the future of Filofax - an open letter to Helena Bloomer of Slam PR

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen that I got a bit 'ranty' a few days ago with regards to Filofax and a certain PR company. Now, I have nothing against PR companies - far from it; it's actually an industry that interests me from a career point of view. However, I am against the direction Filofax is going. Whether this direction is driven by the PR company or by Filofax themselves is another question in itself; either way, I still feel this 'open letter' that David Popely has written has a point and I agree with it.

It is mainly in response to Filofax trying to refocus their target market on the fashion sector. Don't get me wrong, I love fashion and I am a recovering shopaholic but I think this new focus is flawed. Fashion is fickle (I can back this up through personal experience) and for Filofax to do this means that they will alienate their loyal customer base.

I buy Filofax organisers and refills for their functionality, not because they are 'fashionable'. The collaboration with Temperley London is fine with me. I get that they want to tap into the fashion market but to refocus the WHOLE BRAND towards fashion? Are you kidding me? And then to give out free Temperley organisers to fashion bloggers? These organisers are one of the most expensive binders Filofax do (in terms of price only; quality is negligible) and they are giving them out for free? We are the ones paying for the binders and their refills year in, year out and they are using this money to give organisers to people who won't care about Filofax next month? Nice to see our loyalty is being rewarded.

Anyway, I digress. This letter reiterates why we, as Filofax fans and loyal users, are annoyed and will most likely boycott the brand if nothing is done. And I think we will be doing so within reason too. All too often, we have complained about paper quality, ring mechanism problems (I have had several of these, this year alone!) and leather quality decreasing and none of these have been addressed. Giving binders out to fashion bloggers is, I think, the final straw and from now on, I pledge never to purchase from Filofax ever again. I have the binders I need (and more) and I can make my own inserts or use the ones over on Philofaxy.

To end this post, I have pasted the letter as written by David Popely and I urge you, if you also have a blog, to do the same. The more coverage we can gain can only be beneficial to us loyal users and our motive is a good one: to save a brand we love from committing such a mistake where we no longer stay loyal and consequently, contribute to the demise of Filofax.

Dear Ms Bloomer
This letter is a response to the interview recently conducted with you by FeaturesExec Media Bulletin, and is being posted simultaneously (more or less) on a number of blogging sites in the UK, the US and beyond.
What binds us together as bloggers is that we are all members of an international community and website devoted to all things Filofax, and are all passionate about personal organisation, and the Filofax brand in particular. We have read, as a community, and with increasing disbelief, your comments concerning the Filofax brand, and this is our response.
We note from your comments that, as a result of a ‘usage and attitudes study’ you have conducted, you have been led to the conclusion that the distinguishing features of Filofax users are that we ‘like to write notes’, and that we are ‘very interested in fashion/stylish accessories’. We can assure you this is not the case in either respect, and that we find being pigeon-holed in this way to be demeaning and insulting in a way you most probably cannot understand. We are a community whose passions are for good organisation and a flexible, functional system to underpin that organisation. Some of us, perhaps a minority, have considerations of fashion, but all of us care that our systems of personal organisation assist us in the lives we live and the tasks we undertake.
In short, if all we wanted to do was to ‘write notes’, it is highly unlikely we would invest in relatively expensive binders, refills and systems such as your client provides. We wonder just who you have asked to participate in your ‘usage and attitudes study’. Whoever they are, we can assure you they are unrepresentative of your client’s core customer base, many of whom have been loyal customers for over twenty years and now feel ignored by your client.
We want to suggest to you that the direction you are taking your client in is ultimately going to prove fundamentally damaging to their business. The fashion ‘business’ is notoriously fickle and fast-changing, and you seem to have convinced your client that ignoring and alienating their loyal core customer base will bring dividends in terms of a new, fashion-conscious, high-spending corpus. We want to suggest to you, and by extension to Filofax themselves, that when the fashion ‘carousel moves on, your client will be left neither their newly promised client base, nor the client base you have led them to abandon. Do you really think this is smart business advice?
You say in your interview that you consider your brief with Filofax to ‘make (your client) fashionable again’. We would suggest to you that your client’s products, if they were ever ‘fashionable’ at all, were so because they fulfilled a function and a need which was perceived to be important to their customers. We now have growing evidence of a lowering of standards of manufacture in Filofax binders, of poor paper quality in refills, and of a lack of willingness to listen to your customers’ opinions. Several of our members, on voicing opinions similar to these, have been invited by Filofax (or whoever runs their Twitter feed) to communicate those opinions directly to your client. This has been done, and no further comment or reaction from your client has been forthcoming. We would like to know whether this is really the kind of public relations you wish for your clients? Or are you merely concerned with putting fashionable, well-heeled ‘bottoms on seats’ at London, New York and other Fashion Weeks with the aid of free give-aways of ranges of binders priced beyond the reach of the average core Filofax user and similarly poorly manufactured? We would suggest that your ‘fashion focused press office’ would be better employed communicating with the loyal, core customer base of your client, the majority of whom, it now seems, are on the point of abandoning your client’s brand in favour of providers who will listen.
We write as concerned individuals and not as representatives of the community to which we belong. However, it is worth noting that many of us have a very high annual spend on Filofax and related products, and we suggest that Filofax is in danger of sacrificing this loyal customer spend in exchange for something far less reliable in the long term. 
In conclusion, we have every confidence that these opinions will be ignored as ‘unfashionable’ by your ‘attitude studies’ and ‘fashion focused’ executives. However, we care enough about the Filofax brand to communicate these opinions plainly to you, and to hope that Filofax will one day return to the business in which it flourished for over seventy years, of providing highly functional, attractive but reasonably priced, personal organisation systems to those who need them, which is an increasing number of people in the societies in which we live.

5 comments:

  1. I must say I'm a little torn about this situation primarily because I am a fashion blogger AND Filofax lover/consumer.

    1. I think it's ridiculous for SLAM PR to completely shift the brand focus to the fashion world. Not only because fashion is fickle but because you're then alienating core consumers (as previously stated by yourself and other bloggers)

    2. I don't get upset at them gifting Filofax products to bloggers because this has become standard practice in the online space (especially in the US and in fashion where bloggers are being gifted clothing, handbags, shoes -- you name it -- by PR companies/ designers). What does upset me is that the PR company didn't take the time to find authentic brand advocates to work with. I've seen a few fashion bloggers post about Filofax and some look ridiculous showing off their outfit while holding a Filofax. It just screams sponsored and fake.

    3. Will I stop buying Filofax? Probably not. I won't lie, in the past I've wished that some of their products "look better" because if I'm going to be carrying it around with me, why not have it match my fashion sense. I am, after all, a woman who works in the fashion industry (not only as a blogger but professionally as well). Has that ever stopped me from purchasing them in the past? No, because I value the products.

    I think Filofax just needs to rein it in and realize that their core consumer doesn't really want to connect with the fashion world to write notes. Take a look at their Facebook page and you'll see content about London Fashion Week and people simply do not care. It doesn't make sense for the brand. They need to go back and rethink their overall brand strategy, or find a PR and marketing agency that understands this and can properly execute.

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    1. I realise that the gifting thing is quite commonplace when it comes to fashion items (clothes, bags, etc) but for a smaller brand like Filofax, I find this ridiculous. When fashion brands gift their items, they gift it to people who blog about that topic - but when Filofax gave the Temperley ones away for free, they gave them to fashion bloggers - people who have not blogged about Filofax in the past. Now, I know I sound a bit bitter here, but surely, they should have levelled the playing field and at least gifted some to some Filofax bloggers too, namely Philofaxy, Plannerisms, etc. instead of sending them to be reviewed and requesting that they be sent back?

      I get that they are trying to tap into another market but they seem to be doing so at the cost of their other market - hardcore users who don't care about catwalk looks. Like you said, the Facebook page is constantly posting about these looks and though I do love fashion, I liked the Filofax page for Filofax news, not fashion news. That is why I read Vogue and Elle online!

      With regards to the new Temperley range, having seen them give out the organisers for free, I don't see the point in anyone paying for one, esp. pre-existing users because this is how our loyalty is valued? We spend money on organisers and refills for them to use these profits to gift organisers to people who are new users. Fair enough but why not reward these loyal users at the same time?

      Anyway, personally, my last penny has been spent with Filofax. I did pay for a Temperley Filofax but unfortunately, it had ring problems so had to go back. Now, I am feeling quite glad it had those problems and that I managed to get a refund. And I have learnt from that mistake and will not be buying from the new Temperley range or any of their other organisers or binders again. It's not just the Temperley range that annoys me, it's also that they do not listen to their customers. People have screamed for better quality inserts, a wider range of inserts, better quality ring mechanisms, etc and we have not been listened to. If anything, our feedback has been brushed under the carpet!

      So yes. Having realised how simple it is to make my own inserts, I will no longer be buying refills. And there are other alternatives out there too - Franklin Covey, Daytimer, Quo Vadis, etc. And it will be the alternate brands which will see an increase in business as more and more of this loyal user base migrate.

      Hopefully Filofax will have listened to all this and at least move in a direction where fashion and functionality can co-exist but for now, it feels like fashion is being concentrated on and functionality and quality is being ignored.

      (Apologies if any of my comment came across as blunt, it was not meant to be perceived that way!)

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  2. No apologies necessary. And I'm not arguing with your post, hence why I said it upsets me is that the PR company didn't take the time to find authentic brand advocates to work with.

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    1. I know you weren't :) Just worried my reply was too blunt hehe. And I completely hear you as a fellow fashion lover. I think people like us prove the Filofax marketing strategy wrong. We love fashion and using Filofaxes but don't like how they have combined the two.

      Hopefully they will listen to us all about all of our concerns x

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  3. This is all excellent, I completely agree and am very saddened by what they're doing. I will probably by the 2013 diary inserts because they do work the best for me, but I'll not be buying another organiser and all other inserts I will be going elsewhere... or using yours ;) @quietmorning x

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