Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Magazines Cash in with Catalogs

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Magazines Cash in with Catalogs

Article excerpt

THE COSMOPOLITAN Catalog was an experiment, presently on hold, put together by Hearst Magazines, which owns Cosmopolitan, and TJX Corp., the retailer that owns T.J. Maxx, Chadwick's catalog and now Marshall's. The Playboy Catalog is an ongoing venture of Playboy.

The pitch: Now you can buy the lifestyle that - until now - you could only read about. Judging from their contents, both catalogs seem to assume that the quickest route to making life sexier for both men and women is dressing up the women.

One more shared assumption: A magazine's subscription list is a marketing mother lode just waiting to be mined.

Probably back when Emerson and Thoreau wrote for The Atlantic Monthly, you could sign up for a subscription without presenting yourself as a potential member of a target market, but those innocent days are flown. Subscribe to anything today, and you're deluged with direct mail - from Save the Whales, Sextoys Unlimited and lots of others: the Million-Free-CDs-for-the-Price-of-One Club, Doozies Disposable Designer Diapers or Ancestral Golf Bags of the Scottish Clans, depending on what you subscribed to.

The Cosmo and Playboy catalogs are down the same road, only farther along. Now, instead of just selling their mailing lists to marketers of th eoretically congenial products, magazines want to sell you stuff themselves. You must trust them and value their advice, they figure, or why would you read it? So now that they've got your attention and your trust, how can they turn it into money?

The result is rampant brandism, and you see it everywhere. Shoppers have to make too many choices, and most of us can't tell a product's quality by looking - because all computers, snow tires and canned green beans look the same - so we buy brand names. The owners of those brands, gratified by our trust, naturally wonder what else they can sell us. So we get brand extensions.

If SuperGoop shampoo sells, there'll immediately be SuperGoop conditioner, hair elixir, body scrub, carpet shampoo and oven cleaner. …

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