Creative Cut: PFI = Perfect for Insiders
Products For Industry (PFI) is a wholesaler, and the PFI catalog is offered to authorized distributors who can customize the front cover with their company names. This gives the distributors access to 750 manufacturers, in-stock products and a professionally designed catalog to build their individual businesses. It’s a nice way for distributors to have a professional-looking catalog without all the startup costs needed to create and produce a 292-page book like this one.
Immediately communicating who you are and what you sell is a primary role of the front cover. PFI quickly does this with a front cover masthead and visual representations of its product categories. The background color probably isn’t a choice Bob Vila would make for his house, but it’s an excellent contrast to support the product images.
The black logo strongly positioned in the white space of the masthead is easy to read and includes the phone, fax and Web site information. What I thought was the tagline — “Material Handling & Storage Equipment Master Distributor,” found under the name of the catalog — actually isn’t. After purposeful scrutiny, the tagline, or perhaps more of a marketing message, is found above the product images: “Products For Industry — Your One-Stop Source for Quality Industrial Products.” This marketing message is in the smallest typeface. From a page composition standpoint, this line of text on the left-hand side of the page balances the similarly tiny date range/issue information on the right side. But if there’s an opportunity to call out the marketing message more prominently, PFI could use the positioning to its advantage.
One opportunity for improvement is to include page references with the product category names. Customers and prospects could immediately turn to the section, instead of having to go through a two- or three-step process to locate an item.
Best practices on the back cover (see pg. 16) include many of the same elements as the front cover, plus the mailing panel. The Introductory Special for the welding bench is very promotional, and the red typeface exclaiming the prices does garner plenty of attention. It may be more effective to indicate the savings (whether dollars off or percent) and how long the introductory pricing will last. Creating a sense of urgency is an important trigger to purchase.
When choosing an item for the back cover, pick a best seller, or one in a best-selling category. Often, best-selling price points or best-selling categories at a variety of price points attract the greatest number of customers. If the welding bench fits that criteria, then continue to develop the back cover with a single item.
The first two spreads of the catalog have a strong red border and showcase new products. The balance of the catalog is paginated in alphabetical order by merchandise category. This sequencing is familiar for B-to-B catalogers.
The layout throughout the catalog is dense but not visually cluttered. For instance, dense pages typically connote a wide variety of selection and/or prices. The page layouts use white space giving the eye a rest. The black perimeter rule around the merchandise is defining, but not restricting. Product placement takes advantage of the upper right-hand corner, and products lead the eye into the page and its own copy block.
The design template uses a grid format to organize purchase information. This helps answer customer questions and provides relevant information in a systematic way. Similarly, there’s a legend at the top of pg. 96 that reveals the meaning of the caution icons on the drum pumps. Icons visually enable customers to quickly compare product attributes.
The next most important sections are the inside front cover and the inside back cover. PFI’s inside front cover promotes an inventory blowout sale on a storage container at a low price with limited quantities. Since modular storage is generally popular, this is probably a smart merchandising choice.
Sharing the inside front cover spread, pg. 3 is intelligently designed with a well-placed Quick-Reference Index, icon legend and a customer service callout. In the future, include the location of the alpha index (found on pg. 290) as part of the Quick-Reference Index. PFI promotes a call to action of “Call us today,” but there’s no phone number — not on pg. 3 or on any interior page, where all of the shopping is done. Perhaps this is a function of a wholesale catalog offered to distributors. If not, add the phone number and Web site to the footers throughout the catalog.
The catalog uses product insets to present alternative uses of the product or ease of use. Pg. 125 is a good example of the insets explaining how to use a product. Insets are also used to suggest complementary accessories. Pg. 172 sells the accessories on the page. This catalog contains instructional copy, with helpful reference information on several pages.
The design of the PFI catalog does a great job, implementing many best catalog practices and using the pages of the catalog as a selling tool.
Consultant Gina Valentino is the owner of Hemisphere Marketing LLC. You can reach her at (816) 444-5439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.