Magazine article Marketing

Special Report: Customer Publishing - Catalogues Are Order of the Day

Magazine article Marketing

Special Report: Customer Publishing - Catalogues Are Order of the Day

Article excerpt

Far from dying out, catalogues are booming. As well as listing products, they have become essential branding vehicles in their own right, writes Suzy Bashford.

Despite record receipts for online shopping and continued concern about green issues, catalogues are enjoying a renaissance.

Research reveals consumers still appreciate the reassurance that comes from holding a printed catalogue, even when they are intending to buy online. The Royal Mail's latest Home Shopping Tracker study, conducted in April and May 2009, showed that 45% consult a print catalogue before making an online purchase - an increase of 8% year on year.

Catalogues are increasingly being used as branding vehicles, as well as sales tools. This is reflected in the growing emphasis on editorial content, rather than just product listings, leading to the birth of what marketers are calling 'magalogues' or 'catazines'.

Clothing brand White Stuff's catalogue is a prime example of this shift The brand produces four seasonal catalogues a year, each based on an irreverent theme, which is carried through to all other marketing communications.

Last autumn, for example, the theme was 'gnomes' with hundreds of the mythical creatures featuring in its photo shoots. White Stuff creative director Lee Cooper believes the catalogue gives the brand a unique positioning, as well as boosting sales.

'We do more than just try to flog products,' says Cooper. 'By having editorial and strong branding, it increases the dwell time of the 'magalogue' on the coffee table and that, in turn, increases sales. We know people keep and collect our catalogue, and we also know there is a spike in sales after the catalogue goes out.'

Physical presence

In a wired environment where almost everything can be virtual, catalogues can provide a valuable physical manifestation of a brand. They also create talking points.

Steve Phillips, chief executive of Spring Research, says: 'Catalogues are good because people can sit down around the table over breakfast or dinner and discuss what to buy. This is particularly important for big-ticket items and when people are watching their money.'

The conversation-starter element of a catalogue is one of the reasons that baby brand Jo Jo Maman Bebe's catalogue is so central to its business strategy.

Managing director Laura Tenison says she has come under pressure from colleagues and consultants to drop the catalogue as it is expensive to produce, but insists she will never do so.

'I've seen brands do that and shrivel up and disappear,' she adds. 'Catalogues are very powerful tools to push people online. They are also portable. I see groups of mums poring over the catalogue in Starbucks, which is why we have offers like multi-buys. I believe we'll see a resurgence in catalogues.'

Fashion label New Look's brand communications manager, Kelly Nairne, believes that to get the most out of catalogues, brands must recognise that different consumers use a catalogue for different reasons.

Naturally, some just want the product details and prices, but there is also a growing number of consumers who want to be inspired before they buy.

'Some are looking for guidance and direction on shopping decisions for the season and, in the case of our catalogue Most Wanted, there are also people who read it for the editorial content,' she says.

Most Wanted launched as a bi-annual catalogue in spring 2008, but has proved so successful that an additional Christmas gift guide was added last year.

Customer publishing experts predict the shift to more editorialised content in catalogues is set to continue.

Mark Lonergan, managing director of August Media, which produces catalogues for IKEA and Butlins, says magalogues 'engage people much deeper and for longer'.

'Consumers now demand a bit more sophistication than the typical Freeman's brochure of old. …

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