The popularity of printed catalogs is news worth noting. I referred to this excellent NYT article a few months ago. It shares key data about “Catalog Comeback,” a topic close to my heart.
I love catalogs. I love good catalogs. I love beautifully printed and designed catalogs. I particularly love catalogs that deliver more.
One point made in the NYT article is that catalogs are getting better. I think the best ones are getting more interesting because they include things like essays, QR and AR codes, and insights into the company’s philosophy.
Some 20 years ago I recall getting Williams-Sonoma catalogs and marveling at how smart the retailer was: Alongside certain product pictures were full-blown recipes. Just brilliant! By showing us what we could create using their kitchenware, the company was hoping we’d hang on to those catalogs. I did.
That’s when I saw how a good catalog lingers, thus improving the likelihood that I’d make purchases based on this printed piece.
Recently we received a Patagonia catalog in the mail. My son wears Patagonia clothing, and typically I save their catalogs for him. Since he’s away at college, I put it aside for his next visit home, but I sat down with it because the cover captured my attention, and frankly, I loved the feel of the paper.
When I read through this catalog, page by page, I had the same “wow-these-people-are-smart” reaction as I did all those years ago with the Williams-Sonoma catalog.
This Patagonia catalog wants to do more than sell you jackets, pants, and other active wear. It wants to educate you. It wants to draw your attention to preservation of the environment, both yours – and theirs.
It’s using precious real estate (print and paper are expensive), yet these interludes of education are important to the Patagonia brand. They serve to make consumers more aware of the quality, care, and environmental concern that go into their products.
On the back cover, I noticed the explanation for a change in paper stock. It reads thus: “We now print all our catalogs on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. The new paper cost 20% more, but we went for it. Here’s the payoff: No new trees were cut down to produce this catalog. We saved over 260 million BTUs, conserved over 225,000 gallons of water. We avoided one garbage truck full of trash.”
I admire this explanation and the wording itself. It’s relaxed and honest – staying true to all the copy inside the catalog and also on Patagonia’s site.
The Patagonia catalog paper feels good in your hands – just like, or so I’m told, the company’s clothing feels good on your skin. Coincidence? I think not.
By digging deep inside Patagonia’s web site, I found out that their founder, Yvon Chouinard, was just named as a 2015 Inductee to the Marketing Hall of Fame. Check out the details and read lots more here. This award celebrates “brilliance in marketing,” and Mr. Chouinard’s in great company.
Although I reached out to Patagonia to connect with someone in design or print production to learn more about their catalog, I wasn’t successful. I did get an email with links to two books written by Yvon Chouinard that speak to the company’s ethos: Let My People Go Surfing (love the title) and The Responsible Company.
Is it any wonder that print catalogs are still effective? I landed on the women’s clothing section and will check out certain items online for my own purchase. My son’s not the only cotton-loving consumer in this household.
PS: I would not, do not, linger over digital catalogs. Do you?
© 2015 Margie Dana. All rights reserved.