Gone to the Dogs

In honor of the holidays, and as a break from all the M&A news (R.R. Donnelley buying Banta, infoUSA buying Rubin Response, Golden Gate buying everyone else), I thought I’d devote this half-page to pictures of inspiring seasonal catalog covers. But I couldn’t find any covers that amused me or moved me or, most important, made me want to buy. Nothing really jumped out at me.

Well, one thing did: the abundance of blond purebred dogs in the catalogs.

L.L. Bean, of course, is known for its photos of cuddly golden retriever pups nestling on its dog beds. But the cover of Plow & Hearth also shows a golden retriever pup sleeping on a dog bed. Hammacher Schlemmer varies slightly by using a yellow Labrador retriever as a model on its dog beds. And two toy catalogs — eToys and Museum Tour — feature blond retriever puppies on their front covers.

In a sense it’s fitting that so many catalogs are using look-alike canine models. Because as I leaf through the scores of holiday catalogs my poor postal carrier has been carting to my home, I find that so many of them look alike and sell look-alike products. I’ve been hoping to complete my holiday shopping without setting foot into a store, but with Hanukkah less than a month away I’ve yet to even start; the offerings simply haven’t motivated me.

We’ve written in the past about the importance of distinctive merchandise and about the challenges in finding said merchandise. Sadly I don’t have any suggestions — at least not on the product front.

But I do have a modest proposal in terms of creative.

Instead of using those flawless but oh-so-bland golden retrievers and Labs as props in your photos, why not stand out by going with a more unusual-looking dog, one that readers will remember? Maybe a mostly black cocker-poodle mix with white Wilford Brimley-style eyebrows?

I happen to know of one such dog — okay, he’s mine. But not only would Augie help your catalog stand out from the pack, he also loves shopping, as you can see in the photo above. Okay, you don’t have to hire Augie specifically as your canine model (though his day rate is highly negotiable!). But if you did, or if you at least used a dog that looked more like him, I know of at least one household that would be spurred to shop from your catalog.

P.S. — On behalf of all of us here at Multichannel Merchant (including Augie), best wishes for a happy, safe, and fruitful holiday season and a wonderful New Year. See you in 2007!

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