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Print Still Matters

Print Still Matters

One of my favorite startups in the last few years, Everlane, has finally made it into the catalog space. I started buying Everlane T-shirts earlier on, so many in fact that they’ve sent me gift cards and thank you notes before. I dig their aesthetic and their radical transparency concept isn’t just a gimmick, it’s smart business sense. They eschew the made-in-America-only rhetoric for something deeper, a real conversation about how all their products are made, whether in Los Angeles or in China. I don’t love everything they do (larger sizes would be nice as would a better quality in some of the shirts and the autoplay video on their website makes me growl) but overall I think they are a good brand.Everlane like some of my other favorite startups in recent years including Birchbox, is a very community and consensus driven and part of their magic is that they tell you what they do before they do it. They’ve cultivated a sense of insiderism from the beginning and it works. Despite the relatively low price points on some items, it feels luxurious. So when they created the catalog, they first talked about on their popular newsletter. Is it the most amazing catalog I’ve ever seen? Nope. Their aesthetic runs to the spare, but this is almost too spare and they risk drifting into the bland neutrality of J.Crew/Vince/Eileen Fisher. But the catalog does reinforce the brand message, their unique value proposition, which is radical transparency, showing every step of the creation process (of both the catalog and the clothing). It’s less a catalog for driving purchases and more of a storytelling exercise to push brand recognition and growth. These days everyone can publish (online and off) but there is still something magical about the things you can hold in your hand. I started my career in magazines and remain madly passionately devoted to their future. I read on my iPad, on my phone, on my laptop, but the moments of deepest pleasure are always with my stack of magazines. Twenty years ago, when interviewing for a job at a magazine publisher I likened it to my high school job as a baker, there’s something magical about creating something truly beautiful that is also ephemeral. It is meant to be enjoyed, used, and cast to dust. I remember the first time I saw my name on a masthead on a newsstand. It mattered. And yet it was also fine with me to know that that same magazine would be consigned to the scrapheap each month. Online, offline, print—you need all three for successful brand recognition (says my boss who just happens to have borrowed the concept from a very successful magazine publisher).  Print is the hardest to explain to many of the people I work with. It’s expensive, you can’t track interest or ROI, you just have to believe it has value. People mostly won’t remember on a conscious level that they say your name in print but they do, it registers, and it still matters.

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