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Last Update: Tuesday June 15, 2021

Key Idea: Sell a Lifestyle, Not a Product

People who visit Sundance Lodge want to take a piece of the lifestyle home with them, and the catalog offers it to them every month.

Key Question:


The shoppers who love the Sundance Catalog do not want to buy things, they want to create a look or a feel in their home and even their wardrobe. Purchase a backcountry coat, cowboy boots and Indian beads and you are now part of the American West no matter where you really live.

Q:  Why is this thinking so important to any niche retailer's success?

Understanding the customer fully guides every decision. At Sundance this includes product selection, catalog design and even how the salespeople handle calls. People who want to feel as though they live on the land and surround themselves with handmade furniture, sweaters and home accessories are drawn to this catalog.

We have seen others use this strategy. Jagged Edge Mountain Gear sold the journey not the destination to mountain climbers seeking to think about mountain climbing more than they actually do it. International Wine Accessories sells the elegant lifestyle. Ebby Halliday Realtors sells its customers, "The American Dream." Selling a lifestyle rather than a product positions the business as part of a movement or as the champion for a set of ideas rather than being just focused on making money for the sake of making money.

This is a must-do tactic for the Internet. People are not coming to a web site for a single product; they are coming to be deeply educated about a way of doing things and they also want to be part of a community of interest.

Think about it

What do you sell? What do your customers buy from you?

Clip from: Sundance Catalog

Meet Harry Rosenthal (above) and Brent Beck

Provo Canyon and Salt Lake City, Utah: In this episode of the show, we go into a pristine part of the Rocky Mountains, a place Robert Redford loved and wanted to preserve. To sustain that dream and help pay for it all, he turned to Brent Beck and Harry Rosenthal to implement an idea he had for a catalog business. Brent knew the products. Harry knew direct mail. But, unlike most of us, these three had a fast start for this business -- they were leveraging the Robert Redford brand.

Business is not easy for any of us. When Redford applied for his initial loan from a bank, he was rejected just like the rest of us.  He turned to investors, bought the land  to preserve it from housing developers, and began thinking of how to turn it into a business. That was in the late '60's.

Even celebrities were once "less than famous" and had to crawl, scrap,  risk... take a flying leap, just like the rest of us.

Go to all the key ideas and video of this episode...

Sundance Catalog

Jessica Basin, Sr. Marketing Manager, Robert Redford, founder

3865 West 2400 South
Salt Lake City (and Provo), UT 84120

Visit our web site:

Office: 801-975-5238

Business Classification:
Catalog, direct mail

Year Founded: 1989

Sell a Lifestyle, Not a Product

Sales Professional #2: So if I've shipped out one, it's going to tell me I've shipped out one and the ship-to date.

HATTIE: How do you decide what you want to bring to the meeting?

BRENT: I'm driven by picking a sample by how I can see it either at Sundance or in a home or how I would use it. You'll see most of the things that are here are a lifestyle we live. I mean, different than most of the catalog companies out there, you're been to the place Sundance. It's real. I mean, we get up in the morning and we put on jeans and we go and we use these implements you see in the catalog, and the person Redford is real.

There is a real person, there is a real place. It isn't a fantasy land.

This is the West and the things you see here can be used in this environment. They are part of our heritage, they're part of the things that drive us to work, and things that turn us on, and things that we love. And that is one of the most exciting things about our business, is this is real life. This is not fantasy land.

HARRY: We're a general merchandise catalog, which these days is called lifestyle catalog, and lifestyle really is a better description because of the way we present it. But the downside of being a lifestyle catalog, where you have furniture and jewelry next to each other, for example, is it's very hard to target. You can't target jewelry buyers, you can't target furniture buyers, and there are people who are very interested in buying the rugs, the lamps but who wouldn't really buy jewelry from you and vice versa.

They all have to get the catalog. So you're mailing to a lot of people who won't be interested in a great deal of your product, and you know that up front. So as you grow big and as your universe of names gets bigger and bigger with the lifestyle catalog, it gets a little thin out on the fringes. It becomes harder and harder to get good response. And while we are nowhere near that growth ending, we are at the point where we can now efficiently split off parts of the database targeting customers who are interested in jewelry--that was our first one--interested in apparel.

Go out and get additional rented names, other list sources of people who are going to be interested in those same merchant categories and now mail targeted offerings that will allow us to continue to grow and increase our growth faster than we could just mailing the lifestyle book. And that's what the segmentation strategy is really designed to achieve for us.

HATTIE: Why do you think, Harry, so many customers like doing business with Sundance?

HARRY: I think customers like Sundance because we carry things for them that are unique, they can't find them elsewhere. We always try to deliver something of such a high quality that when it shows up at their door, it's always at least a little better than they even thought it was going to be. We try to give them extremely good service and we also try to involve them in the other things that we are doing, the others goals that we have: the protection of the environment, the promotion of the arts; so that they understand that they're doing more than just buying something that they like. They feel like they're part of all the things that we and Robert Redford are trying to achieve.

People know we reinforce throughout the catalog in various places in the copy where we perhaps run a little article about the most recent Sundance Film Festival or we run a little piece about an artist who created something or about a company that's found a way to help the environment by recycling old wood that would otherwise be wasted, and we reinforce the message over and over and over again that we care about these things, that they're an important part of our mission.

Maybe we should just come out with a mission statement kind of carved in stone and print that on every catalog. But what we have tried to do instead is to build those values into the brand and make that so strong that just the bold statement of it isn't necessary because we always reinforce what it is that we do that reflects that mission.

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