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Branded merchandise – a personal(ised) approach!

Recognition Express is a leading provider of branded merchandise for businesses and organisations. Operating a national franchise network of locally owned and operated offices it provides anything from name badges to promotional items, custom clothing to signage; business gifts and staff awards to large full-colour graphics and displays.

Martin Liu is part of the team at head office based in Bardon, Leicestershire and has been with Recognition Express for over two years.

Martin stated: “We’d been using a product catalogue for the last 8 years, working with a previous designer. However natural progression meant that we were on the lookout for an alternative approach and the opportunity to improve on what we currently had.”

Having discovered Catalogues 4 Business (C4B) a year earlier and having been impressed with what he saw, Martin approached C4B to establish what they had to offer with regards the new 2014 catalogue. Initially Recognition Express targeted three design agencies, of which C4B were one. Martin said: “We made it clear that we wanted all three to pitch so we could establish the best fit for our business and that they would need to impress us in order to secure a contract.”

As part of the pitching process, Recognition Express asked the three agencies to do some example spreads to enable them to demonstrate their potential and evidence of what they were capable of producing. Martin commented: “The sample that we received back from C4B was great. They worked the pages very hard getting the maximum that they could from the content we supplied, which included the cross selling of products as well as a clear and well thought out design.”

He continued: “The standout part from C4B was not only the suggested vision of the catalogue, but the fact that they supported each and every aspect with rationale. Any suggestion was backed up with an explanation as to why.”

Following the pitching process, Recognition Express decided that C4B were the right agency to work with. Martin said: “C4B’s unique selling point is that they’re catalogue specialists which I thought would give us more cutting edge, in both the final product as well as during production. This came to the fore when we were struggling to fit within the limitations of catalogue production. The design needed to fit within page multiples of 16 and we were struggling to encompass all of our product range within that capacity. The guys at C4B suggested a solution, which incorporated a fold out back page which doubled as an index and ordering information page. This meant that the necessary information was included, but within the right catalogue format.”

“…we were happy to pay the going rate to work with C4B as we were confident that they’d provide the return that we were looking for…”

He continued: “This actually added a quirky edge to the finished catalogue, providing a neat customer oriented design feature, which we hadn’t initially anticipated.” Recognition Express is a franchise operation, which means that the barometer of a successful catalogue can be weighed against the feedback from the franchisees. Martin said: “Historically, our catalogues are always very well received amongst the network but what was noticeable this year was the fact that we received many positive comments about the changes – so definitely an encouraging sign.

Out of the agencies that pitched, C4B weren’t the cheapest, but Martin didn’t see this as an issue; “We were happy to pay the going rate to work with C4B as we were confident that they’d provide the return that we were looking for. There has to be improvement every year and the difference between this year’s catalogue and lasts is really bold. It’s clearly evident that we’ve worked with catalogue specialists.”

It’s early days since the launch, but the initial signs are promising and web analytics suggest that the catalogue is being well received at the customer end as well as from franchisees.

Digital 4 Business (D4B), the sister company of Catalogues 4 Business, also advises Recognition Express on their social digital strategy.

Martin said: “What was apparent straight away was that D4B shared the same values so our line of thinking was that we wanted to capitalise on the good working relationship we had established with C4B.

He added: “Engagement has improved, as has our number of Twitter followers and Facebook page likes. In fact this has been pretty much doubling month on month since D4B’s involvement. C4B has the necessary knowledge and values of our business, which means that the conversation started in the catalogue can be continued online.”

Martin concluded: “I think the key word is relationship. It feels like we’ve worked with C4B for a lot longer than we have after working together so closely. Compatibility is a key part of a working partnership and it’s important that we have a similar way of presenting rationale to every idea. We see our relationship as a long term one and with the same schedule in place for next year, it’s safe to say we’ll be sticking with C4B for the foreseeable future.”