Orvis has the right idea. The outdoor gear and apparel merchant runs an annual photo contest; the winner’s picture is used as the front cover of its autumn Orvis Dog Book (and the photographer gets a £500 Orvis gift card too). Consumers are the judges; they’re encouraged to vote via the print catalogue and the website. This year Orvis also posted on YouTube and on its own site a video slide show of some popular entries. The video received more than 6,000 views on YouTube in just two months—and you know a significant portion of those viewers clicked the link to the Orvis website, had a browse, and maybe requested a catalogue or made a purchase.
As I was editing Molly’s article, I came up with all sorts of possible ways to “socialise” catalogues, in addition to those Molly suggests (and no, I’m not going to tell you what those are—you’ll have to read the issue to find out). For instance, gadgets retailer Firebox.com runs a fortnightly contest in which it awards a gift card to the person who submits the best photo and video. The contest is promoted on its website and the winning entrants featured, but I haven’t seen the winning photos included in the Firebox print catalogue. Why not?
For that matter, why not ask catalogue readers to submit photos of themselves using/wearing products they’ve purchased from you, then include a smattering of them in the catalogue and on your website? Why don’t more kitchenware merchants solicit recipes from customers, or art-supplies cataloguers run contests for readers to design their covers?
The internet didn't create social marketing; it merely put a flashy shiny gloss on the concept. Cataloguers (and even more prominently, magazine publishers) have long invited their audiences to participate with their brands via contests, testimonials, and requests for pictures, stories, recipes, and helpful hints. The mechanics of setting up a blog or a forum or online product ratings are relatively easy; the challenging part is crafting a compelling, attention-getting reason for your audience to get involved.--SC