Catalog Creative Breakthroughs (1,612 words)
• silhouetted or with no background.
• table top with a horizon.
• highly accessorized, minimal accessories or no accessories.
• with or without models.
• on location or in a studio.
• illustrative art rather than photos.
Regardless of photography style, it is the vehicle that grabs the customer and starts the reading and ordering process. Look at catalogs like Tiffany, Talbots, Crate & Barrel and Wolfermans to see uniformly great photos.
Another aspect of photography is styling. Coldwater Creek especially deserves mention because of its unique, non-model styling that has created a breakthrough in fashion. This almost human-looking styling is brilliant! We are already seeing others emulate their photos.
3. Great Catalog Copy
We have become a nation of "skimming readers." Maybe it's the impact of television, but today's readers concentrate on headlines, captions and call-outs to get the gist of an article. The importance of catalog copy has thereby been elevated to a new level. Headlines, subheads, charts and captions all take on greater importance in assisting the skimming reader through the book to the ordering process. Whether one is telling the romantic narrative like J. Peterman or presenting the credibility of an L.L. Bean, the copy style must reinforce the brand.
Another copy breakthrough in catalogs is the more aggressive use of "sidebar" or editorial information (see "Taking On Content," p. 34) whether to present a recipe as in the Williams-Sonoma catalog or to tell the history of Jeep in its licensed catalog. Including background or editorial information is becoming more common to help the catalog build authority for its products. The concept of a "magalog" (half magazine/half catalog) is being tested by some forward-thinking mailers.
Direct marketers have long known that the use of personalization can dramatically improve response rates. Catalogers have been slow to adapt the available laser and ink-jet technology. They are content with ink-jet addressing the back cover and the order form along with an occasional, additional address panel message. With greater database segmentation and improved laser printing techniques, we will see more targeted, personalized messages being used. Examples: Fingerhut has used large type personalization on covers for 20 years. Guess what? It must work. Viking also uses personalization with most books.