company fresh in the minds of its customers. And so, that was why he tried to make everything he did as useful as possible. For instance, listed in the catalogue was one of two books written by Bean, called “Hunting, Fishing and Camping.” It was no ordinary book, however. This was a manual that had duplicate chapters, enabling its readers to tear out sections they might need for use in the outdoors while still keeping a whole copy of the book intact. How successful was that idea? In its first 20 years of publications, the book ran through twenty editions.
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