September 10, 2008

Clarifying My Position On Catalog Marketing

My e-mail inbox is split 50/50 with feedback this week.
  • Feedback Category #1 = "I've been thinking that the articles we read are terribly biased as well. Thanks for pointing out the propaganda we're being fed."
  • Feedback Category #2 = "You are a rube. There are tens of thousands of catalogers out there who serve a hundred million catalog buying homes. Catalogs are alive and well, you're the one who is out of step, spewing propaganda."
Make no mistake, folks. I love catalog marketing, and I love the folks who work in the catalog industry. Catalog marketing requires the merchant to tell a compelling story that resonates with a customer. It requires exceptional merchandising and brilliant creative presentation and well-executed operations and leading-edge database marketing. I adore it, all of it. Catalogers are among the most humble individuals I've worked with.

Catalogs are a vital part of the shopping experience for many brands and customers, especially brands that have a female customer over the age of fifty who lives in a exurban or rural area or live in New England or the Mountain States.

In general, I have two criticisms of the catalog industry.
  1. The vendor community can take a stance that promotes the well-being of the vendor community, not the well-being of the brand/customer relationship. This is the basis for my critique of the recent Multichannel Merchant / DMA / Abacus article. This is the basis for my rants about Best Practices.
  2. My industry was quick to see the benefits of e-commerce. My industry is way behind in the evolution away from catalogs and toward what I would call "social shopping". We continue to mail catalogs to customers who no longer want catalogs, who no longer find catalogs relevant to their life. This practice gives power to third party opt-out services, folks promoting an agenda that may be planet friendly.
Never for a minute think that I believe that catalog marketing is no longer relevant. It is highly relevant ... for brands who cater to a demographic that is catalog friendly. I will continue to promote catalog marketing to that audience, and I can save you $$$ by helping you avoid catalog mailings to audiences who no longer find catalog marketing relevant. I will also continue to debunk any agenda that misleads our industry for the benefit of the folks promoting the agenda.