Deseret Book’s spring conference mailer: A time to…

Deseret Book’s “Conference Sale” mailing arrived earlier this week. Perhaps riffing off of its Time Out for Woman brand, Deseret Book has themed each of its sections with “A time to [appropriate verb].” It’s an interesting marketing strategy in that it not only extends the idea of women taking time out for themselves (and if there was any doubt that DB’s target audience was women, the mailer also promote a “Ladies Night” on April 5 at all of its locations), but it also suggests what types of things women should take time out for and then what products fit into that category.

I think that it’s a rather clever concept. It evokes Ecclesiastes. It assigns value to each type of reading (or other forms of media consumption). It places an emphasis on the good uses of reading. And it provides a built-in defense for engaging in reading — there is a time and a place for each type.

Here’s what the “a time to …” themes are (in order):

  • A time to follow (books by general authorities; 4 pages)
  • A time to live (a wide variety of devotional books, including women authors such as Sheri Dew and Wendy Ulrich; 2 pages)
  • A time to learn (doctrinal books plus a few odd American-related titles such as Newt Gingrich’s “Real Change”; 2 pages)
  • A time for Easter (films, paintings, books; 2 pages)
  • A time to teach (a mish-mash of titles for youth, everything from Carmen Rasmusen’s autobiography to a Jack Weyland novel to two fantasy novels; 2 pages)
  • A time to prepare (board games, activity books and guides, and books on mothering, family history on the Internet, Internet pornography and Preach My Gospel; 2 pages)
  • Scriptures (1 page)
  • A time to be stylish (church totes and temple bags that look to be straight from the shelves of Target, 1 page)
  • A time to escape (romance and thriller/mystery novels, including titles from Rachel Ann Nunes, Anita Stansfield and Dean Hughes; 2 pages)
  • A time to sing (Mo-tab, Kenneth Cope, Michael McLean, etc.; 2 pages)
  • A time to relax (DVDs including Return with Honor, Time Out for Women, The Singles 2nd Ward and a talk by Richard L. Bushman by Joseph Smith; 2 pages)
  • A time to beautify (framed art by Simon Dewey, Del Parson, Liz Lemon Swindle, etc.; 2 pages)

This is not anything new. In fact, these are the types of titles that can usually be found in any DB mailer/catalog. But I think the use of the tag lines illustrates very well that the Deseret Book strategy is to position self-help and doctrinal books as self-improvement and fiction (or actually romance, historical fiction [although no appearances of that in this mailer] and mystery/thriller) as escapist. Oftentimes, book catalogs are organized around specific genre categories or subject topics. This one not only organizes by categories, it also assigns particular values to those categories.

So I guess the question is (and it’s not one that is really answerable): Is Deseret Book merely reflecting the attitudes of the Mormon market towards reading or is it creating them?

5 thoughts on “Deseret Book’s spring conference mailer: A time to…”

  1. Interesting strategy, I think it will work.

    Although it does seem just a step away from guilting people into it – like adding a GA quote with each section on the importance of that particular value. I know they already do this to a degree, but it’s usually pretty general stuff about the importance of learning.

  2. Chicken or the egg, huh? Perhaps the question really isn’t whether or not reflecting or creating the attitude, but what good does reinforcing the attitude do? For me looking through the DB mailer always makes me feel like an outsider and the use of tag lines further reinforces that. After all by categorizing all their products into self-improvement or escapist camps it seems they are implying that those are the only reasons people read/buy their products. Does it make a person less of a Mormon if they read for other reasons?

  3. Just noticed that I lopped off the last word of the post. But you all seem to have gotten the point anyway. 🙂

    ——

    That’s a great question, Laura. Obviously, the main reason I posted this was because fiction is almost entirely relegated to the “time to escape” section. Although, of course, young adult fiction is included in “time to teach.”

    So it’s escapist for Mormon women, instructive for Mormon youth and non-existent for Mormon men.

  4. If I were a man, I’d feel REALLY left out! At an Enrichment book club meeting in my ward a woman accussed me of having too much leisure time and wasting it on reading. “When I had kids, it wasn’t like it is now,” she said. “We had too much to do! We couldn’t spend our days reading. You young mothers just don’t know!” Now, this woman was only about 50-ish. Not that old, but apparently reading was only about escape. She didn’t see how it fills a spiritual/intellectual need in my life. I think DB might agree with that woman. In some ways it’s almost like they are peddling guilty pleasures 🙂

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