Why Skymall Failed (Hint: It Wasn’t the Yeti Garden Statue)

[responsive]skymallstuff[/responsive]Frequent flyers have their products memorized – my favorite is the spider vacuum – but the iconic Skymall catalog has gone the way of hot meals in coach. The parent company filed for Chapter 11 last month, and the Internet response was heady.

What caused Skymall’s demise? Some claim it was a casualty of the digital age, as Wi-Fi became available on flights.

“Released from captivity, Skymall’s audience simply had too many other shopping options,” posits Ian P. Murphy in RetailDIVE.

“But with this fall, a seemingly contrasting trend has emerged in marketing: The number of catalogs mailed posted a slight uptick in 2013, according to the Direct Marketing Association, reversing several years of steady decline. 36% of retailers issue a print catalog today,” Murphy notes.

It’s really not a contradiction in our minds. Today’s successful catalogs are more about the story and less about the stuff. They engage their customers with inspirations and ideas, rather than deluge them with a list of things to purchase (which, yes, can be found online quite easily – think Amazon).

So why did Skymall drop from the sky? Certainly not because they were a catalog, but because they failed to use the power of the catalog to develop and engage a fan base. A few suggested hashtags, maybe an in-house generated meme or two and Skymall could have been the poster child for successful innovation in the multichannel marketing playground. Because that Yeti garden statue is just begging for a good story; we bet J. Peterman could tell it brilliantly.