Catalogs: Style Guides not Direct Mail



By: Meghana Deodhar

The only mail that I truly enjoy receiving is personalized letters from friends and family and the beloved J.Crew catalogs that come in the mail every month.  I enjoy browsing through the pages and examining the beautiful color schemes and styles for the next season. Even though receiving these catalogs can be somewhat financially frustrating, I realize that J.Crew is doing their job correctly. They are making me want to purchase their entire store!

Catalogs are my personal favorite example of direct marketing. The textbook definition of direct marketing is “an interactive system of marketing, which uses one or more advertising media to affect a measureable response and/or transaction at any location”. Catalogs fall into this definition as they are considered direct mail and have a measurable response of the number of orders. Another aspect about catalogs that I found interesting was that consumers usually not automatically added to catalog mailing lists but rather subscribe to these lists. This is genius! Similar to Superbowl commercials, consumers want to see these catalogs to keep up with the changing trends resulting in purchases or in the worst-case scenario, brand awareness.

If you want to check out some of the archives of J.Crew catalogs, enjoy this blog!

Although catalogs are enjoyable for many consumers, direct mail has some notable faults. The biggest drawback of direct mail is the sheer expense of it. Reaching a person via direct-mail can cost up to 15-20 times more than a tv or newspaper advertisement. Additionally, in a society where moving is frequent is life is fast-paced direct mailing becomes tricky. To overcome this difficulty however, catalog culture is slowly adapting and bringing this catalog feel to apps.  Check out this article from the New York Times about how retailers have started making i-Pad applications that attempt to mimic the feel of browsing a catalog.  I know I am not speaking for everyone but, I think I would still prefer a print catalog. What do you think?

If you are particularly interested in J.Crew’s promotional efforts take a look at this video, called “Behind the Scenes of the J.Crew Catalog”



Follow me on Twitter: @meghanameow

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