A Visit From Catalogs of Christmas Past
It’s the most wonderful time of the year … when holiday catalogs begin to show up in my mailbox, and my desk at work.
I’ve loved catalogs since I was a kid, whether they were from Sears, Edmund Scientifics, or Banana Republic. Fortunately, today, neither print nor direct mail are dead. Far from it. So, at some point in the next few weeks I’ll be taking a look at what’s been mailed this year.
But a few months ago, I found a stack of vintage catalogs in a drawer that were collected from back in the day, when Who’s Mailing What! was still a print newsletter.
It got me in a seasonal mood. Or maybe just thinking about how much catalogs have changed over the years, and how much they’ve stayed the same.
Let’s go back in time to 1985. Ronald Reagan was the president, Back to the Future was one of the year’s top movies, and the World Wide Web was almost ten years away. And, appearing in homes across America were these holiday catalogs. Here are some thoughts I have about each of them.
This luxury retailer’s Christmas catalog has had a reputation for outlandish gifts since 1960. A $2 million pair of his-and-her diamonds was one the highlights in the 1985 edition. Well, that and the section of gifts for $25 and under.
Calls to action are hard to find throughout the book. But then, relaxing and paging through it while filling out an order form was probably a good way to go.
This was a big book, measuring 9-1/2”x12” and 110 pages.
I also liked the cover, which featured a collage by artist and designer Ivan Chermayeff.
I don’t like to cook, but I get how chefs of all abilities have drooled over the cookware and foods this company sells. This catalog is easy to read, lots of black type on white backgrounds on most of its 76 pages. It only measures 5-1/2”x8-1/2”, though.
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 (offers, copy, designs, incentives and formats) and email in more than 200 industry categories, including retail, nonprofits, insurance, telecom, B-to-B, financial services and publishing. He writes for the e-newsletter Today @ Target Marketing and has been a judge in NonProfit PRO's Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence since 2006.