Editors and publishers should shop at Boden (and not just because the clothes are lovely)

I’m fascinated by Boden, the clothing company, both from an editorial and a business perspective. Almost every time we get an email, catalogue or promotion from them, my wife (who like me works in publishing) and I have cause to comment on how perfectly pitched their editorial sensibilities are, and how well they anticipate the desires of and engage with customers.

To take one tiny example, look at this catalogue for kids’ clothes that just dropped through our letterbox and prompted me to write this.

Boden catalogue

On the right there’s a bound-in sheet of stickers, with the line “Not all fish live in the water. These ones can go anywhere.” All well and cute, you might say – something that will appeal to a sense of whimsy in a grown-up as well as directly to children – but they’ve taken it one step further; bottom-left it says “These fish also live on the clothes in our catalogue. Can you find them all?”. Genius! That way, they encourage children to scour the catalogue, looking at every item of clothing, and so bringing to bear the full force of pester power on their parents.

Naturally, this will miss the target in many households. It might arrive at households that don’t have kids – the customer intelligence algorithms having been fooled by a one-off order of a child’s dress as a gift, for example – and even in those households that do, the kids might never get their hands on the catalogue, even assuming they wanted to. And I don’t know the cost of these stickers, nor how much difference they’d make to overall sales. Even tracking the ROI would be tricky. But my gut is that it would cost pennies yet generate pounds – and all without being obnoxious. Negligible effort and investment; potentially huge effect.

I’d urge senior-ish publishing folks to become Boden customers to see what it does and how; the lessons might not translate directly, but I’m filled with admiration for its smart engagements with customers and its clever use of techniques we thought we had a monopoly on. What a fascinating place to work.