A bunch of rubber band balls from Office Max
A bunch of rubber band balls from Office Max - 
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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.