Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Future of Filofax – An Open Letter to Helena Bloomer of Slam PR

I don’t like confrontation. I thought long and hard about whether or not to post this, simply because it goes against my nature to argue anything, especially here on my blog. However, I have to agree with Zoe on this front (I couldn’t come up with anything more to add to her honest opening). I am not doing this to be confrontational; I am not doing this because it’s “trending” its way around the blogosphere worldwide; I am doing this out of loyalty, love and respect of a community with which I have been involved for several years. I have interacted with wonderful people there, found similarities and commonalities among us that go far beyond planner usage and organizational needs, have had people tell me they understand what I am going through and offered support—that is very rare in an online community, a community of virtual strangers. It is because of this community that I have actually met some people that I never would have otherwise and have made some very good friends, without whom my life would not be what it is today. It is for them that I am posting this.

The letter below was written by David Popely in response to an interview with Filofax’s PR firm’s managing director.  I stand with my fellow Filofax users and friends in posting this response.

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.