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Strategy, Creativity, Launches

Redefining the Catalog

POSTED ON: 11/05/15 Catalog Redefined

The Toys ‘R Us holiday catalog just came out, and these folks are not playing around.

Last week saw the unveiling of the toy giant’s 2015 catalog, and to use their word, it is awesome. Not because it’s brilliant and engaging and forward thinking and really, really fun  It’s all of those things. But The Great Big Toys ‘R Us Book of Awesome also represents the redefinition of catalog marketing, and to a large extent, the continuing evolution of retail marketing itself.

It’s hard to imagine that the mail-order catalog was once considered a bold, new idea. Tiffany created America’s first in1845, and Montgomery Ward perfected the model in 1892, distributing a 540-page illustrated catalog. But it is the Sears Wishbook, the first stand-alone Christmas catalog, that is most fondly remembered. From 1933 to the early 2000s, the Wishbook was anticipated, poured over, dissected, marked up and dog-eared by kids preparing their lists for Santa.

The iconic publication reappeared in 2007 in a smaller, scaled-down format, and in 2010, the Wishbook found a home online.

Why the history lesson? I think it demonstrates the trajectory of the catalog as a marketing vehicle, and, more important, serves as an object lesson for retail marketers. This classic tactic was re-thought and re-invented in response to the shifting needs and desires of the shopper.

Those needs and desires continue to shift today, and retail marketers must not just listen, but anticipate and innovate as well. Enter The Great Big Toys ‘R Us Book of Awesome. More than simply digitally interactive, the catalog speaks to shoppers on an emotional level. It tells a story. It allows the shopper to choose an ideal and personalized experience. It drives conversation, encourages participation and takes engagement to a new place (which is wherever the shopper wants it to be).

Toys ‘R Us has changed the meaning of the word “catalog,” recasting it for a new generation of smart, demanding, experience-seeking shoppers. I’ve written before about how the language of retail marketing must evolve and how marketers are now mandated to give traditional terms (like “signage” and “display”) new meaning and new execution.  To that end, here are 47 things a catalog can also be:

  1. Treasure Map
  2. Pinterest Page
  3. Cookbook
  4. Lifestyle Magazine
  5. How-to Manual
  6. Diary
  7. Playground
  8. Family Album
  9. Inspiration Piece
  10. Advice Column
  11. Yearbook
  12. Community Gathering Spot
  13. Photo Contest
  14. Photo Exhibit
  15. Content Generator
  16. Passport
  17. Front Row Seat
  18. Romance Novel
  19. Tutorial
  20. Cooking Lesson
  21. Fashion Show
  22. Ordering Mechanism
  23. Daily Devotion
  24. Storybook
  25. Salon
  26. Audience with a Style Expert
  27. Virtual Vacation
  28. Newspaper
  29. Almanac
  30. Celebrity Tell-All
  31. Advent Calendar
  32. To-Do List
  33. Nature Walk
  34. Consultation
  35. Survey
  36. Menu
  37. Web Series
  38. Runway
  39. Maze
  40. Creative Outlet
  41. Manifesto
  42. Game of Chance
  43. Dressing Room
  44. Make-Up Mirror
  45. Scavenger Hunt
  46. Testimonial
  47. Progress Tracker
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