Monday, 30 November 2009

Why catalogues are like Marmite

“I look forward to each and every mail catalogue I receive.”
“Catalogues are the most favoured toilet reading material in my shared flat.”
“Hate them. Waste of time and money. Waste of resources.”

No, these are not quotes from a focus group. They’re comments on an item that appeared on the Jezebel blog last week. And though writing a blog post about a blog post is rather meta, I think it’s worth your while to check out the Jezebel item, “In the Internet Age, Does Anyone Still Like Catalogs?”, and perhaps even more so, the comments.

Fortunately for those of us in the industry, the number of commenters who waxed lyrical about catalogues outnumbered those who complained about the waste and inconvenience of them by about four to one. Because Jezebel is based in New York, the vast majority of commenters are American, with many citing American catalogues such as J. Crew, Williams-Sonoma, and Crate & Barrel as favourites. But the overriding sentiments, I think, apply to British shoppers as well.

For instance, even those who relish poring over print catalogues by and large prefer to order online. (Note: Jezebel’s target audience is young, media-savvy women.) Wrote one commenter: “Absolutely love catalogs from stores that i actually order from. i do ALL my ordering online~~ it's just fast and easy. but i don't use their websites to 'browse,' it's just so 1D and visually boring. even when they have animation and everything else...”

At least one reader, however, prefers ordering by phone: “…compared to ordering from a literal book, where all you do is pick up the phone and instantly, you have to jump through hoops to order over the net.”

Of course, some catalogue lovers are fans of the medium for reasons other than shopping. Noted one, “They’re fantastic for collages.” And another: “The other day, I got a Williams-Sonoma catalog in the mail and I spent a good 30 min drooling over the spiffy kitchen gadgets that I will never own because they are absurdly expensive.”

Those who loathe receiving catalogues were just as vociferous in their comments as those who love them. “Hate them. Waste of time and money. Waste of resources. A lot of companies, if I order something online, they send me a f---ing catalogue and refuse to stop sending it. I ordered ONLINE. I don't use your primitive printed material.” But tell us how you really feel, commenter Bythesea; don’t hold back.

As fascinating as the comments themselves is that so many people felt strongly enough about catalogues one way or another to submit their opinions. In this, catalogues are like Marmite: You love 'em or hate 'em. For most, it seems their sentiments for the print catalogues are tied directly to their feelings about the brands; the medium is indeed the message. All of which is something to think about if you’re considering drastically altering your print circulation strategy.--SC

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