Deliver® recently caught up with Dr. Samir Husni, the University of Mississippi professor and lecturer widely known as “Mr. Magazine,” to discuss the future of branded print marketing communications.
In the second of our two-part interview, Husni talks about what the future holds for catalog marketers and what custom publications must do to remain relevant in an increasingly digital and eco-conscious world. (Read the first part of the interview here.)
DELIVER: What’s ahead for catalog retailers?
SAMIR HUSNI: We’re going back to the psychological aspect of “wishing.” The whole mentality has changed from something that is nice to have to something that is needed. Even when you look in the catalogs and see the designs and then weigh the offers, they’re now based on need as well as want and desire.
DELIVER: Is catalog messaging changing?
HUSNI: Some of them are trying to be more magazine-ish. The Avon brochure, for instance. They’re introducing a little article here and there, like Lands’ End. They’re trying to be part of that experience, trying to create the experience so it’s not like they’re just selling. Instead, they’re [saying], “We’re giving you advice, we’re giving you tips, and we’re helping you.” It’s putting a human touch on those brochures. If there is one major change that is taking place right now it’s that we are humanizing catalogs. It’s not, “Here’s A, B and C.” We’re now telling you, “Here’s A, B and C — and B might look much better on you.” The more we humanize catalogs, the more we add to the brand experience, the more we add to that sense of community and sense of belonging.
DELIVER: How can catalogs be more relevant?
HUSNI: What we want to see even more than just relevancy is the catalog must become like a magazine. I don’t want somebody sending me a message on every page that says, “Go to the Web. Go here. Look here. See how this looks, here, there and there.” I want my brand experience within that catalog to remain there until I want to order something. Then send me to the Web [to buy].
DELIVER: You’ve talked about the comeback of the print catalog. What kind of environmental challenges does this highlight?
HUSNI: We need better education because there’s this myth that catalogs, that paper, all that stuff is hurting the environment. What about the batteries that we are using [to run] our laptops? What about the electricity that we are spending? At least magazines and catalogs can be recycled. I have five laptops sitting at home. What do I do with these things? It’s good to care about the environment, but we need to educate our public rather than just say, “We’re going green.” And why should we be the only ones going green? A laptop is not essentially the best environmental answer to the catalog.
DELIVER: Are you seeing any particularly exciting innovations in printed corporate marketing communications?
HUSNI: Now is the time for innovation. To me, the first step in innovation is focus. Give me something that will stop me in my tracks. When I see my name on every ad or I see something in the ad that specifically talks about Samir, that stops me. Technology is enabling ideas. We can easily afford to create five design covers of the same magazine now, based on different demographics and psychographics of five different audiences. We can experiment with new textures. There’s a book that came out in Germany, for instance, that is made of edible paper. We have chips we can put into magazines that talk to you. The problem is a lot of us are still using whatever innovation comes out in the marketplace for the sake of innovation, and that’s the biggest mistake we can make. I want to create and come up with innovative ideas that make my product a must-have rather than a nice-to-have.
DELIVER: Any other final thoughts?
HUSNI: One of the things that I really believe we’re going to be seeing more and more in the future is putting all that data we have to better use. We have to create this feeling that we are visiting with you, that I am your best friend and you can’t wait to come see me so we can talk about things that interest you and that I have the answers for. That’s why content is so important. We have to be in the business of selling content because content is our conversation with our audience, and we have to be the ones who start that conversation. The customer has all the questions. [They’re saying], “I’m waiting for you to start the conversation with me and start answering my questions.” Any piece of media that comes to me that does not start the conversation is one I consider to be a failure.Brand Marketing, Branded Content, Large Business, Medium Business, Opinion