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Dove Direct Print & Marketing Blog - “The Power of Catalog Marketing”

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Welcome to the Dove Direct Print and Marketing Blog. Today’s post, “The Power of Catalog Marketing” examines how catalogs are not only enjoying a marketing resurgence trend, but how catalogs are responsible for increased online shopping numbers. In 2007, according to a Direct Marketing Association (DMA) study indicating that catalog mailing usage was at its peak, prior to the economic disrupter of the Great Recession, catalogs have come roaring back as a significant print medium sales and marketing tool.

Big data compiled in the DMA’s 2013 report stated that catalog mailings grew to 11.9 billion. To gain a complete picture for catalogs demise after the Great Recession, it was also noted that catalogs dropped to its lowest level in 2012 since annual data collection began in 2001. Enter the new technologies that provide multi-channel shopping and communications, including the precise targeting and measurement capacities now afforded to catalogs, and experts are now of the mindset that catalogs as a vital marketing tool will be around for the foreseeable future.

Catalogs Best Fulfill Marketing Objectives

Remember the old adage, “20% of your customer base accounts for 80% of your revenue?"  In many cases, that proverbial adage continues to apply. Marketers and brands are keenly aware that multi-channel shopping and buying are continuing their upward post Great Recession trends. Therefore, marketers must take into account that customers and prospects typically use multiple touch points and channels to make their purchasing decisions, which makes those multi-channels more valuable.

Examples of catalogs fulfilling marketers expectations regarding the 80-20 rule are in full swing. Nordstrom states that of their customers who’ve developed a multi-channel relationship with their brand, these customers spend more than four times as much as those who failed to engage in multi-channel access points.

Craig Elbert, Bonobos vice president of marketing stated that 20% of the brand’s first time website visitors are placing orders in the aftermath of having received a catalog and additionally, are spending one and a half times as much as other new customers who failed to receive a catalog prior to making a purchase.

As far as marketers being able to fulfill their ROI objectives, catalogs are uniquely positioned to help marketers fulfill those ROI goals. Think about it for a moment. We are now in the age of accountability, and to that end, every sales and marketing goal is under intense scrutiny and the resulting measurements that accompany such microscopic analysis. When we examine the effects of broadcast spots or a social media campaign on the resulting sales numbers, the reality is far from exact and difficult to extract.

Thanks to advancements in technology, catalogs effect on marketing and sales numbers are much easier to track, given their ability to include source codes and precise mailing dates. In addition, brands are able to better target their prospective market through the ginormous industry sector databases that have amassed millions of consumers. Now that online purchasing is ubiquitous, brands have the capability to aggregate their own customer databases, complete with being able to sync them with direct mail technology. The result?  Personalization and the resulting catalog creation pointing the consumer to the brand’s online portals, in other words, all elements work together to push the right catalog into the right consumer's hands. 

Catalogs Have Versioning Power

A brand’s customer base is made up of a variety of targets residing within the overall structure of a brand’s offerings. Some customers may be regular purchasers, while others may be intermittent buyers, and even others could be sale and discount only targets. And then you have a plethora of first time customers still in the purchasing bubble.

Similar to creating and mailing personalized brochures, postcards, and flyers to either existing or new customers, the process of creating catalog versions using the same variable data printing technology affords a brand the ability to specifically design each catalog piece for a specific target or target group. This specific targeting initiative can be designed to cover particular demographics, psychographics, spending and purchasing habits, household income, etc.. What this means is that each recipient can receive a personally customized direct mail catalog piece, thus subtracting the waste factor often found in mass marketing techniques.

Therefore, due to new print and production capabilities, the complexity and cost considerations have made personalized catalog production an efficient marketing investment. Now, various customer and prospect market segments are able to receive divergent versions of the catalog experience. For example, Steve Fuller, chief marketing officer of L.L. Bean stated that instead of sending a mass mailing of the brand’s largest catalog to all customers, he examines frequent website visitors and asks, “Can I only send her 50 pages, or 20, as a reminder of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go to the website’?”

Catalogs Present Content Marketing Strength

A brand’s personality over the years when correctly conveyed to its intended market niche have proven to be very successful for many decades. Recent big data surveys and reports have substantiated that storytelling is the leading content marketing tactic that enjoys the highest conversion rates. Generally, these storytelling marketing creations have been synonymous with television spots, online videos, and books.

Brands are now in the process of experimenting with that storytelling technique by injecting high-level marketing content into their catalogs. That’s right! Brands are now producing exquisitely designed catalogs that include stories, profiles of celebrity designers and endorsers, fashion images and interactive home improvement subject matter, such as picking paints or conducting room redesign are just the tip of the iceberg for what’s coming in the near future.

For example, Williams Sonoma is now including recipes in its wine catalogs, positioned next to the wine products consumers will need to complete these recipes. In another instance, Restoration Hardware has decided to upgrade its brand-building tactics by using catalogs as an art form.  In fact, the 2014 annual catalog was increased to include up to 13 “sourcebooks” totaling upward of 3,300 pages. The content was made up of upscale photography, designer and craftsmen profiles, inspirational storytelling and of course, products for sale.  Chairman and CEO Gary Friedman stated that their extravagantly designed catalog is a piece of the company’s effort in “becoming a brand worthy of loving. We believe what we are doing is moving beyond an intellectual connection to an emotional one. We are beginning to express those things we deeply believe in a way you can see it.”

Catalogs Activate the Ventral Striatum

The ventral striatum is a part of the brain associated with assigning value and desirability to featured products according to a 2015 study conducted by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General in conjunction with Temple University neuroscientists. This study used fMRI brain scans to compare participants’ responses to digital and physical media. What was gleaned from the study was that paper advertising activates the ventral striatum. In fact, the results of the study found that recipients responded to paper over digital media with increased activity in the ventral striatum. Increasing the ventral striatum activity in the brain signals a greater intent to purchase!

The Net-Net

Catalog personalization as a marketing tool is highly effective in a variety of measurements. For one, catalogs push folks to online purchase destinations to the tune of 20% of catalog readers visit website destinations. Two, content marketing in all its glory is finding its way into catalog design and production. And 3, print marketing responses found that recipients responded to paper over digital with ventral striatum activity, which is the brain receptors that trigger greater intent to purchase. Happy Catalog Creation for Increased Purchasing Power!

Let’s have a conversation about direct mail strategies, printing, print software, transactional documents, variable digital printing, brand equity and unified marketing collateral during our next Open House. We invite you to join us on Thursday, June 28th, 2018, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Let us show you how to improve your document processes to optimize your workflow, reduce your costs, and maximize your organization’s printing, letter shop and mailing capabilities. Dove Direct does have an official USPS certified bureau located within our offices that will save you time and money. And, if you bring us your files, we will create a demo file for you. For more information call Carla Eubanks at 404-629-0122 or email Carla at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Dove Direct, your Atlanta based print and mail solutions provider offers organizations end-to-end data, printing and mailing solutions: Data Management, Variable Digital Printing, LetterShop and Fulfillment, Fully Automated MLOCR Presort Bureau, Marketing and Production Management Support and Secure Data Life Cycle Management.

If you don't want to wait for the Open House, you can reach Dove Direct today by calling 404-629-0122 or use the contact form for Dove Direct.

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Leland Hicks is the CTO of MatterMax Media, a digital marketing agency that provides business strategy, web design, social media management and training.  He can be reached at lahicks@mattermaxmedia.com