An open letter to Slam PR, Filofax and Ms. Helena Bloomer, MD of Slam PR.

Below is a letter by David Popely in response to a rather eye-opening interview with the managing Director of the PR firm used by Filofax. 

I was going to add a link to it but to be honest, I don’t really feel like giving any PR to the PR firm.  Yup, I’m that disgusted.

If you read my blog, then I’m sure you frequent many other blogs published by the Philofaxy community, and you have no doubt read this letter several times this morning. I am posting it  to my blog solely out of solidarity for a group of people I respect, value and hold in high esteem.

This, sadly, is more credit that Filofax or Slam PR is willing to give them. We, who spend a significant amount of our income on the product. We, the devotees who are not fickle or who bow and bend with the winds of fashion. We, who believe it or not, actually do a hell of a lot more than “write notes”  or ponder which outfit we should wear tomorrow in our planners.

Yes, I am posting this letter out of a little thing known as loyalty. But make no mistake…not loyalty to any company or brand, loyalty to people I care about. People. Not dollar signs. 

Personally, I am through with Filofax. The results of this letter make no difference to me because I will not spend another dime on a brand who so callously dismisses the feedback of it’s core customer base, not to mention whose representatives make disrespectful, immature and frankly disgusting personal attacks upon others via a public forum.

Filofax has become like a bad boyfriend. I make excuses for the lack of useful or updated diary inserts each year when they are neglected in the new line. Again.

I gloss over issues of poor quality assurance like faulty ring mechanisms or “leather” I’m not convinced is actually such, yet still bears a price tag akin to a car payment.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have a thing about being disrespected. I’ll be patient, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, but once enough becomes enough and I reach my limit, I’ll be gone so fast and so far you won’t even know I was ever there. That goes for bad boyfriends, vapid PR firms and companies who think they can sit back and rest on past laurels.

In closing, I would just like to submit that we are a community. Period. Perhaps we were all brought together by our love (or in my case, a former love) for a product, but many of us have moved beyond ‘planner talk’ to form genuine friendships. We know each others kid’s names. We jump to support one another when someone is having a bad day. We rejoice together when someone is having an unbelievably fabulous day. We send each other care packages for crying out loud.

I’m a dog person, and I can think of no better way to put it than this: We are pack. You people are my pack. And you will be no matter what kind of planner is sitting open on my desk.

But enough of my babbling, here is the letter. Go get ’em David…………

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.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LJ
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 15:24:48

    Well said :o)

  2. ecdale
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 15:37:16

    Fabulous comments by both Zoe and David Popely. I only hope that SOMEONE at Filofax (or their PR firm) listens and actually gives a damn.

  3. davepopely
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 07:40:25

    Zoe this is a brilliant summary of why Filofax (or Letts Filofax Group in the UK) are losing the loyalty of a long-standing customer base – couldn’t have (and didn’t!) put it better myself.

    You are right that many of us have been moved to find other brands through which to pursue our time and life management. I object strongly to the assertion by Filofax’s PR Company that I am a Filofax user because I enjoy ‘writing notes’ and am interested in ‘fashion’ (whatever that may be at the moment. As it happens, I’m totally uninterested in fashion trends – I want a system that works, that comes in good quality ‘hardware’ which won’t fall apart after a week, and from a company whom I feel respects my input as a customer. As a result, although not an ex-Filofax customer, I am certainly ‘at the exit’.

    I stand fully behind your personal comments here, and will wait with interest to see if Filofax themselves (not just their PR company in the UK) are going to listen and change.

    Thank you again

    David

  4. Sheila
    Sep 19, 2012 @ 16:37:58

    Last year, I participated in a “fitness challenge” through work, which was sponsored by the “Filofax” of gyms in New York. Sure, you get nice amenities, etc., but you are paying for the brand. I joined, I weighed in (it was being billed as a competition between various corporate employers), I received an “open letter” to all participants stating that the my fellow employees and I were fat. Yes, fat – maybe put in a bit more of a “cutesy” way, but the message was loud and clear.

    I then wrote a letter of my own to the president of the company, and Cc’d my Human Resources department. Of course the response was downgraded to the head of the nearest location, but still, I received a profuse apology, and was told that the PR firm who was running this for them, had been told to be sensitive, etc., etc. Previous problems with Filofax aside, wait to hear the response from Filofax before giving up just yet. Remember, these are PR people, …PR people… they don’t “get” anyone who is not.

    And, your blog is beautifully written. I look forward to reading more. 🙂

  5. MTMTE
    Sep 20, 2012 @ 02:21:34

    Zoe, your opening comment to the letter is both truthful and touching.

    Filofax has commited the ultimate sin of a brand: producing products that inspire a one-time purchase and then drive the customers away from their consumables. Ultmately we love what the binder represents, not the brand: something functional, whatever that function may be; something that doesn’t sync via wireless networks and hassle us with emails or calls; something tactile; something that we can carry with us for years to come, perhaps even hand down as a memento to those we love and whom loved us for knowing ourselves and sticking with a system beyond the trend.

    As for the role of PR Slam…Helena Bloomer may have single-handedly caused the strongest blow to the Filofax brand since its poor quality controls.

    I’m so excited to see this letter spreading…whether or not it’s regarded by the company, it says a lot about the community. Congrats all.

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