It turns out you can judge a book by its cover—if it’s a catalog. Even small books must make big first impressions.
“You need to get [customers] to open your book, and you’ve got about three seconds to do it,” says John Rossiter, a senior sales representative from printing company R.R. Donnelley and Sons.
And while design and copy undoubtedly play larger roles in grabbing customers’ and prospects’ attention, without the right paper stock a catalog cover may go unnoticed or misrepresent your brand. Following is a rundown of what to examine when selecting a cover stock.
Brand and Basis Weight
Many consultants and production experts believe a cover stock’s impact mostly comes from its correlation with the catalog’s brand.
“The main question is: Is there something about the cover stock that’s helping support what I’m presenting?” says Susan McIntyre, president and chief creative officer of catalog consulting company McIntyre Direct.
At first glance, this implies that catalogers selling higher-end merchandise should pick a stock with a heavier basis weight. And conversely, catalogs boasting low-cost or sale merchandise should use a stock with a lower basis weight to reinforce the message of affordability.
However, your merchandise mix may add another dimension to your stock selection. As McIntyre notes, food and apparel catalogers need a heavier stock that reproduces photos well—for example, a stock with a basis weight of 60 or 70 lbs. Meanwhile, a cataloger selling nature-themed items could underscore that concept by using groundwood stock, which gives an earthier look, or an uncoated sheet, which allows ink to spread out a bit.
Regardless of merchandise type, experts advise all new catalogers to begin with the highest-quality stock they can afford, and then taper off gradually as their brands become more established.
“It’s easier to come down [in basis weight] than go back up,” affirms Janie Downey, president of catalog consulting company PublishExperts.