A Flip of the Page in the Catalog Industry

Patagonia – Winter 2018 catalog design project by Thienkim Cao

Stable, and possibly growing.

That’s how many industry experts are positioning direct mail catalogs after a robust holiday season, according to David Sharp in the Associated Press.

“Industry experts say that all those catalogs crammed into mailboxes this holiday season are a sign that mailings have stabilized — and may be growing — after a decline of about 40% since the Great Recession,” Sharp writes.

New companies are mailing catalogs. And even died-in-the-wool online retailers like Amazon and Bonobos are getting into the act,” he continues.

This comes as no surprise around here; the simple truth is catalogs work. We learned a few years back that if you really want to reach and engage with Millennials, you need to be in print and not focus exclusively on digital. Print, it turns out, is more likely to be remembered – create those memorable marketing campaigns – than digital ads (and especially more than video ads). Neuromarketing studies at Bangor University show that print is more likely to become part of the consumer’s memory that digital materials.

Adding to their appeal is the fact that marketers have reached a limit in what they can do online to entice buyers, especially as ad-blocking rises and cookie policies change.

“They’re tapping out on what they’re able to do digitally,” said Tim Curtis, president of CohereOne, a direct marketing agency in California. “They’ve got to find some new way to drive traffic to their websites.”

There is no doubt the industry still faces challenges – rising postal rates remain a thing, and advance planning is mandatory to get the best rates on paper and co-mailing opps – but retailers learned the hard way that simply eliminating catalogs is most often a bad idea – especially when it comes to reaching that lucrative Millennial audience.

“Millennials who are nostalgic for vinyl records and all things vintage are thumbing through catalogs and dog-earing the pages. It’s a new demographic roughly from 22 to 38 that’s helping to breathe some new life into the sector, industry officials say,” Sharp writes.

“In fact, Millennials are more likely than baby boomers to visit a store based on mailings, according to the U.S. Postal Service inspector general.”

Maybe they love the compelling stories being told in the modern catalog. Maybe it helps inspire them, like a print version of Pinterest. Maybe, just maybe, they’re tired of clicking and the endless whole it drags them into, and want something beautifully crafted and well-curated. Whatever the reason, the modern catalog has massive appeal in today’s marketing landscape.