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Catalogs Are Part of a Balanced Marketing Diet

The Offer: For a supposedly dead channel, print isn’t doing too badly. According to the Direct Marketing Association, roughly 12.5 billion catalogs—often featuring interactive elements such as QR codes, text codes, and augmented reality enhancements—are printed and mailed each year.

To demonstrate the continued viability of print as an evolving and thriving channel, NewPoint Media Group, publisher of The Real Estate Book and a variety of other targeted magazines, issued its advertisers and prospects the following challenge: collect as many catalog covers as you can and mail them in to win a cash prize.

“You hear all the time that print is dead and that no one uses it, that it’s inefficient—yada, yada, yada,” says Rebecca Chandler, VP of marketing at NewPoint Media Group. “What we were trying to do was [create] awareness about how catalogs and magazines are not the same old print they used to be.”

The secondary goal of NewPoint’s “Catalog Challenge” was to open people’s eyes to the sheer number of targeted, welcome print catalogs they receive, especially around the holiday season. Even e-commerce behemoths like Amazon and Zappos print and mail catalogs in the lead up to Christmas.

“Online marketers see the value in print, because catalogs drive online sales,” Chandler says. “Online retailers attribute half of their sales to catalogs—imagine that.”

The Background: Combining print and new technology is the way forward, says Chandler, who notes that while virtually everyone shops online—there’s no secret about that, she says—catalogs and magazines are interruptive in a way e-commerce can’t be. Imagine walking through a brick-and-mortar store and seeing a, for example, real estate catalog sitting on a counter or in a rack. Even if buying a house or renting an apartment is only just a half-thought in the back of your mind, you’re probably still going to grab the catalog and take a look.

“People are online all day long, but usually only when they’re searching for something specific; catalogs and magazines, on the other hand—they interrupt your day,” she says. “You flip through the pages and an ad for something interests you; then you go online to check it out. I like to say, ‘You search online, but catalogs search for you.”

In its own effort to blur the lines between online and offline, NewPoint Media started publishing text codes in The Real Estate Book a little more than a year ago with excellent results. The codes are printed next to house listings; by texting the code users can take virtual tours, view slideshows, and map locations.

Although it took a little convincing at the start, NewPoint was able to get buy-in from almost all its local advertisers. Currently, between 75% and 80% of NewPoint’s titles include the text codes, which have, all told, generated more than 300,000 direct leads throughout 2012—including 38,000 leads in one month alone.

Introducing interactivity and technology into print is part of a wide-scale trend, Chandler says. “Catalog retailers like IKEA are using augmented reality so when you scan a page you find out what something costs and other details about an item, and a lot of catalog retailers are using interactive codes on their pages to drive traffic online,” she says. “All that clearly demonstrates that print is not dead.”

The Results: “Catalog Challenge” brought in 108 entries, with more than 20,000 catalog covers submitted by mail. California-based realtor Deborah A. Di Memmo took home the $1,000 prize for sending in a whopping 1,500 covers.

“It was amazing,” Chandler says. “There was some stuff she sent I’d never even heard of!”

The Takeaway: When used smartly and effectively, print can help greatly amplify the overall effect of a campaign, Chandler notes.

“Traditional media can really crank things up and stimulate people to interact with your brand,” she says. “With targeted direct mail you can pinpoint your audience and deliver something interactive and targeted into their home that can also drive traffic online.”

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