Five Tactics for Developing Creative That Works
The primary function of your catalog is, of course, to sell merchandise. This goal supersedes any individual opinions about aesthetics. Successful creative strategies don’t necessitate a subjective discussion. What works is what sells.
While there isn’t one secret formula for success, here are five tactics that can help guide your creative decisions.
1. Foster a dependent relationship among your creative, marketing and merchandising teams. Give your creative team the tools it needs to develop a catalog that sells merchandise. Such tools include information gleaned from a square inch analysis and marketing promotions, as well as any merchandising changes such as new items, unique product features or bundling offers (e.g., sample packs, two-for-one deals) that require more page space to communicate the information.
For example, if your creative team knows that many products can sell in variety packs, it can design an attention-getting icon that quickly tells customers about the offer. The icon should align with the brand, fit several product uses and stay consistent throughout the catalog. One cataloger designed an icon to convey fire-retardant materials. The icon was a symbol communicating an important product feature as well as a safety benefit.
When your creative team understands your catalog’s overall purpose, team members can design pages to create a catalog that sells.
2. Develop a family of icons that visually communicates a product feature or benefit. Whether the icon is a yellow burst with the word “new” in it, or a screwdriver and hammer symbol to indicate that assembly is required, consistently use these icons throughout your catalog and Web site. Always provide a legend to indicate what each icon represents.
Takeaway tip: For your icons to maintain effective selling power, minimize the number of different icons included per page spread. If an entire page contains new products, don’t use the “new” icon with every single item. You’ll dilute the prominence of that icon.
When your creative team develops multiple icons, it should ensure each is different yet aligned with the brand. You don’t want to use one yellow burst and only change the word on the inside to say “sale” or “new” because the graphic element is what the customer immediately notices. The yellow burst, in this example, always must represent a single purpose, as should each icon.
3. Don’t let creative treatments overpower the product. The product always must be the hero. Too often, fancy fonts, patterned backgrounds, multiple uses of colorful typefaces and ornate page borders dominate the catalog design. But your creative team continually must ask, “What does this do to help sell products?”
The use of borders can be effective, if strategically used. For example, a thick red border identifying sale pages in conjunction with a layout change (using a simple grid pattern to show many sale items) quickly tells the customer there’s something different about these pages. Limit typefaces to three or four.
Takeaway tip: Steer clear of script font for body copy because it’s difficult to read. Remember, the goal is to sell merchandise, and every element on the page has a job to do. Don’t hinder it with design issues.
4. Your front cover has important roles to play: gain customers’ attention, and compel them to open the catalog and buy. Your catalog’s cover must have strong visual impact, and it must quickly communicate who you are and what you sell. The following elements are critical on the front cover: your company name (logo), tag line, a strong “stop ‘em in their tracks” graphic and a product with an inside page reference.
Takeaway tip: If you’re promoting an offer, strongly advertise it on the front cover; don’t subtly camouflage it in the background. An offer can’t work if the customer doesn’t see it.
The back cover has a similar job to the front cover, plus the inclusion of a mailing panel. Use your back cover to sell several different price points in best-selling merchandise categories. By doing so, your catalog will appeal to a broad audience.
How long has it been since you’ve tested the creative on your covers? Have you reviewed the analysis from previous catalogs to help guide creative decisions? Creative that works can be determined only by understanding such data.
5. Ask other departments for relevant customer information that can help modify the elements of page design. Here’s an example: Ask your marketing team to identify what products, product categories and price points gain the greatest response from first-time buyers. Your creative team can use this information to design specific pages that appeal to such buyers. These data also are useful when designing covers to accommodate different versions, whether for first-time buyers, best customers, catalog inquiries or multichannel buyers.
Ask your merchandising team to note any irregularities or advantages with the products and positively incorporate the information. For example, if steel-toe shoes are running small or narrow, note that in the copy. If the products are packaged in resealable stackable containers, an inset photo demonstrating that is an excellent visual communication. Since the creative team typically doesn’t generate reports or compile data, they must rely on other departments to share the information.
Preparation is Key
Creative that works is achieved when relevant data are provided prior to layout and design. When the creative team is involved at the beginning of the process, consideration for the offers, audience and merchandise assortment can be incorporated into the design. Too often, for example, a creative team is told about front cover versions and offers at the end of page production. When this happens, you’re unable to take advantage of the team’s skill set. Instead the objective becomes: “Just find a spot and include it.”
One of our catalog clients discovered that when the creative team was included during the merchandise review and given the square inch analysis, the idea to sell “themed” kits was born. A themed kit was the identification of the best-selling design across all product categories (i.e., anything with the U.S. flag) and creating a variety pack of such products. They also wanted to devote page space to selling the themed kit and to showcase the entire grouping. In this way, the creative team could visualize the idea, because it was able to use the data and review the products prior to page layout. The themed kits were very successful for this cataloger and surpassed the forecast.
Challenge your own creative team to ensure each and every element works to secure the sale. Using the above-noted tips in your next catalog helps direct your creatives to sell off the page.
Gina Valentino is vice president/general manager at J. Schmid & Assoc., a catalog consulting firm based in Shawnee Mission, KS. Contact her at (913) 236-8988 or firstname.lastname@example.org.