1998 Direct Marketer of the Year - Jay Walker
What Happened. The business started strong, with a dozen catalogs signed up. It was a logical idea—Kodak in Sharper Image or Cadillac in Austad's golf catalog. In its best year, the catalog advertising business did $10 million. But a serious problem arose: Walker had a hard time persuading catalogers to commit to setting aside space for ads. If an advertiser contracted for an ad to run in October, the cataloger might say, oh, gee, we decided to run it in December, because we had some profitable merchandise and this was the best sales season. Or catalogers would simply put ads in the back of the book. In Walker's words, "It was the marriage of two unwilling partners, as if the bride and groom were doing each other a favor."
The business hemorrhaged money. Instead of shutting down early, he kept it going in the belief it would turn around. "The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is knowing when to quit," Walker says. "It's an ego thing. Most entrepreneurs view quitting as a failure, when it's really the end of an inning, not the end of the game."
The Federal Express Connection: Success #2
The Premise. During the early '80s it took anywhere from four days to a week or more for a catalog order to be delivered. Competition was not other catalogs, Walker reasoned, but the local shopping mall where buyers can get instant gratification. Ship a catalog order overnight—or second-day air—and you not only compete with retailers, but you can take orders right up to a couple of days before Christmas, thus creating an entire new selling season.
While UPS was the cataloger's shipper of choice—and could have offered this express service—only the FedEx logo in a catalog would be the powerful guarantee that a last-minute holiday order would be delivered.