RIP, Victoria’s Secret Catalog … But Long Live Catalogs!
The news came out a few weeks ago: Victoria’s Secret – one of the most iconic catalogs of the last few decades – will be discontinued sometime this year.
Parent company L Brands cited high costs and a need to simplify its brand, but let’s face it, it’s also about the internet, especially mobile, and how it’s more and more the preferred channel for many customers.
That’s why this move isn’t that big a deal. One factor identified by the company was that testing revealed that eliminating the catalog mailings in a few areas had little to no effect on sales. As creative director Carol Worthington-Levy told me, “test-test-test.”
I’ve been thinking of other catalogs that show up on my desk every day at Who’s Mailing What! and how they differentiate themselves in the marketplace. What makes them special? Why do they stick with print?
Here are a few ideas about what works for catalogers today.
1. Photography & Paper
Patagonia is an apparel and gear brand that has long relied on matching spectacular photography with the merchandise it sells in its catalogs. The paper even feels good, kind of satiny in my hands – the same paper that makes those images looks so good. Patagonia even published a coffee table book, Unexpected, that featured photos from the catalog over the years.
2. Social Awareness
A lot of catalogs use content (more on that later), but not many express a viewpoint or advocate for a cause. Uline is one I can think of right away, with a new issue addressed every few months. Another one is Penzey’s, the spice catalog. In this example, it ran stories of people involved in Milwaukee’s public transit struggles around recipes and the ingredients they required.
Lush is a cosmetics retailer that at the front of the catalog announces its commitment to using responsible packaging, buying ethically, and opposing animal testing. Each product listing includes its ingredients.
Paul Bobnak is the director of Who's Mailing What!, the most complete, searchable and fully online library of direct mail and email in the world. He has read and analyzed thousands of direct mail packages and email in more than 200 industry categories, including retail, nonprofits, insurance, telecom, automotive, financial services, travel, and publishing. He writes for the e-newsletters Today @ Target Marketing and Total Retail Report.He has been a judge in NonProfit PRO's Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence since 2006.