RE: The creative feature “10 Steps to a Successful Redesign,” (May 2008 issue, pg. 42). I am alarmed that Sarah Fletcher wrote such a distressing column for Catalog Success magazine. Maybe your article should have the caveat that it comes as your opinion or viewpoint, but it certainly does not represent good design principles.
There is logic to some of what you say, but in your examples, you take spreads with individual personality and brand integrity and turn them into oatmeal.
I looked at the headline that you suggest for your swimwear spread and have to laugh. Do you truthfully call that a headline? The “fit, quality … and price”? And what would you put on the NEXT page? And the page after that? What you wrote and constructed were single page advertisements — with a headline that any retailer in the U.S. could have used (and they do). A catalog is a conversation — and a voluntary one that the reader has elected to join — one with a consistent and brand-appropriate tone of voice (so far from “fit, quality and low price,” oh please!).
The example of the wig spread is even more ludicrous. Just do the blur test and blur your vision. The “before” example has visual impact, a visual feature which prioritizes merchandise. Your “after” layout reduces the style choices — which, after all, will be the primary purchase consideration — to secondary to feature/benefit convertible ride (suitable for an inset or highlight box). The pages you have designed look like two independent pages, not a spread.
The staff at Catalog Success magazine should be held to task, as well. By publishing such “opinion” pieces, you institutionalize poor design practices, steer young designers in the wrong direction, show a lack of understanding of brand and brand integrity, and look rather foolish in the process.
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.
Remember the three rules of advertising: 1. Benefit, 2. Benefit, 3. Benefit. And as long as my wig stays on straight, I’m OK with looking foolish.
Catalog Design Studios
Omaha Steaks’ Ron Eike Joins Editorial Board
With this issue, Ron Eike, director of operations for Omaha Steaks, joins the Catalog Success editorial board. Since enlisting with the catalog/multichannel marketer of premium beef and gourmet frozen foods in 1986, Ron’s areas of responsibility have included fulfillment, logistics, customer service, order processing, mail processing, copy center, administrative services and store inventory.
“I tapped Ron to join our board to bring his many years of experience in catalog/multichannel fulfillment matters on board,” says Editor-in-Chief Paul Miller. “We’ll turn to Ron and his hands-on experience in back-end matters to help beef up our fulfillment coverage.”