Direct Mail: Today’s Catalog

Brookstone includes five different QR Codes on the back of its Holiday 2011 catalog, providing consumers with directions to stores, online shopping at, Facebook access and more.

9 reasons to reconsider the classic mail piece

Many catalogers who had backed away from print—or stopped printing entirely— are now refocusing on their print catalog core. In my consulting business, I’m hearing clients (who would prefer not to be identified) say, “Our catalogs are profitable again,” “Catalogs are our main sales driver,” and “Catalogs are our first-line prospecting vehicle.”

What’s driving the reinvestment in print catalogs? Here are nine emerging techniques and technologies that are largely responsible, and how you can apply them to your marketing.

1. Better Co-Mailing
Most catalog printers now offer co-mailing programs, so your catalogs ride along with other companies’ catalogs and earn significantly higher volume-based postal discounts. Co-mailing has improved so that varying sizes and weights of mail can be combined. Even small catalog mailings can earn 
big-company discounts.

Before deciding who to print with, send the printers you’re considering an old mail file so they can estimate postage for you. A great co-mailing 
program can save enough to offset higher 
printing costs.

2. Affordable Virtual Catalogs
Online catalogs (looks like a print catalog, turns pages like a catalog, customers can order from it like a catalog, but it’s viewed on the Web) were nifty from the start, but only the big guys could afford them. Today, costs for virtual catalogs have plunged. Now anyone can afford to put a page-turnable, clickable catalog on a website just by having the printer convert and tag the printable PDF.

Virtual catalogs are great for customers who don’t like normal decision-tree navigation, for new prospects who want a quick overview of the product line and brand, and for those who enjoy the beauty of a designed catalog spread. In fact, some online retailers who plan to never mail a print catalog are designing catalogs just to have them on their websites. If you don’t have your own virtual catalog yet, ask your printer what it offers.

Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or

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  • Isabelle from Prestimedia

    Great article Susan, as usual.
    I would comment on point #2 though about virtual catalog.
    Yes it is very affordable and yes all catalogers should have their catalog available to browse on their website. BUT, all solutions are not equal. Would you recommend a retailer to print a catalog on cheap paper ? Why ? Because the goal of the catalog is to convey an emotion along with the product information; and to be in line with the brand of the catalog, giving a good image of the company.
    Same for digital catalogs; it is not about having a small flipbook on retailer website; it is about sharing products in the best light, with a strong branding, an easy way to zoom on products, share favorites and add to basket.
    There are a lot of solutions out there for a "virtual catalog"; retailers should focus on how to make a real difference in the engagement of the customers resulting of dramatic increase of conversion rates.

  • Peg

    Would add a 10th reason – the multicultural marketplace is exploding. The growth in the US and Canada is with Hispanic, African American and Asian consumers. They respond and have money to spend. More companies are now are including these groups in graphics and photos and seeing great response. Best way to understand how multicultural current customers are is with a multicultural profile of current customers – always a wake up call. Thanks for an informative look at catalogs.