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The Synaesthesia of Catalogs

The touch, the feel of paper.
December 25, 2020

To those of you who celebrate, Happy Christmas Day. Why are you checking your email? Because it’s an owned channel.

Pop quiz: how many DTC catalogs do you get in the mail? None? Yeah, because they all come to me. I get, on average, three printed catalogs from all manner of direct to consumer brand catalogs. Parachute? Check. Roka? Check again. (by the by, both brands have been on the podcast this year)

Paper is making a comeback. Why? They work. Harvard Business Review posted results of a trial launch of a new paper catalog earlier this year in February. From that article: 

Of those customers, 5% of them received neither email nor catalogs for six months, 55% of them received a weekly marketing email, and 40% of them received the new bi-monthly catalogs in addition to the weekly email marketing. To control for effects of content, over 90% of the products were the same between emails and catalogs. The same set of photos and descriptions were also used in both media. We then tracked purchases and product inquiries across all three groups.

Results showed that “Email + catalog” group experienced a 15% lift in sales and a 27% lift in inquiries, compared to “Email-only” group.

Immersive content is tough to pull off online, whereas print is full-bleed, full-stop. Your mailbox is also one of the view organic owned marketing channels, where every piece of content gets reviewed and considered before actioned upon. Others include SMS and email. And podcasts, but we’re a bit partial.

If a catalog shows up at your house, you’re pretty much guaranteed to review it.

Touch is one of The Senses, and touch is, well, hard to pull off online. This is where the synaesthesia of experience comes into play. Engaging more senses is more effective. Synaesthesia is the omnichannel of senses — linking together senses that otherwise are separate and distinct. Soul Cycle does this with light, music, and grapefruit-scented candles. Oh, and faux-spiritualism.

Catalogs give a potential customer one more touchpoint (pardon the pun) with your brand. They don’t harvest data, they don’t pop up persuasive offers, they aren’t engaged in the hard sell. They’re passive activations that, at minimum, get a perusal. At best, your brand can live not only rent-free in the customers’ head, but rent-free on their coffee table, too.

It’s one thing to write about the five senses, it’s another to deliver an experience of all five. In response to Andrea’s tweet, Emily Singer pointed out Pop-Up Magazine’s Issue in a Box. This mysterious package combines an array of special goodies and high-profile collaborations to create a one-of-a-kind five-senses storytelling experience.

Special kudos for Andrea for pointing out the synaesthesia tie-in. The sixth sense? It’s delivered via Instacart. How 2020.

You’ve heard of ReCommerce. We’ve heard of RiRi Commerce. How about re-re-re-commerce. The comeback of thrifted comebacks? This review of fashion influencer Hodan Yousuf’s favorite thrifted pieces from 2020 has us wondering if it’s time to dust off that London Fog and leather jacket.

Vintage and secondhand continue to take off as marketplaces and brands tap into a market that’s heavy in demand, but still a bit clumsy in turning mountains of raw material into curated pieces available for purchase. 

Artist Tom Sachs is working on a sequel to his famed NikeCraft Mars Yard sneaker. His new campaign seeking wear testers is sure to generate a buzz, considering the Mars Yard 1.0 and 2.0 can fetch a hefty $4,000 and $10,000 respectively in resale.

Soon, restaurants will be needing dedicated menus for their influencer options. Youtube’s top creator, Mr. Beast, is expanding his enterprise to burgers. More than 300 restaurants and kitchens across the country will be cooking up his “Beast Burger” for his fans.

KFC continues to shock and inspire us all with their absurdist marketing tactics. This week, a gaming console prototype featuring an Intel Nuc 9 Extreme Compute Element and the world’s first ever chicken chamber

Maybe we should launch an ETF? Luxury holding company Farfetch ($FTCH) is up 510% since their #2 placement on our New Luxury category in our Nine by Nine Report. Coincidence? We think not.

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