Following that announcement I was contacted by quite a few of our readers, expressing their views etc. Kate TPS, created a summary document of all of your comments that were posted on the blog over a three week period... not a simple task, so thank you to Kate for taking the time to do that.
Here are the notes of the meeting, please feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.
FILOFAX AND PHILOFAXY MEETING Monday 26th November 2012 at 14:00 held at Filofax Pen & Paper, Conduit Street, London
SG Head of Marketing Services
JL NPD Director
LK Marketing Executive
Steve Morton (SM) Philofaxy Contributor and blogger
Anita Lim (AL) Philofaxy Contributor and blogger
Tracey Lannigan (TL) Blogger ‘Rapunzel’s World’
- SM gave an update on Philofaxy.com background.
Worth noting the blog platform works on US time zones so content and comments from the UK will not go live instantly. The website traffic shows clear trends throughout the year and benefits from organic optimisation through linking and sharing content from other bloggers. Philofaxy has grown into a search engine of sorts that allows bloggers to find content quickly. The blog has a small amount of advertising and any commission after overhead costs goes to the charity Chimwemwe in Malawi.
- SM gave an insight into the Philofaxy social community where they regularly have face to face meet ups in different cities around the world where the network has been established through the site (London, New York, Chicago, and Rotterdam). Bloggers and Filofax enthusiasts can exchange and review each other’s products over lunch and store visit (e.g. Filofax Pen & Paper or City Organiser). SM has set up Skype where they can talk remotely and spends his time devising ways to serve the Philofaxy community better. They are keen to think of new ideas for paper inserts. SM has already designed and prints inserts.
- SM outlined his idea for user convention and due to the amount of planning involved it would be 2014. He hoped Filofax would be able to participate – SG/JL felt sure that this would be possible and they should discuss further when SM’s plans are more established.
Open question session with SG and JL
- Q: TL asked the question, ‘What went wrong with Slam PR?’
- A: SG explained the findings from recent research which set out to profile current Filofax users and identify new, target consumers. Filofax users are predominantly female (75%), well educated and affluent, and use is primarily personal rather than business. They are interested in the functionality as well as the aesthetics of a Filofax organiser – the product helps them feel in control and organised. The survey found that the most likely new consumer is female and motivated to buy more for emotional reasons – ie because something looks good. They have a need and desire to use paper but the aesthetics are highly important – they are impulsive shoppers. The Alice Temperley partnership was one strategy in the overall communications plan to target these new consumers. The partnership was highly visible due to the huge success of the media campaign. The strategy to align the brand with a British fashion designer was to appeal to these new consumers. Slam PR has been very successful in answering the brief on this project.
- SG noted the confusion amongst the Philofaxy community following the interview carried out by the MD of Slam PR. This was a promotional opportunity for the agency with a trade newswire and was not intended to be a consumer facing interview. The interview focused specifically on the fashion/Temperley strategy rather than the holistic PR strategy. SG and JL reiterated that Filofax is not a fashion brand.
- SG explained the Temperley partnership was coming to a natural end. Slam PR were appointed to fulfil a specific brief for which they are specialists in their field. Next year a new PR agency will be appointed to run a broader PR campaign, although the fashion credentials built up will remain an important part of the communications mix. SG will introduce SM to new agency at the appropriate time.
- TL highlighted she’d asked Slam PR for a Temperley Violet to review on her blog and was ignored. She did not receive a reply. SM also highlighted he’d asked Slam PR for press releases and had been ignored also.
- Q: We’ve found on some of the Finsbury and Chameleon product the colour rubs off.
- A: This was noted and JL explained the colour dying process and how these products are tipped by hand to create the two tone appearance.
- Q: Leather quality (e.g: Filofax Classic and Malden) – we’ve seen quite a lot of these that have a coating that bubbles and cracks.
- A: This was noted and JL explained that these are very successful lines with huge volumes being produced. Filofax Classic in particular has been around for many years and several thousand products are in the market. On a small proportion of some colours (e.g: Cherry), a coating is applied to the leather and this may have rubbed off.
- Q: The plastic hole punch is unusable and the metal version price is too high.
- A: There are two versions of the hole punch, a plastic and a metal desk version. The plastic version is designed to be used to punch a couple of papers at a time and is not suitable for large volume of papers for which the desk version is designed. The desk version is a more robust and elaborate item and is therefore more expensive to manufacture with a higher RRP.
- Q: Why are certain ranges discontinued when loads of people still desire them?
- A: JL explained that there may be an internal decision to stop producing or buying certain lines but it is not policy to communicate this to consumers as often the lines remain in the range for several months or years afterwards. In recent past, some consumer blogs have announced discontinued lines when in reality they will still be available for a long time. It is important to keep refreshing the range year on year with new innovation and designs. It would only be the high trend lines that we stop buying after one year.
- SG explained that there has been no change to the paper specification for many years – there are several specification metrics such as grammage, burst, opacity etc. and there is a small acceptance +/- tolerance level for each. She explained that the company sourced a percentage of its paper from a Japanese paper mill prior to the Japanese tsunami 18 months ago. That paper mill was destroyed and the company was forced to move all paper production to another source (who they had been buying paper from for many years). The previously used Japanese paper is no longer available and the slight variations will be a result of the change in supplier rather than a change in specification. Filofax specifies an ‘off-white’ tinted paper because this has a more premium appearance than a bright white paper. Filofax will continue to review the paper spec as part of the product development process.
- SM highlighted the main issues within the community seem to be the bleed through when using fountain pens and that many pen bloggers had been reviewing this. JL suggested absorption may be better in some whiter papers than coloured paper due to the heavier coverage of ink applied to achieve the wash of colour on coloured paper.
- JL explained the new product development process. The company has around 40 markets around the world with at least 80 key contributors from these markets contributing new product ideas from trade and end users. These ideas are reviewed centrally by a commercial process and those that are viable go into the development cycle. The potential scale and number of ideas is therefore enormous.
- SM said the ring mechanism quality seemed to have deteriorated in the last year. SM put forward his theory as to why he thought this might be that the ring mechs are of sound quality at purchase but then after some given time, through wear and tear, they lose their elasticity. JL explained that the ring mechs are produced from various different manufacturers in different countries and so maintaining a consistent level of skill when assembling them has proved difficult. Millions of ring mechs are manufactured each year and the rejection rate has gone up by half a percent recently and overall it is still only a very small percentage.
- SM said the particular issues with the ring mechs were misalignment and physical gaps. The quality in older organisers is much better and there is a feeling in the community that we should go back to that.
- JL explained the number of QA staff has recently been increased and quality control (QC) process is 100% checking.
SM highlighted that the community had some useful product ideas and suggestions for existing product designs:
- Slimmer ring mechs for A5s (20mm). JL advised that the Pennybridge A5 has incorporated this.
- Personal ring mech sizes to be bigger (30mm). JL advised that due to consumer demand the standard ring mech, 23mm is specified for this product.
- Can some organisers have two pen loops. JL advised this depends on the range and design of the organiser as to whether this could actually be physically incorporated, but request is noted.
- Customised binders e.g. colour, ring size and pen loops
- At the moment the monthly inserts are printed back to back which doesn’t allow people to archive easily because, for instance, on the right hand page of January, you have the left hand page of February. More importantly, it is difficult to interweave monthly and weekly or monthly and daily pages. Suggestion is to have the Jan daily pages, then Jan monthly, Feb daily then Feb monthly.
- Monthly pages are tabbed for Personal and A5 only and not for Pocket and Mini. Also would be more useful to have a notes page on the reverse.
- ‘Flatability’ of the organiser covers. JL suggested that the user can manipulate the leather (depending on the range and design) so that over time the organiser because more supple. JL also suggested a You Tube video might be good for users to see the effectiveness.
Filofax Enthusiasts Collection
- JL explained the concept of an Enthusiasts collection, giving Filofax enthusiasts the opportunity to design special inserts. Three designs would be selected each year (voted on by Filofax users) and these would be produced and sold on the Filofax website.
- The mechanics of this are still in discussion but the idea is to launch this process in 2013. Philofaxy would be kept in the loop on this.
- SM highlighted the fact that the Filofax website is dysfunctional in many areas such as errors on pages, some pages that haven’t been updated for years (bank holiday dates) and products difficult to find – e.g. Time Management inserts and Compact sized organisers. The point being if these areas were corrected, customers would be more aware of the products and purchase more.
- SG acknowledged the issues with the current website and explained that a new site was currently in development for launch in the Spring of 2013. In the meantime there would be limited opportunity to make significant changes to the current site. However, the new site would be a much improved environment and shopping experience. SG suggested that the Philofaxy community might be able to assist with consumer testing of the new site in a test environment . SG/SM to liaise at appropriate time.
Filofax would like a more open dialogue with Philofaxy in future and SG would liaise with SM to confirm contact points.
Samples for blog reviews and marketing communications
Filofax will establish a more proactive outreach of product samples via the new PR agency for blog reviews in the future.
The meeting was drawn to a close at 16:30
I would like to thank Filofax for hosting the meeting and for taking time to listen to our views, concerns and ideas. Also thank you to Anita, Tracy, David, Kate and anyone else who sent in their ideas.
I will be reporting back to you in the coming months as things develop, I am sure you will support me in my work with Filofax to improve things for all of us.