Windsurfing By Mail
| Branding | Positioning | Marketing |  Strategy | Look & Feel | Direct Mail


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How I was able to shoot catalogs around the world without paying for travel, lodging, high-priced models, and more.
By Rob Cummings

I wrote, designed, coordinated, and produced a series of windsurfing products mail order catalogs photographed in all the best and most exotic windsurfing locations - the Cayman Islands, The Bahamas, and Aruba - without incurring any travel or lodging costs.

Here's the story:

A retail store wanted to create a windsurfing mail order catalog yet did not have a tremendous budget.

I developed 'Windsurfing by Mail' and combined this with the concept of a 'World Tour'. 

The locations for the 'World Tour' were those most ideal for windsurfing - exotic locations that windsurfers could truly relate to. The exotic locations helped make the catalogs a hit.

The catalogs featured products on models at the best windsurfing spots in the world.

How did I do this without any air fare or lodging budget?

Through product integration (aka product placement), I managed to take this catalog's readers on a 'World Tour' without any of the usual expenses typically required for exotic location photography.

With the 'World Tour' as the foundation, the exotic trip and exposure became the model's compensation - a significant savings - and an arrangement that all enjoyed.

By printing over a quarter-million catalogs (with manufacturers presented in the catalog paying a fee to sponsor pages), I was able to generate most of the printing and mailing costs.

Through product integration and/or product placement and/or a small integrated column (in most cases a single image), I was able to make arrangements with hotels and airlines to cover all travel and lodging, plus many of the meals.

How did I do this so quickly yet so well?

By making advance arrangements with each island's chamber of commerce, our crew was given celebrity treatment, and I was able to have a complete tour of every location the first day upon landing. This enabled me to schedule the next day's shoot.

Before leaving the US, I already knew the exact model poses, clothing and accessories for every shot required by creating acetate camera viewfinder inserts from the catalog I had designed and written in advance. I could then hold these camera viewfinder inserts up at each location to quickly determine exact positioning for the models. In essence, I was 'dropping in' the background (without Photoshop) and determining exactly how the models 'placed' at the location would relate to the background. This design-in-advance process also insured that every photo would fit exactly into the layout, and that no photos taken would be 'random' (saving on film and processing fees in the days before digital).

Through this process and my advance planning, we were able to shoot over 95 final images and complete all of the catalog shots in a little under 2 days.

What were some of the benefits?

I was able to shoot in exotic locations, and produce a catalog where the setting was equally of interest to the avid windsurfer as were the products presented. Therefore this became a catalog windsurfers not only could relate to, but looked forward to, and bought from.


How did I get the free travel and lodging and transportation?

By placing a small mention of the hotels and airlines in the catalog, I was able to negotiate an exchange for 100% free travel, lodging and transportation for the entire crew and all models.

A mention of the Holiday Inn Grand Cayman integrated into the catalog (see the pack of matches above under the coins?) provided free room and board for the entire crew. Similar integration gave the entire crew free air travel with Cayman Airways.

By integrating a Cayman Island's 'Just Jeeps' Jeep - a deal I made 'on the fly' - I got us a Jeep on the island - but not just any Jeep - the newest Jeep on the island - just 30 miles on the odometer. Not an easy find on any small island - and great for packing models into.~ rob.

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