Kill, Kill, Kill The Catalog


Mitch Mounger is CEO of Bellevue, Washington-based Sunrise Identity, a Top-50 distributor, member of QCA’s Distributor Advocacy Council and recipient of the Family Business of the Year and Best Place to Work awards by Counselor Magazine. 

People always ask me, “What’s the next big thing in promotional marketing?” That’s the million-dollar question, right? If I knew the answer, I’d be the smartest person in the industry--and I’d be enjoying early retirement.

But what I want to talk about is the question that clients rarely ask these days: “Can you send me a catalog?”  Of course, my talented team obliges when someone requests a catalog on the rare occasion because I’ve got more than enough stacked up around the office.

Here’s how I see it: Like phonebooks, daily newspapers and instruction manuals, the catalog is dead. Stick a fork in it. Put it out of its misery. Take it out back and shoot it. Kill the catalog!

Today, capable Sunrise account managers sort through creative briefs and notes from client interviews to distill what the client’s real needs may be. And are you ready for a shocker? It’s not about the C-handle coffee mug, the pen, the interlocking knit polo or the non-woven polypropylene tote in the catalog.

It’s time to kill the catalog. The amount of unused-unwanted-destined-for-the-recycling-bin catalogs we receive is a massive waste of resources--natural and financial. The money, paper, ink and plastic wrappers used to produce, wrap, data manage, mail, sort, stack, store then recycle is significant.

In a recent non-scientific poll of account managers and the sales support team, I found one person that reported having sent a catalog to a client recently. Another said, “Oh, we drop them off in person from time to time, but I always send a link to a specific product via email that I believe will best suit their needs.” Substantially all of the research and communication our team does is web-based, smart and via email, rendering the catalog as an old school resource-wasting relic in the modern world.

I believe catalog printing resources should be redirected to building more robust technology solutions that supply all the necessary information for distributors to access supplier products, creating dynamic, easy-to-use, smart interfaces and apps loaded with product details, specifications, images and compliance certification documentation.

I’m with Craig Morantz in that I’d like to see suppliers have the internal fortitude and take a risk in not producing a printed catalog. Who will be the first?