Spielwarenmesse: A review on Christmas catalogues: trends on communication strategies

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A review on Christmas catalogues: trends on communication strategies

from Maria Costa

Christmas toy catalogues are evolving, adapting to social and market trends. This article gives an overview of some of the main communication strategies distributors implemented successfully in their catalogues from last season.

Tu lado mágico” app and catalogue from El Corte Inglés
Tu lado mágico” app and catalogue from El Corte Inglés

One of the biggest trends is that catalogues are becoming much more than just a way for companies and distributors to show their products. They are a support for children and adults to actually interact with brands. How? On the one hand toy companies add features such as games (most of the time requiring drawing, stickers, cutting areas, etc.), on the other hand they implement the latest AR technology.

Catalogues get more interactive

Catalogues that had sections with games for children had already existed before, but the level of innovation they are going through now is unprecedented. They are unique in their graphics and the level of play offered. For example, the app ‘Tu lado mágico’ from El Corte Inglés invites children to look for icons in the catalogue. Then the children scan the icon with the app, take a selfie and transform their face into their favorite character.

Another example is practiced by Imaginarium. In their last Christmas catalogue they added sections of DIY projects, a way of showing the potential of toys beyond what you can buy from their product’s offer.

DIY project featured in the Imaginarium catalog.
DIY project featured in the Imaginarium catalog.

Giving information and ideas about how to expand the product possibilities is a great way to appeal to potential buyers and nowadays parents.

Catalogues get more technological

Another way distributors are enhancing the experience of interaction with their catalogues is through new technologies. Augmented Reality is a “reality” already incorporated in a lot of the catalogues last Christmas.

Carrefour has been featuring augmented reality in their catalogues since 2015. With an app, customers can scan products in the catalogue and view an AR graphic of the products. The app also allows the customer to play games, to view AR graphics in-store, to find detailed specifications and promotes online purchasing.

Carrefour Land Augmented Reality app
Carrefour Land Augmented Reality app

In France, Auchan Retail offered an augmented reality Christmas toy catalogue as well. Children were able to use the augmented reality app to make a wish list for Santa and watch Santa and the elves with their selected toys.

Auchan-Weihnachtskatalog in 3D

Seizing the market opportunity due to the closing of Toys‘R’Us, online retail giant Amazon plans to publish and mail a Christmas catalogue. It will be interesting to see what technology they use to enhance the toy buying experience.

Catalogues get more socially advanced

Social issues are also influencing how catalogues are currently approached. With the work of several international organizations, supported by thousands of comments in social media, distributors are carefully designing their catalogues based on the idea that every child can play with a toy. That means avoiding associating toys mainly to one gender, showing children of various races, and different impairments.

This strategy will benefit both society as a whole and the distributors themselves. Top Toy, one of Sweden’s largest toy chains was a pioneer in 2012. Since 2015, Toy Planet, an important Spanish toy distributor, has presented their catalogues as gender-neutral, rising to fame in the news as well as causing a great buzz on several social media sites.

Image featured in Top Toy Catalogue 2012
Image featured in Top Toy Catalogue 2012
Image featured in Top Toy Catalogue 2017
Image featured in Top Toy Catalogue 2017

The reality is that main distributors are making an effort to show their products in a less stereotypical way. These include Target (USA), Vedes (Germany), El Corte Inglés (Spain), Carrefour (France), and many more. However, even if things are changing in this direction, organizations such as “Let toys be toys” in the UK pointed out several highly stereotypical promotional images used in toy catalogues in 2017.

Promoting brand interaction

Screening the Christmas 2017 catalogues by toy distributors shows following trends: The catalogues are becoming more technologically advanced to appeal to the current generation of kids. Catalogues avoid stereotypes and are more inclusive, in order to actually attract parents, and to avoid bad media. The main idea is not to think about catalogues simply as a way to show products, but as an opportunity to interact and connect with customers by offering a more playful experience.


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