Many of us remember the coveted holiday toy catalog. Whether it was the Sears Wishbook or the Toys R Us 100-page catalog (RIP Toys R Us), the holiday toy catalog was the number one vehicle for toy selection. Items were circled, pages were earmarked, or the more industrious of us had color coordinated tabs. It was a thoroughly memorable experience…up there with decorating your tree and making cookies. It was the tactile experience that only paper can provide. Hence, I loved the fact that Amazon saw an opportunity to bring back the holiday toy catalog. Why is this a big deal, you ask?

Bringing Print and Paper Back

As a marketer and a lover of catalogs in general, I love the fact that a primarily e-commerce company employed a print catalog into their arsenal of marketing tactics. It seems an unusual thing to do for the digital behemoth that is Amazon. However, Amazon saw an opportunity to use a “traditional” marketing tactic and created a 68-page guide in advance of the holiday season. Plus, with the unfortunate demise of Toys R Us, I’m sure Amazon saw an opportunity in the marketplace. Also, savvy marketers are making sure that catalogs are driven by consumer data and targeting the right consumer at the right time. They also know that millennials value print and enjoy the tactile experience.

The Holiday Toy Catalog Reimagined

I think what is even more interesting is that they took a printed catalog and they made it their own. The catalog, “A Holiday of Play” has QR codes for selected toys. Customers scan the QR code learn more about the item and place an order. In addition to the tech aspect to drive customers to their site, the catalog is designed with a retro feel and offers brands an opportunity to inspire with ideas, designs and creative visuals. The use of the iconic Amazon Prime boxes on the cover showcase their brand story and making a playful connection with their customer.

Are Catalogs Still a Major Channel?

I would tell you the answer is yes. According to the Multichannel Merchant Marketing Special Report, 84.2% of merchants state that they continue to use catalogs as a sales channel. The power of the catalog in today’s world is the connection that a catalog can make with a customer and drive them online to purchase. Nothing tells a brand story quite like the power of the paper. While Amazon is making a big splash with their new catalog, you still see plenty of other retailers such as Target used printed catalogs as a channel. EBay has also followed in the footsteps of Amazon and launched their “Toy Book” with the season’s hottest toys as well as retro toys.

I think you will continue to see catalogs and other print advertising marketing strategies revisited as a very viable marketing tactic. However, I think it will look different than it has in the past. You will see more data-driven tactics employed and very targeted direct mail pieces that will connect customers to online experiences in different and unusual ways. Just as digital technologies have advanced, so has print technology. The only thing that can limit you in today’s world is your imagination.

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