former VP/creative director
TravelSmith catalog, Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic catalog and Macy’s direct mail
The Writer Responds
You brought forth several points that, at the very least, should be taken seriously. So, let’s talk oatmeal. Headlines and callouts are the most read copy in a catalog. Calling out fit, quality and price rather that just saying something is a winner will work, big time, every time. You can repeat the primary selling attributes, and customers will come to associate those attributes with you. And that’s how you build brand.
So on the next page I would come up with a benefit-driven headline, and on the next page the same thing, and so on and so on. I wouldn’t undersell a product because I was afraid to dig deep for the rest of my headlines.
That “ludicrous” wig spread has a product running in the gutter. You kill products by running them in the gutter. If you don’t believe me, test it; I did. If you jump the gutter, have at least three-quarters of the product on one page. None of the primary selling features should be on the break. The right-hand page is stronger than the left. We read left to right, but we shop catalogs right to left.
The primary purchasing decision for a wig for most women is, “Will it look like my own hair?” Many women shopping for wigs are elderly or cancer survivors, although there are women who wear wigs for fun, as well. The benefit of those wigs is the breakthrough technology that makes them look like real hair and stays on even in the wind. It’s not just about the haircut. So to effectively sell by mail, you need to show customers that you have something that’ll be a better choice than what they can get at the mall. You have to work harder in direct mail — pretty just isn’t enough.