Shop Talk: The Value of Design Elements in Print Catalogs
Q: "Our catalogs tend to be crammed with photos and descriptions. How do I demonstrate to upper management the value of design elements, white space and larger photos per spread?" — Angela Sanchez, creative director, NLC Products
A: Most C-level execs are primarily interested in increasing sales and decreasing costs. Therefore, whatever you present to them needs to speak to one or both of those interests. Try this two-step approach:
1. Mock up a couple of catalog spreads done the way you think they should look. Point out the advantages of your new look. For example: "Enlarging this best-seller's product image grabs attention, making viewers more likely to stop and look at the rest of products on the spread" or "See how this revised layout helps the eye to flow through the spread, seeing all the products, whereas in this old layout, product X and Y are getting visually lost."
2. Ask to test your revised layout to see if it beats the old layout. You'll need to contact your printer to find out the costs for a plate change and selective binding, and your data processing vendor to determine the cost to split code the lists for testing as well as to ensure that the entire print run will mail in a single ZIP string (not one for each test) to manage postage costs. Then talk to whoever handles sales reports to ensure it's possible to track the test throughout your whole system. Finally, estimate the potential lost sales from the products that have been removed from those pages, and forecast the increased sales your new layout might deliver. Now present your best-case and worst-case sales/cost scenarios. At the very least, management will be impressed that you've done your homework.
When Cramming it All in Works Best
All that said, there's nothing wrong with high product density in the right situation. Your catalog appears to be selling into the "value" segment of your market. A highly product-dense layout visually communicates "great value." That's the right message for certain audiences.
If the density in the current layout is so high that it creates functional problems (e.g., copy is hard to read, viewers can't tell what the product looks like), than it's likely that a change to fix those problems will lift sales. If the current layout is delivering sufficient sales and profits but simply lacks aesthetic appeal, than sticking with high density could be your best choice. Good luck.
Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or email@example.com.