Commerce blog | Direct Marketing
April 17, 2018
There's no way to quantify this, but it seems to me that catalogue covers have become more generic and less creative now that the internet has supplanted print as a direct sales vehicle. Certainly covers displaying best-selling products have always dominated. But if my stack of post is any indication, just about all apparel catalogue covers today show a single man or woman looking awkwardly to the side, and just about all home furnishings catalogues show a room decorated to the hilt but devoid of people or even the barest signs of life.
Maybe the higher costs of print, relative to the web, are leading cataloguers to play it safe. Maybe now that there are fewer competing mail pieces in the post, companies don't feel it's as important to differentiate themselves with a potentially risky cover. Or maybe the creative ingenuity and energy that used to be expended on print is now being spent online.
That said, I did source a few standouts: covers that at a glance make apparent why one should open and keep the catalogues they belong to.
Tupperware: Everything old is new again
image: Tupperware catalogue cover
The housewares company is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, yet the cover of its U.S. and Canadian spring catalogue is fresh, modern, and even youthful. The cutline, "Make a Spring Splash in Style," ties in perfectly with the image of aqua Tupperware containers splashing among aqua paint against a crisp white background. The visuals pop while reminding consumers that this isn't the staid Tupperware they might associate with their parents and grandparents.
Journeys: Selling cool along with footwear
image: Journeys catalogue cover
As a footwear cataloguer/retailer, Journeys could have simply shown a pair of its best-selling shoes on its spring cover and called it a day. Instead it showed four teens/young adults—its target audience—hanging out together, by the beach. As they sit on a graffitied wall, their Journeys-shod feet dangling, they exude effortless cool. The image is a classic of aspirational selling ("wear Journeys shoes and you'll have hip friends"), aided and abetted by the logos of leading footwear brands along the bottom. And in keeping with the mildly rebellious vibe of the models, the cover was designed horizontally rather than vertically—another creative element that sets the catalogue apart.
Pau Hana Surf Supply: A bigger picture
image: Pau Hana catalogue cover
If you're not part of Pau Hana's target market, you might not be aware of just how many types of paddleboards exist: surfing boards, yoga boards, white-water boards, inflatable boards, tandem boards... The company sells them all, along with plenty of associated gear. Similar to the Journey cover above, the cover of its 2018 catalogue sells something more as well. In this case it's the entire boarding lifestyle and a promise of escape from the quotidian. I can imagine recipients keeping this catalogue around simply because the cover image is so spectacular. Or perhaps they remove the cover and tack it onto the walls of their office cubicle as a sort of visual escape from their workday, with the logo serving as a continual reminder of where they should buy their equipment.
Lush: Loud and proud
image: Lush catalogue cover
Lush sells handmade bath and skincare products and cosmetics using primarily organic ingredients. Even if you were unaware of the brand when you received this spring edition of its U.S. catalogue, the bold cover line would rectify that in an instance. Years ago Lush catalogues were oversize newsprint pieces with maybe one spot colour, signalling a hippie ethos. The bright, almost neon hues of this cover make it clear that the brand is not just for the granola-and-Birkenstocks crowd. It all but dares you not to flip open the catalogue and look inside.
Wiggly Wigglers: Made you look
image: Wiggly-Wigglers catalogue cover
As a purveyor of farm and garden supplies, Wiggly Wigglers could have opted for a cover photo of a verdant field or an attractive model tilling the land. Or to show the breadth of its merchandise assortment, which encompasses composting gear and hedgehog houses, bird feeders and pest control, it could have displayed a grid of products. But with its 2017 catalogue (I couldn't find a more recent one), it opted to illustrate its somewhat lighthearted approach toward living off the land while still demonstrating its credibility. The cover image is an up-close photo of a cow (at least I think it's a cow; I'm a city girl) wrapping its tongue around a dandelion. Except for the yellow and green of the dandelion, the photo is black and white, adding a sense of gravitas to the whimsical image. Cutlines list the wares one will find inside, along with "clever composting tips." These tips not only reinforce that Wiggly Wigglers knows of which it sells, but they also help make the catalogue a reference source that recipients will hold onto. And we all know that the longer a catalogue stays in someone's home, the more likely the consumer is to purchase from it.
New Pig: Boring products don't have to mean boring covers
image: New Pig catalogue cover
New Pig sells spill containment and industrial workplace safety products—definitely not the sexiest or prettiest merchandise. Like Wiggly Wigglers, it takes a whimsical approach to selling its wares while at the same time making clear, in large part via detailed yet altogether readable copy, that it takes industrial safety seriously and is a font of knowledge on the subject. Its U.S. catalogues—or pigalogs, in New Pig parlance—mix in groanworthy porcine puns and illustrations to liven up its pages of product specs, benefits, and features. The cover of the U.S. version of its Big 2018 Pigalog also makes clear that its workers are key to its success—a message that its audience of industrial workers no doubt appreciates. Complementing the cover line "World's Best Stuff Team! For Leaks, Drips & Spills" is an aerial shot of employees standing in a field in a formation that depicts the company's pig mascot. It's friendly, it's accessible, and it sets New Pig apart from the myriad other companies that sell similar products.
Grainger: Gets the job done
image: Grainger catalogue cover
Lest you think I'm judging these catalogue covers purely on their good looks, here's the cover of another industrial supplies company, Grainger. This is not, to my mind, an attractive cover. But it certainly lets recipients know what Grainger stands for. Cutlines spell out the company's value proposition: "Whatever you need, whenever you need it," free tech support, round-the-clock customer service. Of the images that make up the cover collage, the photo of a customer service rep wearing a headphone, ready to help, is the only one not given a reddish tint. As a result this image is the most prominent, which subtly but effectively suggests that Grainger makes exceptional service a priority. Everything about the cover bolsters its tagline "Grainger's got your back."