February 5, 2023

Digital Marketing Education

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DTC brands invest in catalogs amid Apple’s data crackdown

Holiday storytelling

On digital platforms, DTC brands are forced to simultaneously compete for consumers’ attention while also attempting to blend their marketing messages seamlessly into each platform’s native content. But catalogs enable brands to capture consumers’ undivided attention with virtually no outside forces within the catalog’s pages to distract them, Wong said. 

“There is no channel that replicates the sheer real estate in print—the opportunity to tell your story, especially for new customer acquisition,” she said. 

Brands that use catalogs to center their storytelling on gift-oriented holiday shopping behavior tend to see a boost in sales, Wong added. Furniture and home goods retailer Wayfair, for example, used its holiday catalog this year to highlight gift-worthy decor in a series of lists aimed at specific groups, such as “foodies,” kids and pets. The catalog also includes editorial-esque content centered around Wayfair products, including a collection of cookware and decor consumers can use to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home, and a list of “40 Ways to Holiday” that highlights 40 pieces of holiday decor that “up the spirit in every room in the house.” 

“Our seasonal catalog was called ‘Holiday Your Heart Out’ this year, and we wanted to showcase the many ways to do that, whichever holiday you’re celebrating,” said Kara O’Brien, head of offline marketing at Wayfair. “[Catalogs] give us that extra real estate … to tell richer product stories and invite customers into all that Wayfair has to offer. And it has staying power—a tangible print piece is something consumers can keep, bookmark, revisit and even share with family and friends.” 

For outdoor retail brand Orvis, whose catalog marketing predates the Civil War, storytelling is the brand’s primary focus in its catalogs, Sheila Shekar Pollak, chief brand experience officer at Orvis, wrote in an email. Like Wayfair, the brand’s holiday catalogs place its sporting goods and apparel in a gift-guide context; but Orvis’ catalogs also act as a medium for “long-form storytelling” related to brand values, she wrote. 

Catalogs were a key element of the brand’s “Giving for Generations” holiday initiative, with “customer stories of the meaning behind the Orvis gifts in their family that have been passed down from generation to generation” appearing alongside more traditional gift guides in Orvis’ holiday catalog, Pollak wrote. 

“It’s been a powerful story-telling tool during a time period when customers are eager to connect and shop via their values,” she added. 


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