Catalog Cover Controversies, Part 2
In part one of this series last month, I examined controversies about having a company tagline as well as whether to have extra copy on your catalog cover. Today I'll look at three other cover issues that get lots of debate. They all revolve around the following question: What type of cover is most likely get the catalog opened and deliver high response?
Sell Directly From the Cover?
Selling directly from the cover means you have the product photo, full product copy, item number and price right on the cover. That is, just like you show products inside the catalog.
This cover style is used often by "value" catalog brands — and it works very well for them. I've seen tests where selling directly from the cover significantly lifts catalog response vs. just a photo of the same product (and vs. other types of covers as well).
However, what if your brand is "upscale," not "value"? Can an upscale catalog successfully sell from the cover? Upscale catalogers tend to reject the concept as too downscale, but it would be a great test. Theoretically, a product could be sold from the front cover with just as much style and elegance as is done inside the catalog. If you have the pluck, give that test a try (and tell me how it did). If your team is conservative, stick to traditional upscale cover styles.
Show Single or Multiple Products On the Cover?
If you mail frequently, it's important to keep each cover looking fresh to motivate customers to open and look inside each catalog. An effective way to differentiate the look is to vary the number of products featured on the cover from book to book.
A great close-up of a single product can be dramatic and eye catching. Multiple products can be eye catching too, and there are several ways to show them:
- A hero product with related products as props (e.g., a mixer propped with a mixing spoon and cake pan).
- A hero product with small inset images of other products.
- If you sell apparel, show a whole outfit rather than single items. Or show several items in one shot on models or mannequins.
- If you sell furniture, show a room setting rather than a single item.
- A grid of different products can be a nice, eye-catching change. A grid can be simple and straightforward or artfully arranged.
The key is to keep the covers fresh. You don't need to tie yourself to a single repeating formula (like "grid" or "one big hero"). Rather, you can create a rotation of looks and number of products featured to make each cover fresh — and your customers opening your catalog and buying.
Don't Show Any Products At All?
How about a an illustration or lifestyle cover? Do you really need to show products at all? Not always. The answer depends on your brand, how recognizable your logo is, and what will resonate with your audience.
An old-line outdoor cataloger tested "scenic" vs. "product" vs. "antique photo" (of old-time outdoorsmen). Results? Surprisingly, perhaps, antique photo produced the best results, followed by product and scenic, respectively. The winning concept was successfully rolled out, executed in various ways for ongoing freshness.
Like the example above, some catalogers have had success with product-free covers. However, almost always product-free covers are used in rotation with more traditional, product-focused covers.
If you have a feeling that an out-of-the-ordinary cover might work for your brand, then by all means test. Covers are one of the cheapest kinds of tests you can do. Can't test? Getting management pushback? You'll always be safe sticking with big products on your covers.
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.