Why Some Marketing is Better Done on Paper

Brands are using direct mail to complement their digital efforts and keep with tradition during the holiday season

Written by Murad Hemmadi

As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, retailers are luring shoppers with splashy ad campaigns, mobile apps and online deals. But, since Christmas is all about tradition and nostalgia, it seems fitting brands are also sticking to good old-fashioned printed gift guides.

Sears’ iconic Wish Book has been available in Canada for more than 60 years. The retailer has, of course, taken the Wish Book to the digital age: people can flip through it page by page on, and there’s a Wish Book app. But, the 520-page printed Wish Book still lands on the doorsteps of 2.5 million Canadians across the country.

“There’s still something about sitting down with the book and flipping through the pages,” saidVince Power, VP of corporate affairs and communications at Sears Canada.

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“A lot of us grew up with it… I think we probably all have memories of the Wish Book coming to our home, and taking out a black magic marker and circling what you wanted your parents to buy you,” added Power. “I think the Wish Book is more than a catalogue—it’s an icon of the holiday season. It’s really nostalgic for our customers and they’re passing it on to their kids.”

Gift guides are also just really useful, and who doesn’t need a little help finding the perfect present?Frank & Oak, a Montreal-based menswear e-retailer, recently launched a direct mail “magalogue” called “A Guide to Surviving the Holidays.”

The 20-page printed piece features a gift guide organized by price point, as well as editorial content such as how to dress for a Christmas party, how to relax in style after the party, and gin-based cocktail recipes. The magalogue is being mailed to more than 25,000 customers in Canada and the U.S., and will be available in Frank & Oak’s bricks-and-mortar stores.

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“We’ve created more of a content-plus-commerce guide on how to brave the holiday season,” saidEric Alper, senior vice-president at Frank & Oak. “Getting something physical in the mail that looks like a serious piece of content really gets people’s attention because it suggests that the marketer took the time to create something useful.”

For all its direct mail initiatives, Frank & Oak thinks a lot about utility, according to Alper. “Is that thing that’s going to land in someone’s mailbox actually useful or is it wallpaper? If it’s wallpaper, we’re not going to send it,” he said. “But on occasion when we can be really useful and seasonally relevant… we’ll use direct mail as something that augments our marketing.”

Luxury retailerHolt Renfrew is launching a printed gift guide, as part of its multi-faceted “Christmas Imagined by Holts” campaign. The 16-page glossy book is being sent to a very select group of 5,000 Holt Icon Privileges members. It features one-of-a-kind and rare gifts including a limited-edition Dior watch (there’s only 88 in the world) and a Tiffany & Co. blue diamond and platinum ring. A digital gift guide will feature more accessible gifts starting at $50.

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“Having a very luxe printed piece really fits with the luxury position and market that we’re in,” saidAlison Simpson, Holt Renfrew’s SVP of marketing and customer experience.

And for customers, “it’s just fun for them to grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine and flip through [the pages] and still have the tactile experience. We do a good mix of both digital and printed and our printed books tend to become collectables with a lot of our customers.”

Simpson likened receiving a gift guide in the mail to getting a card or handwritten letter.

“I get a lot of email and online cards and they’re wonderful, but now when I get a traditional card from a friend or a handwritten letter, I find it even more impactful because it’s even more rare,” she said. “I look at our printed piece the same way. We absolutely do a lot of digital… but there are moments throughout the year where taking a more traditional approach can be even more powerful and the gift guide is a great example of that.”

This article originally appeared at Marketing Magazine.


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