Print catalogs appeal to customers of all ages.


Do young people really prefer print marketing? Just ask ICOM — or Robin and Kim.

The results of a new survey from ICOM (a division of Epsilon Targeting) suggest that 18-to-34-year-olds prefer print over online marketing channels in a broad range of categories.

These results reminded me of the delightful visit we had this summer from one of my wife’s cousins and her two teenage daughters. Robin is a rising high school senior, and Kim is starting college this fall.  Like most girls that age, they’re focused on the present (boys, shopping, texting) as well as the future (thinking about colleges, choosing majors).

We got into a conversation about what I do for a living.  I told them I work for a company that helps other companies automatically publish their print and Web catalogs from the same database of information.  I explained with tongue in cheek that there are still a couple of dinosaurs around (like me) who prefer print catalogs over their Web-based equivalents.

What happened next surprised me.  Both of them went into rhapsodic and detailed praise for the virtues of print catalogs.  Turns out both girls are classic “BoBos” – consumers who “browse offline, buy online.”  They almost always do their “shopping” in print catalogs, then go to the Web to order.  “No one goes online to browse,” Kim said.  Robin agreed, adding: “When I have a choice, I always choose the print catalog over a Web site.”

Some of the reasons they gave included:

Convenience – Kim, the one on her way to college, has been shopping for dorm stuff.  She can take her catalog and show it to friends to get their opinions, and even hold a page up to “see” what something will look like in her room.  “A print catalog is portable,” she says.  “You can take it anywhere, mark your page, and circle things you want to remember.”  And you can’t always have your laptop or iPad with you — “like in the bathroom, f’rinstance,” Robin blurted with a laugh.

Color accuracy – Kim is a dance major, so she orders a lot of dance gear from catalogs.  Getting the colors right for leotards, costumes, and other dancewear is essential.  “If you’re not in the store,” she said, “a catalog is the closest thing to touching and feeling something.”  The colors on a computer screen may be wrong, depending on your monitor, she added.

Depth perception — Both girls like that a print catalog is three-dimensional, tangible, and spatial – it satisfies the full spectrum of the sensory experience.  A catalog on a computer screen is flat.  Kim said you also can’t “see” or “sense” fabric textures in images as clearly as you can on a printed page. An e-commerce site doesn’t always have an image that’s the right size, large enough to see the detail you need. And after awhile, a computer screen hurts your eyes and dries out your contacts.

Accuracy and reliability – The very fact that someone has gone to the effort of putting something into print makes an impression on these young Millennials.  “No one’s going to print something without triple-checking things,” Robin said. (Ah, the innocence of youth.)

All of this is consistent with the (perhaps) surprising findings from the ICOM survey. If nothing else, these findings – and my wife’s teenage cousins – should remind marketers not to stereotype or pigeonhole their customers based solely on demographics.  That’s true for consumer as well as business-to-business customers.

One Response to Print catalogs appeal to customers of all ages.

  1. […] I’ve gotten over people thinking things are obsolete or old-fashioned when I think there’s still plenty of life left in them.  But it did strike me as interesting that these attributes would immediately come to a Millennial’s mind when describing catalogs.  (It doesn’t seem too long ago that I blogged about my wife’s teen-age cousins gushing about the advantages of print catalogs.)  […]

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