Arandell News + Events

8 Questions Brands Need to Ask When Launching a Catalog Program

We challenged Jake Hoffman, Arandell’s Director of Data Solutions, to synthesize down the key questions he asks when launching a new catalog program. He believes that the following 8 questions are critical for brands that are considering catalogs for the first time. 


1) What goal(s) am I hoping to accomplish by launching a catalog program?  

On the surface this seems like a silly question but there are a lot of different directions you can go when creating a catalog. Is the purpose of the catalog to open a new channel, drive to the website, leverage your in-store experience, acquire new customers or increase lifetime value of existing customers?

All these are potential answers so it’s important to think about the ultimate purpose of adding the catalog as a viable marketing channel.

Once you have this defined, this should be top of mind as you go from inception to execution. Catalogs function slightly different for every brand so ensure that your catalog goals align with your overall marketing objectives.


2) What are the clearly defined metrics I’m going to use to determine catalog success?  

“I want it to have a good response”. *cue forehead slap*

This is the answer I often get to the question above…can you see why this is a bit of a problem? While I would love to pretend to be the oracle of “good”, I alas am not. Which means it’s important that when you decide what to measure that it is actually measurable!

“I want a 1.5% average response rate across all segments mailed.” This is something that is not only measurable but can be easily understood throughout an organization.

It’s important that when you choose a metric it can translate across teams/channels easily so when you evaluate what channels are working and which aren’t you have an apples to apples comparison. 


3) What is the marketing budget?  

If this is your first catalog program, buckle up because you may be in for a bit of sticker shock. Are catalogs expensive? Yes. Especially if you haven’t specifically budgeted to produce a catalog in the fiscal year.

While catalogs are expensive, they work which is why it’s important that you demonstrate the true value of a catalog. The best way to showcase this is by creating a hold out (a randomized group of people who don’t receive a catalog) and comparing results to those that did receive a catalog. This will show the incremental impact the catalog had against a control. 

When considering diving into the direct mail world it’s important to have a reasonable understanding of the cost to play. Due to the investment associated with a catalog, it’s important that you start off on the right foot, which is why you should continue to keep reading the rest of my questions below.

Yes, I did just endorse my own writing — get over it! 😉     


4) Who will be receiving the catalog?  

“Jake…this is another silly question”, you might be thinking but remember question #1!

The challenge regarding launching a catalog program here is it’s more than just the blanket response “customers”. You need to have further segmentation than that, such as lapsed customers, digitally native customers, recent customers, previous customers, etc. What about prospects?

Can you see where I’m going with this?

It’s important to have a clear understanding of who specifically should receive a catalog within those segments. Understanding who you are mailing to should dictate the content of the catalog.

For example, if I know nothing about your brand should I receive the same content as your very best customer who has a deep emotional connection with your brand? Of course not! They are two completely different audiences, and each requires a unique value proposition.  

Mailbox - 8 Questions Brands Need to Ask When Launching a Catalog Program

5) When do I want to be in my consumer’s mailbox?  

Think about the seasonality of your business, if any, and when the optimal time is to be in front of consumers. 

Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes…

If you are a swimsuit company and you decide to start mailing a catalog but plan to be home in the middle of the summer the odds are the customer has already purchased. The phrase “timing is everything” most certainly rings true for catalog mailing. 


6) Do I have the creative resources/expertise in-house to produce? 

If your brand currently only exists online and has never produced any material in a direct mail format, I would strongly urge you to consider the implications from moving creative from a web to paper environment.

RGB vs CMYK all have implications that I know nothing about but there are smart people that do! Luckily for people like me, there are several resources that exist in the industry that specialize in helping to smooth this transition over.

A catalog program is an intense creative process that usually requires multiple versions, revisions and layouts. Because of this, it’s also important to allocate creative resources accordingly so you don’t tick off your creative people — we want to keep the creatives happy!


7) How will I integrate my catalog program with other marketing channels?  

In marketing today, it’s crucial to create a seamless marketing experience across all channels for customers/prospects.

There is no reason a catalog should be looked at as a “stand alone” piece, so you need to make sure you are practicing proper channel alignment.

Use email to alert customers when they can expect to receive a catalog, create a digital version to post to the website and social media, utilize a microsite to direct catalog recipients, too!

The data tells us that the more channels you can overlap and integrate with the catalog the better the performance. 


8) How am I tracking results?  

Jake, I got it, we have a clearly defined goal for the catalog with measurable metrics, we have our budget set, we know who it’s going to, when it is getting there, it has kick ass creative and we’ve tied it in with all the other channels. Now let me pop some champagne and celebrate the launch of our catalog.

Not so fast my friend!

The very last thing (I swear) you must determine is how you are going to be tracking results. Is this something that you will be handling internally? Will you need a data service bureau to perform a matchback to show the results?

You want to make sure that the results you are tracking align with the success criteria that you determined above.

Now that you have answered all 8 of my questions you are ready to launch. Now go ahead and pop that champagne!


There you have it: the 8 questions brands need to ask when launching a catalog program! We hope these questions made you think and really consider the holistic strategy behind doing a catalog.

If you’re considering launching a catalog program after reading this and still aren’t sure where to start, feel free to contact Jake at or give him a call directly at (262) 250-7420. Otherwise, we hope you’ll continue to stay tuned in to our News + Events page where you’ll find all the latest and greatest industry insights, company announcements and thought leadership pieces.