OfficeMax makeover targets women

A bunch of rubber band balls from Office Max


Kai Ryssdal: OfficeMax is shaking up its image. The number three office supply retailer behind Staples and Office Depot has launched a new ad campaign. Its redesigned its product lines and retooled the catalog to specifically target women. The company says that's because they make the most supply-purchasing decisions in American offices -- for everything from staplers to desktop organizers. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.

Mitchell Hartman: In OfficeMax's new theater ad, a pretty young woman in a whimsical red dress walks into a drab black and white office building, and the place erupts in a riot of rainbows and flowers.

The message is aimed at women, who, as office assistants and managers, get to decide what to buy for themselves and their bosses in most companies. OfficeMax marketing VP Bob Thacker:

Bob Thacker: We did a lot of research and women say they're really longing for color, they're longing for patterns, they're longing for design.

So, OfficeMax is offering everything from pens to tape dispensers in color-coordinated palettes, including Op Art: that's turquoise and tangerine.

But will they buy it? Andrea Learned consults on marketing to women.

Andrea Learned: Unless you're the younger, sort of maybe administrative assistant-level, maybe you would do that. But anybody who's gotten any way further in their career or wants to reflect a more professional look or feel about themselves, is going to hesitate to sort of doll it up in that way.

Vinny Warren developed the ad campaign at The Escape Pod, OfficeMax's agency. He doesn't buy the argument.

Vinny Warren: The days of the red power suit for women and women trying to act like men basically, those days are kind of gone. And I think the workplace has kind of chilled out a bit now.

With sales off dramatically, OfficeMax hopes this new marketing push will liven up workers' moods, and get them ordering again.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

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I completly disagree with Mr Jacobs. On that unless you work for a branding, marketing, or design firm you wouldn't be interested in making a fashion statement. It's not really about making a fashion statement, it's about making your area your own and enjoying coming to work. Let's face it, you are usually at the office more than at home. I for one would rather have a colorful stapler, folders, paper clips anything to brighten up the workspace, then coming to work to a beige booring, and depressing setting. I have seen great change in my workplace, with personalizing ones workspace. I believe the "Big Boys" might of really hit on something this time.

I would have to agree with who OfficeMax's new target consumer really is. I find that when I go into the office I would really like it to be someplace I can feel comfortable instead of being drab and colorless. After all that is where a lot of us spend most of our time during the week, why not make it someplace bright and welcoming?

I disagree with Mr. Jacobs, in that I believe people will personalize their office space if they are given the opportunity to do so.

I believe the issue does not lie in that there is disinterest in the product, but rather that people in general are not aware that the product is available. Commercials such as this one are intended to counter that by informing people that they do have a choice in how their cubicle looks.

To dismiss this out of hand represents an attachment to the past as opposed to looking towards the future. I'm not saying that Office Max is guaranteed success here, but if you are #3 in the business, you're going to have to take risks to move up. You have to spend money to make money.

Unless the office is a branding, marketing, or design firm I really doubt women or men for that matter are that concerned about a stapler that makes a fashion statement.

It's amazing that these "Big Boy" firms really seem to miss the "mark" in marketing to women.

I kind of agree with OfficeMax. I see women in my office using more designer-like products to organize their paperwork, presentations, etc. It actually looks more professional than what some of us guys use - plain manila folders jammed full of unorganized papers that we scramble to make sense of before meetings. OfficeMax may be on to something...

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