Why on Earth are Catalogs Making a Comeback?


Printed catalogs, the workhorses of sales and marketing during the 20th century, are once again becoming a tool marketers will want to keep in their tool kits. According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review and published in their article, “Why Catalogs are Making a Comeback,” response rates to catalog marketing have increased by 170% from 2004 to 2018 and Millennials are a demo that particularly react well to catalogs received in the mail. Shocking, we know!

Top of mind

There are a couple reasons why catalogs can perform well. For one, catalogs linger. Whether in home on a counter or coffee table, or on a desk in a place of business, catalogs can remain in sight. Unlike digital, radio or TV, they provide a continuing visual reminder, and sometimes a second or third closer look which is a huge benefit since being top of mind is important when a consumer is ready to make a buying decision.

A virtual experience

In our opinion, the real reason for a catalog’s success is from the virtual experience it can create through the use of captivating visuals and copy to tell a story. From Harvard Business Review’s findings,

“Just like the evolution of the retail landscape, catalogs have also evolved – they should no longer be a rambling collection of product pages reminiscent of Sears’ golden days. Instead, firms need to focus on designing stunning imagery and creative presentation of products to evoke emotion (e.g., Celebrity cruise lines, Nordstrom), blending in these product imageries with literature that embody higher-level values that the brand stands for (e.g., literary and art magazines issued by the French luxury brand Hermes), and narrating the experiences of others so that consumers can almost live vicariously through the catalogs (e.g., the wine retailer KLwine.com sends out printed newsletters with staff’s tasting notes and visits to wineries).”

Putting it into use

With the popularity of digital media, print can be a breakthrough medium when done correctly. We’ve encouraged clients to create a rich, virtual experience whenever possible. We helped Advanced Telemetry Systems by designing two stunning printed multi-pagers that focus on the experience of using their products as much (or more) than showing the products themselves. And we’ve done the same with excellent results for clients in B2B industries as well.

Additionally, rethink how some of your existing print pieces are used. Any material that lands in a customer’s hand can be extended — service manuals can be designed to perform as sales literature for example. Also, don’t neglect the power of your website. Video and animation are two things you can’t print but can be super powerful ways to immerse a customer in a story. Make sure your website is telling that story as creatively as possible.