Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Is There Still a Place for Print Catalogs in Marketing?

Depending on how old you are, the word “catalog” brings back different memories. My parents remember getting one from Montgomery Wards whereas people from my generation look back to the annual Christmas catalog from Sears that had pages and pages filled with toys for us to circle for Santa.

Well, Montgomery Wards has fluctuated from being in and out of business and and I can’t even remember the last Sears holiday catalog I received. The times are changing, but some companies are holding dear to their catalog mailing lists. Can you name five companies that still mail out catalogs, whether just around the holidays or in time for the next season? Not many do so if you’re scratching your head, you aren’t alone. L.L. Bean, IKEA, Harry & David, See’s Candies, and AVON are just a few brand examples that are send out catalogs.

Why though? For kicks and giggles? To piss off environmentalists? Believe it or not, there’s actually some sound reasoning behind mailing out a catalog. You would think that since catalogs are wasteful for the environment and everything can be found digitally now, that catalogs would be a dying breed. However, I was surprised when that wasn’t what I found! We’ll start with why customers enjoy receiving them, why companies see the return on investment on mailing them out in the first place, and what’s in store for the future.

Catalogs are a Great Way to Show Off your Merchandise in a Visual Way

Ladies will probably agree with me more on this point then men, but flipping through a clothing catalog is nicer than having to spend gas money driving to the store. You can see how a shirt will look and if it will be too long or too short. By looking at jeans, for example, you get an idea of what washes there are to choose from before psyching yourself up for the fitting room only to find they don’t have a dark wash in the style you like.


Shreyans Parekh, Co-Founder of Dress My Cupcake, a leading company in the wedding and special event Industry says, We still issue both print and digital catalogs each season and they serve as highly effective tools for us to showcase our new products, colors, patterns and themes and we see significant ROI with the catalogs. Some people are visual learners, so let them learn about your products in a way that they can relate best with.

Catalogs Allow Customers to Read them on their Terms and Time

Alright, while we’re sharing we might as well share that sometimes we don’t want to sit in the lunch room and talk to our coworkers about the weather or weekend plans. It’s nice but sometimes you want to do something else and draining your smartphone or tablet battery playing the latest app isn’t what you have in mind. That’s where catalogs save the day! They can be read whenever your customer wants and can be marked up, circled, and dog-eared. There’s nothing worse than finding that perfect item and not being able to find it a second time or the email you sent yourself with the URL in it.

Catalogs are Great Reminders for Customers

Let’s face it – getting mail isn’t as fun as an adult as it was when you were a kid. The days of only getting mail during happy occasions like your birthday or when the latest issue of Highlights was available are long gone. Now you get bills in your mailbox. Send your customers a little ‘happy’ by sending them a catalog. Catalogs can show and tell customers that a big sale is coming up or new merchandise has been added, and they don’t have to pay a dime to flip through to find out more. Who doesn’t enjoy a freebie every now and then?

Customers love catalogs. Got it. What about companies? Are they seeing them as a waste of time and money?

Not at all.

Printed Catalogs are Always Available, even when the Internet is Down

Kim Loyed, an office administrator in Cleveland, Ohio said using a print catalog has gotten her out of many a bind. “Electronics will break, the Internet will go down, so I think catalogs are the best cushion,” Ms. Loyed said. You can’t control a lot of things in business and the status of the internet is just another annoyance that everyone has to deal with. Having a print edition of your catalog will help customers order their items anytime they want.

stormy weather

Catalogs Stick Around Longer than Emails Do

If your home is like many, then the mail isn’t taken to the trash every single day. Bills either get paid or filed away and you’re exhausted after doing that, so heading to the sofa to watch television seems like the best idea you’ve ever had. There sits your catalogs until tomorrow when you’ll flip through while your coffee is brewing or while your toast is toasting. Boom. Think about it, you receive an email from a store, how long do you keep it before deleting it? A day or two? Now think about how long you’ll keep a magazine or a catalog. Probably a week or two, right? That builds up some high-quality brand impressions for your company.

Jane Shayne from Guest Pert Publishing summed this up perfectly with her findings for her company and her B2B and B2C customers, “We find great success in our company catalogs. For one, sending our catalog to Television Producers (our B to B) allows them to hold a retention on our catalog when they move from show to show to show, as television producers do. Unlike the inundation of email pitches that they receive on a daily basis that end up in the trash can or in a folder, infrequently visited.You also cannot ignore the fact that even though your customer may not intend to put your email in a spam folder, they can appear there without them knowing.

Catalogs Make an Impact on the Customers You Want

The days of mailing out mass quantities of catalogs to anyone and everyone on your mailing list isn’t the case anymore in 2014. Targeting can be sectioned into: gender and age, home owners, renters, pet owners, income, education level, families with children, zip codes, and plenty more! Plus, based on how comprehensive your CRM tool is, you can mail out catalogs based purely on past purchases. You can reach just the customers you want to save both time and money!

no bills, just catalogs

Catalogs Allow You to Measure Your Success

To find out how successful it was mailing out catalogs was for your business, you just need to count the numbers of inquiries you received or count the number of coupon codes redeemed, if you included one with your catalog mailing. Don’t write your catalog mailing as a failure if your telephone wasn’t ringing off the hook, many companies experience a spike in website traffic when catalogs are mailed out. Even though your customer may not mail in an order form, they will love the flexibility they have of reading the catalog at their leisure and still receiving the excellent online experience you may be known for.

Targeting Your Demographic with Digital Catalogs

If you’ve read all these points and are wondering about digital catalogs and whether those are worth replacing printed catalogs, I’ve got you covered. Arka Der Stepanian from, a digital catalog service company, says, “Each month we have about 13 million consumers browsing through digital catalogs created by our customers.” That’s a ton of browsing going on! His company broke down the demographics of who is reading their catalogs and along with data from February 2014 found that females outweigh men on reading digital catalogs, which you can see below (Figure 1).

(Figure 1)

(Figure 1)

Based on their research they’ve also found that around 61% of digital catalog visits come from female users and that 25-34 year olds are the large majority of those swiping their finger or clicking their mouse through the pages, which you can see below (Figure 2). To read more about his findings on digital catalogs, check out his blog, ‘The Who, How, and When of Digital Catalog Usage‘.

(Figure 2)

(Figure 2)

What this boils down to is keeping in mind who your target market is for your company and choosing the best methods to interact with them. There isn’t going to be a perfect mold that every one of your customers is going to fit into, but at least you’ll have a better understanding for which options will work best for you.

Whether you go with only a printed catalog or include a digital catalog for customers to subscribe to, having a catalog of some sort is still relevant in today’s marketplace. They offer your customers the ability to read on their timeframe, easily find ‘favorite’ items without searching their browser history, and you can remind them that they enjoyed purchasing from you before. The fact that they sit in your customer’s homes for days or weeks is an added boost for your brand’s impressions that an email sitting in an inbox just cannot compete with.

After all these points, do you still enjoy receiving catalogs? How many catalogs would you like to receive from a company on a quarterly basis? Would you prefer your favorite catalog company send you a digital catalog instead? Shout off in the comment section below!

Expand Your Brand!


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. PMO

    I can totally see why the demo is skewed towards women. At least in my house, my wife is the only one to look at something I believe to be a bit antiquated.

    I do like when the Victoria’s Secret catalog comes around though 🙂

    • Kat D.

      HAHAHA only you, PMO

  2. Bret Bonnet

    All that money these companies invest in printing the catalog (often in China) and mailing them (USPS) would be better served if invested in their digital offering because the overhead these catalogs add to any companies bottom line means higher prices for the end user.

    These are more for vanity than utility if you ask me. Plus, it’s natural to get these catalogs printed by/at the lowest cost provider, that of whom is probably sourcing their paper stock from questionable or non sustainable sources.

    In short – wake up and stop sending catalogs.

  3. Jen

    Another great article, Amy, and I couldn’t agree more! The target markets are the most crucial point here. I can personally say I have stock pile of catalogs sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk. Catalogs are great when they are at the forefront of your mind, but once they are in the way they get tossed aside and forgotten. If companies are going to continue with print catalogs, they need to make them organized, concise and compelling enough to have staying power (and be deserving of desk space).

  4. Kelly Bird

    I LOVE getting my catalogs in the mail! I’ve always got a ear marked wish list going with my catalogs and especially when involving home decor I love to see how the professional decorators have used the products.
    Catalogs are a great resource to make sure you always receive something you want on holidays. Circle things on your wish list in a bright color and leave them in a place where the shopper will see them and they’ll be ecstatic to “surprise” you with something they know you’ll love. 🙂

  5. Matt

    I find myself indifferent to paper catalogs but my wife loves them. I think it’s the fact that she can casually plop down on the couch with one and just relax while I build a coffee table out of all of the left over ikea catalogs.

  6. Rondell Caraos

    I know my household likes catalogs! My wife reads them all the time looking for deals and ideas for whatever she is working on at that time. We keep the furniture catalogs as reading material in our facilities. If my wife wasn’t trying to “Save” us money all of the time buying everything on “sale”… we’d be rich!

  7. Jeff Porretto

    I think catalogs are just easier! I don’t have to think of something to search for, or worry about misspelling, or what that one thing was called. I just flip the pages and see if anything catches my eye. Of course the info is severely limited due to space obviously, but it’s a good starting point for doing online shopping if nothing else.

  8. Kat D.

    I’ll admit – I’m a sucker for an IKEA catalog….I don’t know why though!! I can’t tell you how many customers have called looking for a catalog to be mailed to them……..but my thought always is, “Didn’t you have to use the internet/our website to obtain the number to call and ask for that catalog? Why not just stay on the site and browse?” I’m sure that is a question I’ll never know the answer to. Although, a catalog IS more efficient during bathroom use 😉

  9. AG (A.K.A. Myrtle)

    In my mind when someone gives me a catalog or pamphlet of sorts it’s basically like them telling me, “Here… you throw this away.” LOL!!! Just kidding 🙂 I absolutely agree that a well-designed catalog can stick around for some time. I More or less as a society we’ll have a difficult time breaking the “paper habit”. There is something about flipping through pages that can be more overall staying / appealing than looking at an iPad. Nice article!

  10. Kelly Bird

    P.S. Though this may be more skewed towards women, the man in my house spends way more time with his nose in hunting catalogs then I ever could with all of my catalogs combined. 🙂

  11. Chase

    Amy! Great post! I didn’t know so many people still liked printed catalogs. Personally, I am an internet person, where I can search specifics and don’t have to flip pages to find what I am looking for. I usually know exactly what i am looking for. Which most people do not. But that is just me. I think a cool new idea would be for us to make a digital (Printable) catalog. That might be a great idea! Best of both worlds! 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  12. Jay

    I get a few catalogs for clothes and shoes, but I wind up throwing them out, then walking over to my computer and checking out their website. For me, it’s a nice reminder, but a waste if nothing less. I only keep getting them 10 years later because they won’t stop sending them. Unless I get a bill in the mail, everything else instantly goes in the recycling bin.

  13. Gina

    I was just wondering about this! I’d heard something on NPR a few days ago about the strengths of using catalogs, but it didn’t really offer the other side Bret speaks of above. I totally get that catalogs seem to have permanence, which is something I see people being nostalgic for in this day and age. However, as we are reminded more and more every day, the internet is here to stay. And if the immediacy and convenience of the internet makes things easier and more cost effective for consumers, and leave less of a carbon footprint, then catalogs seem to be a rare holdout. Catalogs give me the same feeling I get when my mom tells me she ordered something off of QVC or HSN…”You DO know about the internet, right….” : /

  14. Greg

    Good post! I know my wife loves the catalogs! Her and her friends and family are always going on and on about this catalog and that one. They are always ordering from them to. So they do work!!!

  15. Julie

    I like catalogs for planning big events (like my wedding) when you know you need a lot of stuff, but don’t know exactly what.
    I get the Oriental Trading Company Catalog and it was fun just flipping through and seeing what was out there. The downside of course, is that they send a new one every month and I don’t have enough time to flip through each one, but it ultimately led me to the website where I made my purchase.

  16. Jon

    I am surprised Direct Mail is still a thing, I am glad they keep a garbage next to my mailbox at my apartment – I am way more likely to glance at an email from a company more than a general mailer about their offerings. Email blasts, facebook and twitter updates, pay per click with Google, or of course handing out some nice promotional products (especially from Quality Logo Products) have to be a better use of your marketing dollar by now. In the age of everyone going green, I am surprised to see that people still admit to enjoy going old school and flipping through a catalogue.

  17. Doc

    I honestly can’t stand catalogs. They clutter up my mail box and almost always end up in the trash.

    Catalogs are losing steam like print journalism. I’d rather go online to locate the information I need rather than keep around garbage.

    And they’re not eco-friendly….Save the trees!

    • mike

      eco-friendly? Are comparing a plastic box to a harvested tree?

  18. Leo Avila

    I have a love hate relationship with the concept. 🙂 I love the speed of online searching, yet I seem to always find myself looking through Brookstone magazines every time one comes in the mail. I wish more sites provided more .pdf versions of full catalogs of products like back in the day. Yet with everyone in such a hurry now a days, speed still wins.

  19. Serenity Morris

    I suppose there is still a place and purpose for physical print catalogs present day. However, I think that place/purpose is dwindling. I for one like catalogs but not as much as I like trees. I think in a digital age there really is no need for physical copies of weekly coupons, magazines etc.. Books I think will and should always have a physical form, but catalogs are not landmarks of history that shape mankind’s evolution like literature. Great Blog! 🙂

  20. Noleen Zasman

    As the president of a digital catalog search engine especially designed for the promotional products industry I feel compelled to comment on this blog. Good article, and I do think that print catalogs are here to stay for a long time yet, but in this day and age, with everyone using technology to find products and content there is a very real need out there for digital online catalogs.

    I used to be a promotional products distributor for 15 years, and frankly, the waste of paper, the filing of catalogs and finding products in the hundreds of catalogs each year (not to mention the cost of printing and shipping of catalogs from the suppliers point of view) finally got to me, and I decided to create an online filing system for the thousands do promotional product catalogs that is fully searchable by keyword. All of a sudden I went from distributor to software developer.

    Now I have a very viable company that assists distributors every day in helping them to research products and deliver digital content to their clients with a click of the mouse, and therefore reducing time to market and the environmental impact print catalogs cause every year.

    • Scott Good

      Hi! I’m wondering what it really costs to print a, say, 32-page color catalog and mail it to me. Any idea?? It seems that digital would be a better deal on a cost per impression basis.

  21. Julie

    Great article. I personally like the idea of the printed catalog IF I requested it. The ones I do want I’ll keep and buy from weeks or months after getting them. As a manufacturer I’ve found that people have placed orders from them long after they came out. Also something nostalgic about a printed catalog.

  22. ginger

    I get too many emails these days and I spend most of my time deleting things that aren’t a priority. I delete many advertisements or catalogs simply because I don’t have time to scroll the entire digital version and prefer not to be on my laptop after work.The other problem is if I think there si something I might see and like but not ready to purchase, it gets lost in all the digital files and folders and I usually never go back to find out why I kept the email to begin with.
    Catalogs work for me and are constant reminders to check out that store or go online to make purchase. Digital catalogs have their place but printed catalog gets more exposure and top of mind awareness.
    My opinion? There is a need for both!

  23. Lee

    Ms. Hoidas,
    Unfortunately, you are disseminating incorrect information. You stated at the top of your page that Montgomery Wards is “out of business.” That could not be any further from the truth. I regularly receive print catalogs from them and have placed several orders already and am preparing to order for the Christmas season.
    Regards, C. Lee DeBiaso

    • Kelsey Brown

      Hi Lee! Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention. We’ve updated our blog post since Montgomery Ward’s definitely still has an online presence and we’d hate to have incorrect information in our blog.

Leave a Comment

Copyright 2003 - 2019 Quality Logo Products, Inc., Registration No. TX7-524-201. All Rights Reserved.