Brands Return to Direct Mail

Old School Still Sells: Why Brands Return to Print Catalogs

Catalog Comeback – Brands Return to Direct Mail Amid Digital Ad Fatigue

In an increasingly fragmented and inflated digital ad landscape, retailers both emerging and established revisit the vintage yet still viable marketing channel of print catalogs. Strategic mail efforts provide cost-efficient awareness lifts while personalization and sustainability innovations update direct mail for modern success.

Key Points

  • Pivoting brand examples and hard response rate data dispel assumption mail is outdated
  • Fatigued digital ad space with ballooning prices reconnects marketers to mail’s reach value
  • Print catalogs enable quality brand storytelling not replicable by digital purely
  • Advanced targeting and customization optimize relevancy and prevent waste
  • Eco-conscious production and recycling initiatives counter sustainability criticisms

Major brands are reinvesting in print catalogs to sustain awareness and sales amid inflating digital ad costs and oversaturation. Tactics rely on quality storytelling and targeting niche audiences open to mail marketing.

Fashion label Frances Valentine leaned into catalogs after co-founder Kate Spade’s death in 2018. Competing for digital attention had grown challenging, but mailboxes saw little fashion branding. The company curated a catalog aesthetic aligning with its products.

Retail clients want balanced marketing. Over 95% now want some direct mail given extreme digital ad price hikes. Smarter data helps hyper-target interested customer segments. Comparable exposure frequency costs 4x less via mail. Clients also report higher engagement and conversion efficiency over digital. People browse tangible catalogs longer, building brand familiarity.

Catalogs Deliver

Recent statistics demonstrate the concrete sales impact catalogs can deliver. Apparel brand J.Crew saw a double digit revenue increase just two months after launching its first-ever mail catalog in late 2021. Luxury retailer John Hardy’s 2021 direct mail pieces led to a remarkable 56% transaction rate when recipients made purchases.

Performance metrics reveal powerful catalog response rates compared to many digital formats. Marketing platform company PFL’s research shows 4.4% of homes buy a product after receiving a catalog, towering over email’s 0.12% purchase rate. Winter 2022 tests by Frances Valentine recorded an impressive 7-8% conversion from delivered catalogs.

Lifetime value of acquired customers also validates investments in mail marketing. Outdoor outfitter Orvis found catalog recipients spent $800 more than average customers over 3 years. Specialty apparel maker Johnny Was noted their average order value from mail recipients was 60% higher than other shoppers.

While brand affinity develops, direct targeting helps ensure catalogs spark action. Refined data filters out unqualified prospects, saving budgets for best customers. Continual optimization around predicted lifetime spend, on-file behaviors and purchase cycles is essential to maximize profitable response.

With figures affirming the performance upside of mail done right, data-savvy brands redirect more digital dollars to tactile catalogs breaking through. Result statistics debunk perceptions that mail just creates waste without real ROI.

What Marketing Strategies from the Victorian Era Are Still Effective in Print Catalogs Today?

When it comes to print catalogs, certain Victorian-era advertising strategies are still effective in modern marketing. From elaborate and detailed illustrations to compelling storytelling, these timeless techniques continue to capture the attention of consumers. The charm and allure of the victorianera advertising style seamlessly translate into today’s print marketing materials.


Production investments enable brands to intimately craft their story to move beyond commodified digital ads. Former e-commerce clients even shift budgets to mail for premium branding. catalog real estate sells luxury items requiring more customer trust.

Critics contend growing volumes could cause mailbox fatigue. But Anne highlights overall US marketing mail is vastly decreased over decades ago. Refined lists filter content to receptive consumers rather than mass spamming.

As digital platforms restrict data and pump ad prices, alternatives become essential. Catalogs present brands options to cultivate customer relationships minus algorithms. They complement online activity with distinct creative strengths when executed strategically.

Tactical mail marketing breathes new relevance into the legacy medium. Catalog comeback cases display how to thoughtfully balance both realms to drive brands forward.


As brands reembrace catalogs, they also acknowledge environmental footprint concerns over paper and printing impacts. Many aim to mitigate that through comprehensive sustainability initiatives.

Apparel maker Everlane pledges their catalogs get produced 100% carbon neutral without trees felled. They partner with printers leveraging renewable energy and donated forest offsets. Readers can opt-in to mailings and access digital versions to limit waste.

Retailer West Elm publishes a sustainability guide for their catalog production emphasizing recyclable paper stocks, vegetable-based inks and responsible sources vetted through strict criteria. Williams-Sonoma’s brands average ~50% recycled fiber currently and target 85% average recycled content by 2025.

Brands increasingly encourage mail recycling too. Madewell’s catalogs highlight that “this mailer is 100% recyclable” while outdoors brand Backcountry emphasizes recyclability and highlights eco-friendly standards met across their direct mail program.

Companies not able to maximize sustainability at scale explore carbon offset donations or environmental organization partnerships to counterbalance impact. For example, Beckon donates 1% of revenue to forest conservation with every purchase.

Concerns still remain that increased paper catalog volumes could undermine progress made shrinking direct mail’s footprint. But brands focused on strategic data-driven targeting with a preference for digital supplementals can mitigate much of that risk while still reaping benefits. The dual quest for performance and planet-friendly mail will only accelerate.

Though questions around mail efficacy and environmental impacts persist, data-backed mail initiatives with conscientious strategies position catalogs as a craft marketing revival. Blended into omnichannel plans, they build lucrative consumer relationships in a refreshing way.

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