Hi! I’m Chloe! I’m already knee deep in holiday catalogs from a host of people I’ve never done business with! But, that’s OK! Catalogs that arrive during the holidays give me a chance to expand my horizons and think about gifts I might not have targeted through my online browsing or shopping excursions. Of course, I want the catalogs to readable!

Here’s the problem. I got home from the last trip to find about 30 catalogs in my mail chute. They cover a whole range of categories, some from people I trade with and others from companies I have never done business with. And there are a few from companies who haven’t gotten the hint – I last bought from them over a decade ago and they didn’t meet my needs.

Walking through the pile the first thing is to separate out what looks interesting. How? The cover and the format. Wow! There are some differentiators here. Some of the holiday catalogs are arriving with no holiday components to the cover at all. And those go into the “Not likely” pile because I like the holidays. I celebrate them! If I am going to buy from you I want you to be making me holiday offers, not treating it like just another catalog push. That’s just the way I see it. So the catalogs that came with summer fun pictures, or clothing featured with no indication that there were special holiday offers hiding inside – not going any farther with those.

I don’t want to tell the catalogers how to design their covers to catch my attention, but they should be able to incorporate some sort of warm holiday theme, even if they are selling tech gadgets, home furnishings, or car parts, let alone clothing and collectibles. You’d be surprised how many of the catalogs in those categories are in the “Not likely” pile because they missed that basic premise.

Now we have the catalogs that get it. Those that have something that tells me they get that there are holidays coming up and gift giving opportunities. Open them up and now we separate those who get it from those who don’t. If you send me a catalog that has muddy images, flat color, text so small that I can’t read it even with my reading glasses, then that catalog is going into the “Bad” pile. No matter how compelling the products might be, if I can’t get the detail of the offering and can’t read the descriptions, I’m not going to make the effort to buy! More than half of the catalogs I received have images that I’ve been seeing for years with no attempt the change anything other than the price. Other felt a need to jam the catalog full of tiny pictures that I can’t make out. There might be some cool stuff, but I can’t tell.

So what’s in the catalogs I kept? Great imagery that is colorful, seasonal, and easy on the eye. No reverse type of light colors, no 6 point type just to jam more text into the description, and an easy-to-order mechanism. That last piece is key for me. I don’t have a lot of time but I do Christmas in a big way. I need it to be easy for me to find what I want, match it to a recipient, and pay for it without having to call a free phone number or trip through a website. My favorite catalogs gave me great images to look through, great descriptions, and a web ID to put on the website to get to the item and add it to an easy-to-understand shopping cart that takes PayPal!

Notice what I didn’t focus on. What was the format, what was the paper, what was the print technology… none of that was relevant so long as the content did the job it was supposed to do. The most elegantly printed catalog in my pile turned out to be the least interesting, and I know they spent money on the paper and the print, and the postage from the weight of it. But it wasn’t relevant to me at the holidays for gift giving, there was no easy way to order, and the images on this very expensive paper hadn’t been color managed correctly so there was no depth or detail in jewelry items and clothing (where color and texture count!).

I know it’s too late for most of you who manage catalogs because the ship sailed on those print jobs some months ago. But as you get ready for your next season, remember that I’m not alone. While I can vocalize what I see that doesn’t work, most consumers will just toss it aside even though they can’t tell you why. I said last time to step up your game and add some spice and sass. I stand by that, especially for holiday marketing!

Until next time… Watch this space for more from the life of a Print Diva.

ChloeChloe Mahendra-Fuji practices the fine arts of design critique, content creation and editing, and communication consulting. She has decades of experience working in online content delivery, print delivery, and content development. 

Connect with Chloe: @ChloePrintDiva /


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