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18 April 2012

Lord Dodo goes 'under the spot light'

It was a great pleasure to track down Lord Dodo this week and confront them with some questions.

1. How long has the DodoPad been around?


The original Dodo Pad desk diary first came out in 1966 and so, incredibly, it’s now been around for almost 50 years – quite an achievement in an increasingly digital age…although the interest in Filofax hasn’t waned in all those years so I guess I should not really be so surprised!

The Dodo Pad is the original family planner – so many ‘me-too’ copies have sprung up in its wake – but I think part of its charm (aside from the obvious humour, artistic design and planning space) is that it’s not ‘prescriptive’ or overtly ‘family’ focussed. So it works just as well for one person planning their life as it does for a family or even a group of up to five friends sharing a house.

2. When did you get involved with the company? 

I worked in advertising for many years and aged 40, at the end of 1995 at the time of the Saatchi & Saatchi break up, found myself redundant and coincidentally pregnant for the first time. I had a very financially attractive offer to join the new Saatchi agency which would have meant going back to very full time work with a tiny baby left in the arms of a nanny. My son was just three weeks old when a good friend asked me to give the then Dodo Pad designer/compiler half an hour’s worth of advice on how to save and market this diary that had been dropped by its publisher’s of 30 years. I’d been given a Dodo Pad way back, aged 13, and thought it would be more fun than going back into advertising and so I took a gamble and here I am 16 and a bit years later!

So Lord Dodo is really Lady Dodo......

3. In that time what changes have you seen with the products and with your customers? 

Goodness – massive changes in just about every way! When we started we had one “almost extinct” product – the original Dodo Pad desk diary. Its long heritage and very loyal base of customers who would go to enormous lengths to find a copy meant we started with something almost akin to a ‘club’. We are talking pre internet and there is a tale of two long standing customers virtually fighting in Harrods for the last copy one Christmas Eve!

We had to build our customer list from scratch as Harper Collins (the previous publisher) did not have any notion of what is now understood to be a the very heart of customer marketing – knowing your customers! Now we have almost 40,000 customers all over the world on our database, our diary products come in a wide variety of formats including three Filofax compatible versions and we’ve developed the brand into a series of quirky, fun organisers including ones for recipes, planning a wedding and caring for your precious pets amongst others.

Customers now have a wide choice of methods to choose from as to how they buy Dodo Pad products – from shops (high street and virtual), our own website (where we sell quite a few things not available elsewhere) and thankfully we still get people who call us on the phone. It is one of my greatest pleasures talking to our customers – we’re lucky I guess; we get few grumbles but it’s almost always better to speak to a customer and sort out an issue.

4. Do you have any really long standing customers?

We certainly do. From the original mail order list we compiled in 1996 of customers who had previously bought from Harper Collins, a good number of them had been buying the Dodo Pad for every one of its 30 years of existence. The Dodo Pad is quite addictive (thankfully!) and so once people start using it and like the layout and format they tend to stick with it. We hear people over and over again ‘I can’t live without my Dodo Pad’ or ‘I just can’t imagine being organised in any other way’. People tend to keep their Dodo Pads too – as archives of life and their family’s growth and milestones. All my son’s childhood ‘milestones’ were jotted down in our Dodo Pad as that was the handiest place to note them down. And we’re definitely not alone!

We are currently gathering up stories for our upcoming 50th anniversary from customers who’ve kept their copies over the years or have amusing tales to tell about their Dodo Pad. One of my favourites is from a customer who was being driven somewhere via the M25 and had to stop on the hard shoulder for a minor emergency. Her Dodo Pad must have fallen on the ground. She realised she’d lost it sometime later and tracked back to where she last remembered having it. The following day she stopped at the same place on the hard shoulder and amazingly, despite having tyre marks on the cover it was still there and inside, totally unharmed!


5. How do you promote the product which is really a fun but also serious product in the age of the electronic diary.

I used to say that the pen is mightier than the mouse… but these days you are as likely to use your finger on a touch pad or touch screen in your digital dealings.

Here’s a fact. Whilst you can carry your electronic diary around with you and put in reminders for appointments etc., it is almost impossible – due the small screen size – to get a feel for how the overall day or week looks. Compound that by x% if you are organising a family!

I think the iPhone and electronic diaries are great for setting ‘must do’ reminders (I use my iPhone for exactly that) but they operate on ‘tunnel vision’ rather than easily providing the broader peripheral view. And they need charged up batteries. Even worse, if you rely on a cloud based diary like Google, internet access.

It is pretty hard to ‘creatively’ personalise an electronic diary. The very nature of the Dodo Pad (and indeed Filofax organisers) is that you can do exactly that. Which is why I think bringing the Dodo Pad into the Filofax sphere has worked so well. Also, I am a closet Filofax fan of more years than I intend to admit here – put it this way, my first Personal Filofax literally fell apart about 10 years ago after many years of loving use. I still use a Personal size (Slimline Cross) as an extended wallet. I’ve had a Deskfax since the 1980’s and have just treated myself to a new A5 Raspberry coloured Chameleon in which I use the 2012 A5 Dodo Pad diary!

6. Have you ever considered a DodoPad app for say the iPad or iPhone. ?

WIP - or ‘Work in Progress’ if you’re not into acronyms. Yes, yes, yes – but we’ve spent quite a bit of time pinning down the right developer to work with. My view is that if we are going to make the sort of investment it’s going to require to make it work properly, stand up to the other calendar apps out there, be different and be ‘wanted’, we have to get the right development partner. So watch this space….

7. What is your best selling product?

The original Dodo Pad desk diary is the biggest seller and it has the most distribution – that is of course partially to do with its long time in the market place.

However the mid year Acad-Pad desk diary (which runs from August – September twelve months later) was launched in 2006 and it already sells almost 70% of the Dodo Pad desk format. Because it’s targeted to a different audience we seen almost no loss of sales as it grown.

Our Filofax diary refills (and we’ve no plans to produce anything other than diary refills) came out first in 2010 and the A5 size has gone from strength to strength. In response to demand from Personal Organiser users we introduced a Personal size in 2011 in both Dodo Pad and Acad-Pad date formats. It was a trickier size to make work as the hand designed nature of the Dodo Pad means you can only increase or decrease ‘in pro’ – which in English means in direct proportion. We ended up with tiny squares – not big enough to use. So this year (2012/13) the Acad-Pad took a break in the Personal size while we sorted out another way (with the fantastic help of some committed Filofax ‘hackers’ – you know who you are!) and I’m ‘dodelighted’ to report that the new bigger squared Dodo Pad will soon be on sale for 2013.

8. Tell us about 5 unusual facts we might already know about Dodo-Pad
  1. There are Dodo Pads in use in at least two royal residences in the UK (that we know of) and in over 77 countries (that we know of).
  2. After seven years of production, the Dodo Pad was not produced in 1973 due to its compiler’s belief that it had ‘had its day’ and was no longer of interest to its users. There was an outcry from the loyal fan base and its been produced every year ever since. There’s a little film on You Tube that charts every cover from 1966 to 2012 when it got its first real design makeover in 20 years.
  3. ‘Dodo Towers’ – that impressive stately home you see on the website is, in reality, a converted stable block on the top of a hill overlooking the Atlantic coast in Cornwall.
  4. The company has never borrowed money – preferring to grow organically, bringing out one or two new products each year in addition to the new editions/formats of the Dodo Pad and Acad-Pad.
  5. Our newest 7 hole UNIVERSAL diary refill now on sale in the Acad-Pad 2012/13 edition, will fit any A4 or USA 3 ring binder. We designed the paper at a special compatible size (you have no idea how tricky it is satisfying Pan-Atlantic requirements…but we try J) and had a special cutter tooled up that is quite unique.
  6. I am cheating here…a 6th fact you may or may not know…hidden on our website are 13 little ‘Easter Egg’ videos of Lord Dodo doing something unusual around the house…if you mouse over the relevant pixel, the video pops up to entertain you. Why they are known as Easter Eggs is explained here. Hint – mouse over the little dodos….
9. How many countries are DodoPad sold to.

Ah – I was ahead of you on that one…!! 77 (that we know of)

10. When you talk to people what is their first reaction when you tell them about DodoPad

It ranges from ‘What?’ (never heard of it) to “WOW! – so you’re Lord Dodo! I absolutely LOVE the Dodo Pad” or “I’ve had a Dodo Pad for as long as I can remember” or words to that effect….

And there is one thing that I am absolutely convinced of….only Filofax and Dodo Pad share the same kind of ‘love’ that their users invest in them. And for that reason, if for no other, they are perfect partners.


Thank you Lord Dodo for that detailed look behind the scenes... There will be a review of the new A4 Dodo Pad coming up on Philofaxy soon.

14 comments:

  1. What an informative and interesting post. Dodo is relatively new to me, although I have seen it mentioned here on philofaxy but I will look out for it now. Thank you.

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  2. What an informative and interesting post. Dodo is relatively new to me, although I have seen it mentioned here on philofaxy but I will look out for it now. Thank you.

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  3. Lord Dodo! It's so great to see you here under the spotlight!!

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  4. What do you mean? Lord Dodo and Dodo Towers don't really exist? Next, you'll be trying to tell us that The Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and decent quality Filofax inserts are all figments of our imagination!

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    1. Lord Dodo has called many things but never a figment of the imagination. Being a CyberLord (the original, don't you know?)is a tough call but one is dodedicated to the cause! So glad to hear that the Dodo Pad holds a central place in your family's hearts. Thank you :)

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  5. I've ordered an A5 Dodo diary to use as my diet and exercise tracker. I thought the columns would be great for breakfast, lunch and dinner + exercise and would give me a good picture of my week. I can also plan my meals ahead for the following week.

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    1. That's good thinking Alison! I might pinch that idea myself :)

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    2. That's what I've just started doing with mine :o)

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    3. If you want to try the A5 for 2012 it is available with a hefty discount whilst we sell off the last few copies. Either on our website:

      http://www.dodopad.com/shop/2012-dodo-pad-a5-diary-refill.html

      or via Ebay if you prefer to use PayPal - and it's a bit cheaper there!

      http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/DODO-PAD-2012-diary-A5-Filofax-compatible-refill-/130592267353?pt=UK_Stationery&hash=item1e67e7dc59#ht_2201wt_1137

      Hope that is useful :)

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  6. Hello Everyone, It's been a while since I checked you guys out. I've been pretty busy lately. This morning on our Today Show in New York they talked a lot about the Olympics in London this year so I thought about you guys in Philofaxy. So I just wanted to say: "Congratulations and Enjoy" to those of you who will be enjoying the Olympics. Now to get back on subject. I never heard of a Dodo pad. Do they sell them in the states? How can I get one? You guys be well and take care. Lorraine AkA MsPencil :D

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    1. Hi Lorraine - see the link above...or do a search on Dodo Pad A5 Filofax - our website address is http://www.dodopad.com and we're on FaceBook.com/DodoPad and Twitter (@lord_dodo)too! Any questions just ask!

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  7. Thanks for an interesting & informative post, Lord Dodo!
    This is my 2nd year using a Dodo pad insert in my filofax & I love the extra space on the A5 one, compared with personal. I use it to list my MITs (most important tasks from Zen Habits/Zen to Done) & find it's a great way to prioritise with my filo :)

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  8. We've used Dodo pads as a family for around 10 years. They are great for having on the kitchen wall. Everyone writes their plans for the week ahead, plus a 5th column for birthdays, anniversaries and joint family things! Highly recommended.

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  9. I was on the verge of ordering my first Dodo Pad for my filofax when I read this. I look forward to the A4 review. And I also hear there's a surprise coming up next year. Can't wait!

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