When informed of his rumored death, Mark Twain stated that “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Perhaps, the death knell for the stationery industry has not yet sounded. Yesterday morning I reported that William Arthur would be terminating its affiliate program on May 25th. Shortly after the article was published, I received a phone call from a representative of Crane indicating that the announcement was “poorly communicated” and that Crane would migrate William Arthur to Crane’s Pepperjam affiliate program. Commission structures would remain intact.
When I pressed for more details (i.e. “will William Arthur maintain their own ecommerce website?”), I was told that Crane’s IT people were working on it. Frankly, that is not particularly reassuring, but I guess we can hope that Crane’s “rocket scientists” will let the Crane brand have a decent burial rather disappear in the paperless ether.
One of Crane’s fundamental problems has been its inability to manage its Online presence. For years, we have witnessed Crane manage its online business as something distinct (dare I call it a profit center?) from its stationery business. The silly idea that there is an “online” consumer and a “bricks-and-mortar” consumer is about as stupid as saying that consumers can be segregated by those who use fixed phone lines and those who use cell phones. Just look at the phone or cable company: The services are simply bundled!
Crane is mistakenly focused on tinkering with distribution channels rather than building a loyal base of savvy consumers who understand the difference between low resolution digital images found on the internet and fine engraved stationery. Just take a look at the jewelry industry: Sure, you can buy a knock-off Timex (or Rolex) for $20 from one of the many street vendors in Times Square, but many buyers will think nothing of shelling out $25,000 or more for a Patek Philippe watch. Why? They want quality. Both brands tell time, but only one makes a personal statement.
As I have said before, I don’t have a clue as to what is going on in Crane, but I suspect that the people who work there don’t either. A company that has been in the “communications” business for over 200 years should certainly have a better message. It’s dealers and Crane’s legion of loyal buyers of their brand certainly hope so.
Let’s keep the “personal” in personalized stationery.
Richard W. May
Founding Member of the Stationers Guild