Creative: Do’s and Don’ts for Great Catalog Creative
If your goal is to produce high-quality, response-generating catalog creative -- and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want that as an ideal goal -- here are a few do’s and don’ts.
Don’t get caught up in the “concept of pretty.” Having an aesthetically pleasing catalog is great, but your creative staff’s real mission is to get your company’s message across clearly and quickly, says Sarah Fletcher, creative director of Catalog Design Studios, a Providence, R.I.-based catalog design agency, and an industry speaker. “A clear message trumps pretty in a big way,” says Fletcher. “The objective of the catalog design exercise is not to produce art, but to convey your company’s message to the customer.”
Do understand how design conveys your brand message. Fletcher uses the “chic vs. cheap” scenario to clarify this point. Everyone wants his or her catalogs to look gorgeous. But if your brand promise includes low prices and good value, you’re unlikely to effectively convey that with a chic catalog design, says Fletcher.
“You’ll lose prospects who see the design and immediately think you’re not right for them,” she notes. “Prospects won’t hunt, dig and search your catalog. You have three seconds to hook them. So if you sell on price, you need to get that message across very quickly.”
Do define your brand message, then find a way to convey that in the copy. Fletcher offers an example here: One of her clients, a food cataloger, has a lemon cake that truly is outstanding. “You could write copy that says, ‘This cake is outrageously good,’ and people will yawn and turn the page,” says Fletcher. “In talking with the client, however, we discovered some information about the cake’s buyers that we used in the copy.”
The new copy notes that five presidents and 27 Academy Award winners have ordered this lemon cake. “The cataloger totally ran out of cakes after that copy went into the catalog,” says Fletcher. “They had to run and make more cakes. You have to find those quick, easy-to-read stories that really tell people how great your products are.”
Do remember that copy actually does move merchandise -- no kidding. Fletcher bemoans the catalog creative directors’ penchant for replacing stylishly written copy with bullets. “Copy should read like you’re being talked to by a great salesperson,” she notes.
Also on her eye-roll list: creative directors who put in only a small bit of copy and a price. Such a bare-bones design treatment may look hip, says Fletcher, but it doesn’t sell merchandise. “The idea that no one reads copy anymore is plain wrong, and frankly, I’m sick of hearing that,” she notes. “When people are ready to buy a product, they read the copy. Good copy, then, means the difference between a sale and no sale.”
Don’t get caught up in the little stuff. Decisions such as whether you should use red or blue type on your cover, or typeface sizes, all come under Fletcher’s definition of small stuff. “Leave those decisions to your graphic designers who know best,” she says.
Which leads to her next beef: marketing and other personnel who think they know design better than designers. “A graphic designer would never tell a marketing person, ‘That sales curve is just not good enough,’ but marketing managers tell designers all the time how to design. It’s a little crazy, actually.”
In summary, Fletcher says the synergy between good art and design is huge. “It’s not a one-plus-one-equals-two equation, but rather: one plus one equals five,” she says.
Fletcher can be reached at (401) 490-0530; via her Web site: http://www.catalogdesignstudios.com; or via e-mail at: email@example.com.