Who’s Mailing What? A Fresh Look at What Makes Catalogs Work

Cataloging has evolved to fit the multi-channel customer experience. One analyst takes a closer look at what catalogers are sending out and how they’ve changed.

Are you still cataloging like it’s 1999? If so, you’re missing the boat on the incredible power of a lifestyle-based catalog concept.

While some brands (like, oddly enough, Victoria’s Secret) are doing away with their print titles, others are realizing that catalogs today are much more than a sales tool. They are a brilliant way to help share your brand story and develop a strong following.

So what makes a good catalog in 2016? Paul Bobnak of Who’s Mailing What has some ideas. Holding up the Patagonia catalog as an example, Bobnak explains that the brand has long matched stunning photography with the outdoor clothing appropriate to the images.

“The paper feels good to the touch, kind of satiny, and it achieves the kind of color reproduction that these great images deserved,” Bobnak explains in a video posted at Target Marketing. And because Patagonia’s target audience leans toward green, the catalog uses post-consumer recycled paper that resonates with their environmental stewardship message.

As Bobnak notes, this makes their catalog not just a listing of products, but serves as a vehicle for expressing their company’s viewpoint and becoming a lifestyle enabler for their audience.

Taking this idea several steps further, Penzey’s spice catalog uses its platform to dive deep into social issues.

“In [this current issue], there are stories about the people who ride Milwaukee’s busses,” Bobnak explains. “Their viewpoints, and the recipes they share, reflect the diversity of that city. And they allow the company to subtly…very subtly…tie that content into the spices in the catalog.”

Print is the ideal medium for catalogs that encourage lingering rather than outright shopping, giving readers a true reason to choose the printed catalog over an online search. It’s this kind of approach to cataloging that is fueling the change in this industry and once again making catalogs a marketing must-have in an omni-channel retail strategy.