Catalog Cover Controversies, Part 1
When it comes to controlling what should be on a catalog's cover, it seems like everyone gets into the act, even the company president's wife. When there's that much input, inevitable differences arise. This series on catalog covers will provide guidelines for handling those differences of opinion. (Stay tuned for part two next month.)
The first step to resolving any controversies surrounding your catalog cover involves coming up with answers for the following three questions that most every prospect receiving your book for the first time will have:
- "Who are you?"
- "What do you sell?"
- "Why should I bother opening the cover and looking inside?"
These are unspoken questions in a prospect's mind when they see your cover. These questions also exist in the minds of your one-time and lapsed customers, who often don't quite remember what your brand is.
If yours isn't a well-known and loved brand (e.g., L.L.Bean, Tiffany, Lands’ End), then your catalog cover needs to answer those unspoken questions. Here are some other cover features that you need to decide if they make sense for your brand:
- Does your catalog's name make completely clear who you are and what you sell?
- Does your catalog cover image make completely clear who you are and what you sell?
- Do both together?
If none of the above, then you should consider adding a tagline. Consider some of these examples:
Important-sounding name, but all by itself it could apply to anything from vitamins to safety equipment. Add the cover's image of delicious-looking cooked fish and the reader assumes, "They sell fish." A correct assumption, but it's incomplete. Now add Vital Choice's tagline, "Wild Seafood & Organics." We see it's not just fish, it's seafood. And not just any seafood, but wild seafood and more. That combined name/image/tagline clearly communicates what Vital Choice is and what it sells, right from the cover.
This company's name and the fact that it shows shoes on its catalog covers clearly communicates the "shoes" part of who it is. FootSmart could have stopped there, but it wanted a more targeted message. Its tagline: "Expert Relief for Feet, Legs, Knees and Back." A glance at its catalog cover and you "get" exactly who FootSmart is and what it sells.
To answer the first two customer/prospect questions — "Who are you?" and "What do you sell?" — a famous brand just needs its logo. For not-so-well-known brands, a clear, descriptive brand name plus a clearly representative product on its cover can do the trick. However, if there's any uncertainly about total clarity, add a distinctive tagline to your cover for best clarity — and ultimately improved response.
Copy is what helps answer customers’ and prospects’ third question — "Why should I bother opening the cover and looking inside?"
Cover tests across a wide range of product categories have shown again and again that cover copy lifts response, sometimes dramatically (10 percent to 50 percent!). But what copy? Not gratuitous copy. You want copy with cover-opening benefits to the reader. What benefits get readers to open the catalog? Here are some examples:
New products: "OVER 180 NEW ITEMS INSIDE!" trumpets Vermont Country Store's spring catalog. Not necessarily an interesting message for prospects, but plenty exciting for customers.
Special offers: Norm Thompson's "SAVE on your FAVES" and "33-70% OFF" will be of big interest to customers. Great too as a way to get prospects inside to test your catalog at a low-risk price.
Where to read more about the cover product: CHEFS uses big, eye-grabbing copy to direct you to its new commercial-grade, six-quart mixer. The free shipping offer adds more excitement.
What's inside: Dover lets techies know that they can access over 450 math and science books, including new and back-in-print. There's also a sale on many books, plus free shipping. Page numbers for where to find the books featured on the cover would have made this an even stronger cover.
Great design alone won't entice enough readers to open your catalog and deliver maximum response and profits. For most brands, more readers will look inside when cover copy spells out one or more specific benefits.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.