Short Take: Does Apple Need Its Own Mail-Order Catalog?

Make easy and fast work of your digital images with the Dell (tm) Dimension (tm) 4400!

from Dell’s Feb. 2002 mail-order catalog

That’s what I get for giving out my home address on those on-line forms.

For the last year or so, I’ve been receiving nearly every technology-related junk mail I can think of -- software, hardware, stereos, tennis (tennis?), Microsoft products for the Windows PC. Yep, those marketers have me pegged. (I’m sure our garbage collectors do to, as they probably get a hernia whenever they have to empty our trashcans full of junk mail.)

This week, however, I made a brief pause as I traveled my well-worn path from the mailbox to the trashcan, for a Dell Computer catalog caught my eye in the middle of my patented Glad (tm) Bag slam dunk. Here’s why it caught my eye:

“Congratulations!” says the cover of the catalog, “You’ve been pre-selected to receive a credit line up to $5000 to buy your dream system.”
I blinked. My dream machine? Really? Cool. Five thousand dollars will just about get me a dual-GHz G4 with a 22” Cinema Display. “See p. G4 for details,” it continued. G4? Could it be? I turned to page G4 and was immediately crestfallen.

It was a good dream while it lasted.

But, I thought, why couldn’t Apple have a mail-order catalog, just like the Dell rag? It would be a great idea. Dig, if you will, the picture: some time in the near future, when Apple has released a slew of “digital hub” devices, has an even longer string of Apple Stores around the world, and has printer and television advertising more incessant than that Intel tone chime (you know what chime I’m talking about ). It would then be a perfect time to showcase the entire line of Apple and Apple-compatible applications, peripherals and accessories.

Imagine a picture of a camera on the front page with the word “digital” below it; next to the camera is a G4 iMac with the word “Hub” written below it. The next page has a listing of the awards that Apple has won, including mention of the Emmys and Grammys accumulated to date. Oh, look, there are a few quotes from the trade press, where they say glowing things about Apple, like, you know, how Apple has a better OS than the “monopoly operating system.”

In addition to the info and specs on iPods, iMacs and iApps, there are also sections on Mac-compatible items like printers, PDAs, laptop bags. And, hell, there’s even a page where Earthlink can shine as the official Apple ISP. Ditto for info on things like iTunes and AppleCare. And why not throw in contact info on certification, technical training, seminars, etc.

But, I can understand the many reasons why this can’t or probably won’t happen:
  • We already have Macwarehouse, MacMall, MacZone and all of the other catalog vendors. Why risk competing directly with then, since Apple already has a strong presence among those catalogue retailers?
  • Apple isnit Dell. Dell is into that direct-marketing thing (and making billions off it). The Apple drum is beating a different tune, I know, I know.
  • Apple has a retail presence through its own stores, as well as other retail outlets, so why spend money unnecessarily?
The proposition is still entertaining, though. Direct marketing -- good, targeted, smart direct marketing -- is reputed to reach a greater percentage of people who will actually buy the product being marketed, as well as giving a higher return on investment than more traditional forms of advertising. At least, that’s what one computer retailer claims.

Who knows? Maybe Apple is already planning some form of cataloguing as another part of its Grand Scheme to reach that other 95 percent. It wouldn’t hurt to try such a venture. You never now until you try. At least that’s what my dictionary tells me every time I look up “Think Different.”


Rodney O. Lain is a shopping fool. He has personally put through college the children of employees at Macwarehouse, and various computer retailers. When he isnit contributing to the secondary education of others, he writes his iBrotha for The Mac Observer, as well as the occasional editorial. Rodney lives in Minnesota, where he is an IT supervisor for The Man at a Fortune 50 company.