Alternative Catalog Formats to Test (1,467 words)
by Jack Schmid
What do all the following situations have in common?
• You're launching a new catalog.
• You're spinning off a catalog from an existing product line.
• Your catalog design is flat, tired and you're re-thinking the look of the entire book.
• You're considering adding an extra mailing to the season and want it to really stand out.
Every one of these examples must deal with a common question: What's the size and shape (or format) of the new book going to be? Catalog format is often taken for granted. It is typically established by a previous creative team or art director. It's the control or standard for the company. When we really think about alternative catalog formats, there aren't all that many times when we have the opportunity to re-visit or even challenge the fact that one format might be better than another.
Does format make a difference?
I believe it does. We know from our basic direct marketing training that there are a number of key factors that impact response rates and average order values (AOV) and ultimately, that all-important revenue or sales per piece mailed. The pros will argue about what's most important, but the following variables certainly are high on the list:
• List (segment being mailed)
• Creative presentation (design, layout, photography, typography and use of color and white space)
If format is indeed a key response factor, then we need to give it more than a cursory review.
Key word to catalogers: "Differentiation"
Setting your catalog apart from the competition is the goal of every catalog manager, designer or creative team. Size of the book, shape, number of pages, type of cover, binding and printing and density of the layouts all are part of the overall ambiance or "persona" that makes up a catalog's ultimate format.