What's Old Is New Again: The Annual Joy Delivered by Analog Catalogs

I was reminded recently of the power low-tech plays in driving consumer purchasing decisions. In this overprogrammed, always on world, it was heartwarming to see a tried-and-true approach resonate with my 3-year-old.   

My 3-year-old son recently discovered his first Target catalog. For several days following its arrival along with mailers from innumerable clothing, toy, electronic, gaming, home goods, and other companies, he would dart down the stairs like it was Christmas morning marking all the things he wanted Santa to deliver. 

When the pages became worn and cluttered with his Crayola circles, he worried that Santa might not be able to understand what he really wanted. Luckily, a new Target catalog arrived miraculously during a near meltdown and I decided to test out his dexterity with his toddler scissors. With precision, my son cut out the items he dreamed would soon be his. With a fire burning bright on a cool Los Angeles evening, hot chocolate in hand, I watched his fascination with fascination. 



You see, I work at an agency where harnessing the latest tech tools to capture consumers where they live, learn, work, and play is our perpetual mission.

And here, in my living room, I was reminded of the power low-tech plays in driving consumer purchasing decisions. And, it gave us down time to snuggle up, peruse the catalog, practice fine-motor skills, and dream big. 

My son didn’t directly ask for toys. While he found images from PAW Patrol and epic Lego creations mesmerizing, he also became an instant fan of fluffy character slippers and plastic garden tools. He discovered fuzzy pillows he dreamed would adorn his big-boy bed and found things he thought Mommy and Daddy should have. It was amazing to see my son’s inner shopper be unleashed from a 30-page print catalog. This from a kid who freaks out from any commercial disruption during prized TV time. 

The catalog proved to be a window into possibilities. One glossy print circular opened my son’s eyes to new things he didn’t even know existed. It was a consumer teaching tool that blew his little mind. 

As I decided to join his joy and flip through some catalogs that I was about to use to fuel the fire, I realized immediately why my son was so delighted. Catalogs give us control over our consumer experience. Our eyes can go where ever they want and our fingers decide if we stay on a page or move on. Catalogs engage our senses and trigger memories. We can feel the page, see all the colors, inhale the scents of perfumes, or sample lotions. 

That is the beauty of print. It gives us the ability to control the intake of information and interact with the experience on our own terms. 

As I marveled at my son’s wonder, I remembered back to my pre-mom days when I was just a woman who anticipated the monthly delivery of her Real Simple magazine. I would set it aside all week so that I could set the stage for an enjoyable read on Saturday morning. I’d eat my breakfast slowly, prep my coffee, and get cozy on my big white chair. Legs draped over the arm, magazine on lap, toasty mug in hand. It was a dream experience.

By necessity, speed-reading is more my jam these days. But, every now and then, as my son reminded me, nothing beats some downtime with a magazine if you are lucky enough to get it. 

I flip, I scan, I actually study the advertisements, and dive into longer-form articles only if I feel like it. I’m the driver. It’s a wonderful break from blue lights and digital clutter that inundates me daily. Yes, all of this content lives online, but the thought of opening a phone, or tablet to consume information sometimes feels overwhelming as countless emails disrupt the experience. 

Sometimes a magazine is just the respite we need. Thanks, holiday circulars, for that all-important reminder. Here’s to enjoying the moments that matter this holiday season.



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