Every year, as the holiday season rolls around, we’re taken back to our childhoods and the stacks of catalogs that would inevitably inform our lists. There was nothing quite as exciting as pouring over those glossy pages. We’d dog ear corners or cut out images of toys we’d later beg our parents to gift us, a reward after behaving well for the entire year.
However, as we’ve reached adulthood and the “Internet of Things” has exploded, that time spent listing carefully curated items has been replaced by the robotic, instantaneous click of adding a new item to our online shopping cart.
Which begs the question: Is there still a place for the old holiday catalog?
Jeff Bezos thinks so and we’re inclined to agree. These days, it’s easy to assume that print is dying or that it’s antiquated at best. But brands from IKEA to Pier One and magazines like Departures and InStyle can teach us marketers a thing or two about how this “old media” can complement our business’ digital footprints in a well-rounded, well-structured marketing strategy – especially around the holidays.
Print Catalogs: The Beginning
The catalog isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s a very, very, very old concept. Published in Venice in 1498, the first catalog was essentially a hand-lettered and hand-bound pamphlet including lists of books available for purchase.
In North America, it would take nearly 350 years before the U.S. would see its own version of Europe’s booklets. In 1845, Tiffany and Co. released a piece called the “Blue Book”, which was later followed by “Eaton’s Catalog” in Canada in 1875.
This Medium article by Divya Pahwa does a great job explaining the catalog’s history in more detail.
The Case for Today’s Catalogs
Think of it this way: print catalogs are like any other physical marketing piece.
As with other forms of print marketing, it’s important to recognize that it’s but one part of a wider, overarching marketing strategy for your business or brand. Find and capitalize on opportunities for crossover, including the addition of QR codes, clear CTAs and interactive print to drive readers to microsites and pre-determined landing pages.
Aside from meeting your own business goals, it’s imperative to make sure your audience’s needs are met and that they feel connected to your brand. As Steve Daniels explains for Medium’s The Startup, “Print magazines are no longer about information; the ones that are have become a commodity that is easily replicated online. Today’s print magazines are lifestyle products.”
The takeaway for marketers? Act accordingly.