A beautiful front cover shot beckons the recipient of Fancy Flours’ Holiday 2007 catalog to open up and browse. Most bakers would be drawn to these cookies, frosted and decorated in the holiday spirit. It has a Martha Stewart feeling, with the soft photography and the celadon coloration.
Unfortunately, after the photography, it’s all downhill. First of all, where’s the name of the catalog? Oh, there it is, on the bottom of the cover, in small, hard-to-read script type. Logos belong front and center. A cataloger’s name should be the first thing customers see, hopefully peaking out on the top. In the glut of catalogs that so many customers receive, a catalog’s name should be treated like a masthead and should be the biggest element on the page — not an afterthought.
Consistent with the understated front cover logo, Fancy Flours’ back cover doesn’t fare much better. It looks moderate and boring, with four very small silhouette shots. There’s no romance, drama or sense of uniqueness here. Brand isn’t communicated, and only three of the shots sell product.
The company should drop the nonselling product, making the other product shots bigger, and have at least one product that’s more representative of the decorations inside. A feature shot would be nice and can be accomplished if Fancy Flours minimizes the online copy below.
What’s more, the copy supporting the online push on the back cover is very hard to read. Comprehension goes down with the use of center-justified type and wide columns. People just don’t read that far along a line without losing their place. Two columns of left-justified type with bullets is more effective.
Here lies a field of opportunity. It’s terrific to have editorial content that explains the vision and point of view of the company. This is all positioning, which is great, especially for prospects who might need an extra push to feel comfortable to shop and order from Fancy Flours. But the general information here could be consolidated to make more room for information that’s more meaningful to the customers.
Specifically, this spread could use service information, including how to order, delivery information and, most importantly, a guarantee statement. These elements would go a long way to making new readers comfortable that they’re shopping from a responsible cataloger. All of this need not take more than one column on half of the page.
In addition, Fancy Flours should add more merchandise to the inside opening spread. Catalogers need to hook the reader from the get-go. Get them excited and let them know the scope of what’s in the catalog by presenting an assortment of product categories. Doing this also precludes the need for a table of contents. In fact, a table of contents can work against a catalog of less than 100 or so pages. We want readers to peruse the whole book, rather than having them find one thing they’re interested in from a directory on pg. 3 and skipping the rest of the catalog.
Merchandise assortment is the best way to make the opening spread the top-performing spread it’s supposed to be. That won’t happen with a minimal amount of product. There’s virtually another page of product space to be had without the table of contents and by consolidating the editorial.
Wastes Space on Retail Plug
The picture of the store location is also unnecessary. These are catalog or Internet buyers, not necessarily store buyers. So having a retail shot doesn’t add much and occupies valuable real estate. It’s easy to get up to eight products between pgs. 2 and 3. This would go a long way to improving performance.
The spread on pgs. 2 and 3 (above) demonstrates the importance of “at-a-glance” comprehension. You don’t really know what’s being sold here unless you take the time to study the spread. The majority of the space is devoted to color swipes that are supposed to represent sanding and sparkling sugars, but it’s not clear. Two things would really help comprehension and interest:
1. This is a perfect opportunity (as are many other places in this catalog) to devote more space to displaying the end use of the product. Customers really want to see what they can accomplish by using these sanding and sparkling sugars. That’s much more interesting, and it attracts more attention.
2. In this case, the actual colors can be presented more effectively in less space. The photography for the sugars should better represent texture. The shape shouldn’t be a brush stroke. It’s easier to see the color if the shape is a circle or square.
An ongoing waste of space throughout the catalog is most apparent in this spread. The right-hand column used as part of the index, the most valuable space on the spread, only contains a word and a logo. This should be immediately dropped from all subsequent catalogs; if a category header is desired, it belongs in the top right- and left-hand corners of the pages. And it should be horizontal, not vertical!
Using editorial to position the catalog as an authority is a sophisticated strategy, and Fancy Flours has made some good moves in that direction. “Fancy facts,” “Try this,” “Insider info” and “Our personal picks” are all techniques that underscore the company’s expertise as well as help and engage readers.
But much of this editorial is missed because it isn’t linked to photography, illustrations or graphics that add interest and reflect what’s being said. Fancy Flours needs to refine and strengthen how these helpful pieces of information are treated.
The expensive products on pgs. 18 and 19, called Edible Gold and Silver, represent the luxury side of the catalog. Yet the spread hardly feels that way. Although the products are shown in an environment, the photography is dark and full of shadows. Backgrounds are dark, and the products don’t look appetizing.
This layout is also boxy. The feature shots aren’t big enough to feel dramatic. The small shots are too small to show the product adequately. It’s not that there’s a lack of space; it’s the same misuse of space with that vertical right-hand bar just like the other pages. While there’s editorial content on the spread, it needs to be supported visually with photography or artwork so it doesn’t fade into the background.
Glenda Shasho Jones is a New York-based catalog consultant and an authority in catalog branding and performance via creative applications. She’s author of “The Identity Trinity: Brand, Image and Positioning for Catalogs.” You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.