The Register
In association with the Australasian Catalogue Association (ACA)

Established and proven: Catalogues are the shiniest tools in the toolbox

With digital media channels being scrutinised for credibility and brands questioning the worthiness of their investment, where do we look to develop our campaign strategies for the year ahead? Established medias may well be sniggering ‘I told you so’, however is there more to the future of marketing and have the tables not simply turned for digital but for the entire marketing landscape altogether? Kellie Northwood, CEO, Australasian Catalogue Association (ACA), speaks about the current state of marketing and future of catalogues in a world where customers hold all the information.

By The Register team | May 4, 2018 | News

It’s true, my bias for established media channels has been well documented. However, I argue is it bias or simply a commitment to using tools that work? I recall giving a lecture about a year ago to a group of marketing graduates and in question time was challenged by a young up and coming marketing graduate who proudly proclaimed he was going to be a ‘Digital Marketer’ to which I replied ‘Why?’ He was shocked by my shock and we sat in a stalemate for about a minute wondering who was right and who was wrong. I knew I was right theoretically, however was he right from a career development position? It left me pondering for some many days, I still reflect on it now. The point is when I decided to be a ‘marketeer’, (or ‘Mouseketeer’ according to my daughter), I learnt all the principles of marketing and then when I worked as a marketer. I applied the channels that fitted best to the brand, the audience and the ultimately, the campaign objective. I did not choose my channel first and then work my way through the campaign, and despite digital being a very noisy disrupter in recent years, I remain committed to that approach today. A carpenter doesn’t build a house with a hammer alone nor should marketers build a campaign or marketing strategy with one channel.

The key is to select the tools that will deliver the strongest cut-though and greatest results, not the channels that we know more about, or can fit more economically into our budgets, or the ones that are lined with a little bit of the old FOMO conundrum. The reality is that established medias do have strong proven track records and far higher engagement and readership numbers than new medias. Maybe it is a matter of time, maybe it’s because established medias are interacted with differently. Perhaps in the case of print they are simply more trusted because of their legacy. Many pieces of research show varying strengths for established medias that stand well above new medias, and marketers are finally coming full circle recognising that despite being an economical investment, digital is not the holy grail. It is simply one of the tools in the marketer’s tool-box and like all tool selection, must be selected at the right time for the right job.

However, we cannot judge the young marketing graduate too harshly, he was perhaps a product of his education and industry. I am forever reading of new ‘Retail Conferences’ which profess to educate on all elements of retail marketing, yet the Key Note Speakers are only from digital channels. Google and Facebook seem to be common attendees mainly because they tend to provide the sought-after sponsorship of these events, although with ~70% of retail advertising spend dedicated to established medias, how is this possibly a retail conference or retail educational forum with only digital channels represented? The bias is extraordinary. The lack of representation of established medias at these events leads to a misperception of the marketing world and young marketers are simply under-skilled to use the most powerful and highest ROI driving channels.

For retailers wanting to demonstrate product range, reach audiences far and wide, old and young, engage emotionally and trigger strong brand awareness, whilst also retaining control over their messaging, catalogues remain a key sales driver. We’ve seen retailers try to cut their catalogue investment to reduce marketing budgets and suffer the pain at the cash register. It’s not always instantaneously, often it’s six months down the track when the journey to re-connect their brand becomes a long and expensive one.

We know running a product on a front page of a catalogue delivers between 6 and 8% uplift in sales of that product alone, and we know the conversion rate from catalogues is over 60%, nothing to be sneezed at. What we often don’t understand is how to connect the channels together. Television and catalogues leveraged off each other in much the same way digital does. Catalogues provide the foundation, the range, the dialogue which television pushes too with phrases like ‘Catalogue Out Now’, whereas digital is pushed to from the catalogue. Online retailers are the fastest growing catalogue media investor often to provide a physical presence and openly compete with their store-front competitors.

But also, we are hearing from brands more commonly in recent times that they want to ‘own’ their messaging to the market. Something social media and digital struggles with. Whilst we all want to understand the consumer’s voice and engage directly, the digital forum has provided far greater voice to the keyboard warriors than it has to the consumer who is engaged and even most loyal. P&G have gone on record in 2017 stating they have reduced their digital spend by $200M and not a single sale was lost. Unilever have declared consumer trust in social media is at a new low and threatened to pull investment unless Google and Facebook start policing extremist views, fake news, political manipulation, racism, sexism and more. Interesting times, and whilst this could be viewed simply as brands selecting channels that work, I suggest we delve a bit further. What brands are seeking is to control their messaging. Their advertisements appearing next to a Terrorist image does not align with their brand values. A keyboard warrior slamming a brand for a specific, possibly one-off incident in a store, does not reflect the overall service or value that brand is offering to customers.

JD Wetherspoons, UK’s largest pub chain, recently announced no more social or digital advertising. They are now pushing brand messaging through a ‘magalogue’ or custom magazine and a website only. This provides information about their offering, a communication vehicle to develop brand positioning and control, or as they like to put it – ‘no distraction’. This is smart and modern marketing. Maintaining the strengths of two channels and owning their message to market at each touch point. It will be one to watch.

Catalogues have and will continue to hold their position despite marketers moving to new toys on occasion or dappling with budget cuts and ‘change agent’ ideas (we love those). The humble catalogue remains the strongest performer when it comes down to one thing and one thing only – they sell stuff. For that, they’ll forever be in the mix, a retailer’s humble secret, or as I like to suggest, my shiniest tool in the toolbox.

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