WSJ Reports Marketers Still Prefer a Paper Trail

By Rob Wicker

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article last Friday: “In Digital Era, Marketers Still Prefer a Paper Trail.” The article pointed out that we are a long way from a paperless world, and this is clearly illustrated by the number of catalogs that are mailed during the Christmas season.

Why do so many marketers use catalogs? The reason is because they work. Among retailers that rely mainly on direct sales, 62% say their biggest revenue generator is a paper catalog. The Wall Street Journal quoted Steve Fuller, Chief Marketing Officer for L.L. Bean, “There will be some paper version for as long as I am in the business.”

As the CMO for Homes & Land, the popularity of catalogs doesn’t surprise me. Although some of our publishers include market data and articles in their Homes & Land magazines, the primary format is a catalog of homes. The only decrease I have ever seen in the pick-up rate of our magazines was when the market dropped so dramatically last year. A lot of homeowners pick up our magazines to get a feel for the value of their property, and my guess is that the pick-up rate slowed because at the time homeowners found their home valuations depressing. I know I felt that way. We recently completed a series of Regional Meetings and our publishers reported that pick-up rates were as strong as ever, which is probably a fairly good indicator of increasing consumer confidence in the real estate market.

One negative in the Wall Street Journal regarding the catalog industry is the environmental fears generated by the use of so much paper. We’re concerned about that too, that’s why we participate in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program. Our magazines are printed on paper fibers that support environmentally responsible behavior and sound forest management, which includes the protection of local water quality, biodiversity and wildlife habitats.

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