Sunday, February 10, 2008

1948 Autopoint Catalogue - Part 2

Ages ago I published a posting on my 1948 Autopoint Catalogue and ever since then I have been meaning to look at it in comparison to modern catalogues. What’s the same, what’s different? The media is currently bombarding us with gloomy stuff about a forthcoming US and worldwide recession so maybe now it’s time for Marketing Departments to show their true value and keep their companies going? The economy has been really good for a long-time now, but us rugby fans, we know that its pretty easy for the half-back, the “little general”, the “little terrier” yapping at the feet of his frontline monsters; it’s easy for him to look good when his pack of 400-pound shaved gorillas are rumbling forward, mashing the opposition underfoot, but it’s when things aren’t going your way, that’s when your weaknesses get exposed. Maybe those times are upon us and good marketing and good catalogues will show their worth.

First a little background. Certainly don’t take this as gospel, I’m not an economics expert, but as far as I understand things, in 1948 both the US economy and Autopoint were doing pretty well, all things being considered. So, generally their 1948 catalogue is a product of “good times” rather than bad. For comparison I’m going to refer to the following contemporary catalogues
Staedtler 2005/2006 (international English language edition)
Faber-Castell “Office” 2006 (international English language edition)
Faber-Castell “Design” 2006 (international English language edition)
Faber-Castell “Corporate Gift Catalogue” (international English language edition)
Pentel “Collection” 2007 (UK edition) All of these contemporary catalogues are theoretically products of generally benevolent worldwide economic conditions. Of course, whilst economic conditions might have been similar, the 1948 Autopoint catalogue was presumably produced by English speaking Americans with a very insular USA-only mindset, whilst presumably the modern Staedtler and Faber-Castell catalogues were produced by “English as a Second Language” Germans with a very international export mindset, and the modern Pentel catalogue by…?

Well, first impressions, size, paper, colour and so on. You will have to forgive my lack of proper printing and paper knowledge and terminology. The modern catalogues are all full colour print on glossy white paperstock with a heavier weight cover, versus the old Autopoint which is what I think is called 1-colour print – that’s black and white plus one colour (orange) in various shades on slightly beige (unbleached?) matt paper, the cover being a similar weight to the pages. Obviously the relative cost of colour printing and paper has decreased markedly over the decades. All the artwork in the modern catalogues is photographic, whereas I’m not sure about Autopoint – I think it’s either drawn or the drawings traced from photographs - surely another change in the cost structure of the printing industry.All the catalogues are A4 paper size, (although Autopoints is slightly undersize) except the Faber-Castell “Corporate Gift Catalogue” which is A5 size. Autopoint has 16 numbered pages, the modern catalogues have from 33 to 118 pages, most being around the 60 page mark. Autopoint weighs 67grams, the small Faber-Castell “Corporate Gift Catalogue” weighs 90grams and then the others range from 203 up to 537 grams. Now, Autopoint had a much smaller product range than their modern counterparts, but I think this all again points to declining relative printing costs, and also transportation costs. I’m sure Autopoint would have been conscious of postal weight limits for their catalogues but I don’t think today’s designers take too much notice of that aspect. The catalogue just ends up weighing what it weighs from paper selection, page count, printing budget, etc. Around here Faber-Castell pay overweight surcharge every time they post out their 203g catalogue, because the A4 letter envelope weight limit is 200g.

The front cover of the Autopoint catalogue is boldy emblazoned with “Your Goodwill Sales Plans”. Open it up and the whole inside front cover continues this theme, being headed “How prominent firms increase sales – build goodwill with ‘Autopoint’ Pencils and Business Gifts” and it then continues with bullet points clarifying how to use your business gifts, e.g. “Sent in advance of salesmen’s calls – to assure better interviews” and “Mailed by companies after sales calls – in appreciation of interviews and orders”. The very next page continues on, headed, “Keep prospects and customers reminded daily, month after month, the year around!” Beneath it the text continues, “Executives responsible for sales will recognise the challenge implied in the headline above. ‘Keeping prospects and customers reminded’ of your company name, slogan, trademark or sales message, is a basic problem that requires serious and constant attention.

Yes – today all progressive companies are asking themselves – ‘How favourably do our old and new prospects and customers regard us? What can we do to assure their continued Goodwill and remembrance?’

In answer to the entire problem AUTOPOINT COMPANY offers a complete line of better pencils and useful business gifts designed to carry your message, together with sales plans for effective distributions of these products.” Finally the text closes with, “An AUTOPOINT representative will call without obligation to discuss how best you can solve your Goodwill sales problem…


Autopoint stick to this theme throughout the catalogue, emphasising how you can custom imprint your company name and by-lines, etc on all their products to keep your name in front of the client at all times. Every time your customer picks up his pencil, his letter-opener or uses his telephone index or notepad, there will be your company name and details, printed on said item from Autopoint. Much of the language and constant emphasis on “solving your problem” seems dated, obvious, and heavy-handed by today’s standards, but the basic theme and message are reasonably timeless. How to keep your name in the mind of current and prospective customers? I know the marketing team at my work are always trying to differentiate from the competition, to make our catalogue somehow stand out, be better than, easier to use, etc than our competitors catalogue. I guess it’s been true since the dawn of organised commerce, and its still true today, ‘Keeping prospects and customers reminded’ of your company name, slogan, trademark or sales message, is a basic problem that requires serious and constant attention.'

The existence of Faber-Castells “Corporate Gift Catalogue” shows that some 60 years on, the themes of the Autopoint catalogue are still valid. Their rationale page for the catalogue includes, “Giving a Faber-Castell gift is an art of communication that does not only send a message of appreciation, partnership, or loyalty, …personal engraving or a mass branding for advertising. The great advantage of Faber-Castell publicity items is their variety and innovation. For example at a trade fair, corporate function or open day you can give away…it will leave the recipient with a remaining memory.” It appears that everyone's singing from the same songbook.The other contemporary catalogues all stress their commitment to quality, environmental awareness, and how their products will make your daily office chores more simple, efficient and enjoyable - quite a different emphasis to Autopoint, who fail to even mention their environmental credentials. These contemporary catalogues are aimed at a reader who is going to use the product, not give it away.

Overall then, time has definitely marched on from Autopoints day. Printing and graphic design have advanced enormously. Language has changed, but I’m not sure that’s advancement, it just change. But the basic fundamentals of catalogues are still the same, show your products and convince them to buy your stuff.

3 comments:

germ said...

Interesting piece of pencil history. kudos.
how was the beverage over the weekend?

executive gifts said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
germ said...

ebay 350024962919

looks like it has one of the dialing pencils......