Room & Board Wasting Money & Trees With Their Brochures

A little while ago, I shared my thoughts on the ineffectiveness of brochures as a marketing tool. I recently received a brochure (actually two) from Room & Board that missed the mark on a few levels and wanted to share this experience with you. I thought this story would be best told visually and so I shot a quick video. I hope you like it and would love to hear your thoughts.



  1. by Marc Freedman on January 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Maybe a short note to the CEO about your experience and their concern for “trees” seems to be in conflict. I think they need a new marketing person, maybe someone at Cadre could help them!!!

  2. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Marc- I actually like Room & Board and think they do a pretty good job of marketing, but just missed the mark here.

  3. by Chip Helme on January 31, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Derek-nice video -and I agree – marketing materials that are self-contradictory do more harm than good. 98% of my mail goes right into the recycling bin. I decided long ago I will never get a Capital One Credit card because of the amount of junk they send – the brochures, etc.. they actually back fires

  4. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks Chip. Aside from Super Bowl commercials, marketing to the masses is a thing of the past and isn’t very effective (IMO). BTW- check out Paper Karma. It’s an app that allows you to take a photo of physical mail you no longer wish to receive and it will automatically put you on that company’s do not mail list.

  5. by Kirk Drake on January 31, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Check out

    I hate all of this junk. Catalog choice has cut down the amount of junk mail I have received. I used to get literally 4 or 5 a day…it was crazy. Now it is 1 or 2 a week.

  6. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks Kirk! I will check out your suggestion.

  7. by Bryan Del Monte on January 31, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Derek – since I handle all of the marketing efforts at McEnroe, I have the privilege of being listed as our POC for any marketing-related material that comes to the office. I’m usually greeted by a pile of brochures on my desk every so often. I would rather be cold called by a company trying to pitch me something. At least then I’m talking to a real-live person.

  8. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks Bryan- I am not anti-brochures in every scenario. I just think that most of the time there are more effective ways to engage your audience (which I know you get). 🙂

  9. by Keith Scandone on February 1, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Love it. Obviously Derek, you know I own an Interactive/Digital agency…so yeah, I agree with you! We have these conversations almost daily. You should definitely send them this video. It may piss them off, but hopefully that will elicit change! Keep the videos coming. Hope you’re well.

  10. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks Keith! It definitely frustrates me to get this stuff in the mail, but I don’t have a vendetta (nor do I care that much about their brand) to where I want to push it up the chain. Although, please feel free to pass it along to them and perhaps they will care enough to engage you in helping with something more effective. 🙂

  11. by Kelly Saunders on February 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Derek, I couldn’t agree with you more. We also get two of the everything. The most over the top example of this type of unsolicited brochure comes from Restoration Hardware. Have you seen it?

  12. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    I have not (fortunately). Thanks for chiming in, Kelly!

  13. by Tim Hughes on February 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Great video, and great link Kirk!!

  14. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks Tim!

  15. by Sylvia Henderson on February 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    The irony made me smile. Now I’m going offer a counterpoint “yes, but…”

    E-mail marketing, ezines, and similar have been promoted over the past few years, and I’ve spent a lot of time working on such strategies for my business. I’m finding the “open” rate going down more and more as recipients receive more and more “stuff” in their e-inbox. I sent a PAPER newsletter (not a brochure, but it was paper none-the-less; 2 physical pages) once so far to those on my list for whom I have addresses (another bug-a-boo of mine RE: business cards with no USPS addresses so I can followup with a send-out-card). The response I got was fantastic! People were positively amazed at receiving a physical newsletter, and actually read it. I’m integrating both e-newsletters and physically-mailed newsletters and physically-mailed audio CDs into my communications plan for this year.

  16. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Sylvia- I think what you are doing is great! A good mix makes a lot of sense, especially when you know your audience and they WANT to hear from you. However, if your newsletter has some great content in it that is worthy of sharing, it’s a lot easier for me to forward an email to a friend, compared with having to re-mail paper. Just a thought. Thanks!

  17. by Doug Wendt on February 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    I think, Derek, that you are trying to make one point by using an example from another, unrelated point. What you received in the mail from Room & Board is a catalog, not a brochure. They are very different things. Now, receiving a catalog that thick — and receiving two of them — and having not requested one, I agree that you bring up a very valid point…just not the point you’re trying to make!

    The valid point is that companies in the mail-order and e-commerce business need to be extremely attuned to (a) list management and list quality, and (b) using direct mail as part of a larger, integrated strategy. For example, I received a small but very sophisticated direct mail kit from Thos. Moser furniture last year that immediately communicated a value proposition and brand awareness that I would otherwise not have known.

    As for the issue of brochures… They are a waste of time if you just send them out randomly or if you bring them to sales calls and just sort of say “Hey, here’s our brochure…read it later when you get a chance.” In that case, the brochure is a waste not because it’s a brochure, but because the sales person misused it. As Sylvia Henderson noted in a prior comment, using a variety of integrated communication methods always makes great sense.

    No matter what the medium, a brochure can be effective (short, highly visual, and used in-person to engage and guide discussion), or it can be terrible. So too, a video that lasts fifteen minutes and features endless talking heads can be terrible, whereas a 1-2 minute, vividly illustrated one can be extremely effective. It’s not the medium that is at issue here — it is the delivery of the message, and the delivery of that message to the right target audience. Clearly, in conclusion, you are not the right target audience for Room & Board!

  18. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks Doug! As I mentioned in my follow up to Sylvia, I think there is room for everything. My overarching theme is that if you are going to create something that is remarkable, it is likely folks will want to share it with their friends. It is also a lot more expensive to miss the mark when you invest in physical materials. This particular catalog/brochure was really nice and I think that was their goal (as opposed to engaging past customers). But how much money did they spend sending this out to past-customers who did not ask for a 100+ page marketing piece? Could they have sent us a creative digital campaign instead? At least that way I could have passed it along to someone I know who may be moving soon. They could have then invested that money into something much more remarkable targeted at their very best customers. I, in fact, have purchased a number of things from Room & Board, so to say I’m not their target audience would be incorrect. They are just being lazy in their efforts to get to know me better. Thanks for the great feedback!

  19. by Derek Coburn on February 4, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks for the great feedback and I apologize for the delayed response. I left for the Super Bowl the day I posted this and just returned.

  20. by Sonny Goel on February 5, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Hi, Derek.

    Great video and follow-up comments. Something that they could have easily done is to use that page as a way to ask permission to send you an email version of their catalog in the future. They could have started with the “Trees are very important to us…, therefore please click on the Bar code below to register your email to see high quality 360 degree views of our furniture in an interactive format…”. This would allow them to gain email addresses with permission marketing, yet still not be so out of touch with the fact that although the love trees, you won’t make a single sale of your furniture of no one knows you exist.

  21. by Derek Coburn on February 5, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Sonny- great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  22. by Jack Quarles on February 6, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Good stuff and got me thinking about their cost effectiveness… what is their metric on sending out the catalogs? How much would it cost to match those results via other means, or even by sending out a catalog half as meaty? I’m sure someone at R&B is asking those questions, and someone else is saying, “But we HAVE to do a big glossy catalog.” An Expensive Sentence, perhaps? —- Thanks Derek I look forward to the next video.

  23. by Derek Coburn on February 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Jack- Great points. It would be interesting to know how they determine whether or not this campaign was a success.

  24. by DSB on August 11, 2013 at 8:31 am

    First of all, it’s a CATALOGUE not a BROCHURE. Secondly, it’s only printed once a year and only mailed to customers who purchased within the previous year. Simply contact them and they’ll remove your name and address. Why recycle? Repurpose and offer them to friends or family.

  25. by Derek Coburn on August 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for clarifying, DSB. Had I known it was a catalogue I would have never thrown it away (and I will change the title of the post ASAP). In terms of repurposing the brochure, are you suggesting I lug it around until I meet someone who will want it? Or, should I pay $10 in shipping fees out of my own pocket to just to overwhelm a friend with joy when they open the package? Part of my point was if I did want to share it, doing so would have been a lot easier if it was an email or link I could have forwarded.

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