I should have waited a week to publish my recent article on all of the popular brands getting back into direct mail — because Amazon just mailed millions of printed toy catalogs.
The largest e-commerce business in the world, a company openly obsessed with data and consumer behavior, and one of the only companies ever to cross the $1T (trillion!) valuation threshold, is using direct mail to drive sales over the crucial Holiday season.
But that’s not the whole story…
Amazon’s 2019 Toy Catalog is a masterclass in modern marketing.
This is Next-Level Marketing
For advertisers, the ability to effectively pair data with psychological drivers is somewhat of a holy grail. It’s usually one or the other due to resource limitations, budget restrictions, or frankly, a lack of understanding.
In short, a myriad of marketing and sales data fuels the financial models that ultimately drive modern marketing teams. And, applied psychology (the ability to persuade customers) is what generates the sales data in the first place.
To be an effective advertiser, you must demonstrate a deep understanding of your target audience, and perhaps more importantly, the triggers that drive purchases.
This is where Amazon really excels.
At first glance, they appear to be mailing toy catalogs to the parents (or caretakers) of children. After all, their names are printed on the mailing labels.
But, Amazon isn’t actually targeting parents at all. In fact, targeting adults is the last thing they want to do.
They’re targeting the kids.
Nobody can persuade and influence parents as effectively as their children.
“So stack the cookies high, keep the cocoa toasty, and cozy up together.”
Amazon wants to create an experience that harkens back to the days of the Sears Wish Book (first printed in 1933), when parents and children spent hours together thumbing through catalogs, circling toys, and earmarking pages.
To this day, millions of parents (Gen Xers, and even older millennials like me) recall fond memories of this collective experience.
That’s exactly why Amazon is mailing them catalogs: They’ll WANT to share these catalogs with their kids, just as their parents did for them.
It’s also a brilliant way to help those kids strongly influence future purchasing decisions. And, of course, it’s never a bad idea to serve up some nostalgia to folks with credit cards.
To boost the physical experience, the catalog smartly includes stickers that children can use to mark their favorite toys as well as instructions to turn Amazon’s iconic shipping boxes into creative costumes, such as a Polar Bear with an Amazon smile.
There’s also a mad-libs page and a section for kids to write their own wishlist.
To use everyone’s favortite buzzword, there’s great “synergy” everywhere.
Kids Don’t Care About Prices
My favorite thing about the catalog is that it contains absolutely no pricing.
Everything about the catalog is product-focused and designed to delight its target audience of mini-influencers.
Kids don’t care about prices. So why include prices?
In practical terms, pricing is excluded because Amazon reprices items millions of times per day. This protects Amazon from publishing prices it can’t maintain, and also gets buyers onto the site immediately, where its data-based superpowers can spring into action.
Instead, Amazon leverages SmileCodes. These branded QR codes are a convenient way to “Scan & Shop” by linking directly to the product within the Amazon App.
Users simply open the Amazon app, hit the visual search button, and scan the SmileCode. And since pretty much everybody has the app (145.2 million mobile users accessed the Amazon app in March 2019), it’s quick and easy.
By excluding pricing, Amazon can easily attribute activity back to the catalog, work their marketing and re-targeting magic in perpetuity, trigger the recommendation engine, and better serve their audience.
Just think about it… it’s 2019 and the largest eCommerce retailer in the world is using direct mail to sell their products online.
They’ve taken a non-digital marketing medium and made it the backbone of their unfathomably-large digital push to sell toys online.
It’s brilliant and I love it.
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Amazon.com – Let’s face it… you’re doing your Holiday shopping on Amazon.
Want to see it? I reached out to representatives at Amazon.com for instructions on how to order a printed version of the catalog, but unfortunately, they do not mail out by request. Hopefully, they’ll change this policy in the future, but for now, the algorithm decides who gets one and who doesn’t.
Update! The folks over at TheBlackFriday.com have uploaded scans of Amazon’s 2019 Toy Catalog.