How Copy Can Increase Catalog Scannability
PATIENT: "My boss said, ‘make the catalog more scannable.’ But I'm the copywriter, so I get a pass, right? That's the designer's job, right?"
CATALOG DOCTOR: "Wrong. As a copywriter, you have copy tools at your disposal to increase copy scannability. More scannable copy means more folks read … and buy. Try these tips …"
Visualize your reader flipping pages of the catalog, their eyes roaming quickly, unconsciously over each page (at flipping speed). They won't stop until something (your copy) grabs their attention.
Each product block offers you three basic elements to work with. Each can grab attention from the customer's scanning eye … or be overlooked:
- product headline;
- product subhead; and
- first line of product body copy.
Let's look at product headlines first.
1. Improving product headline scannability: Many style guides dictate "Name of Product" for the headline, which is about the most boring approach possible. If your style guide also dictates "no subhead," what can you do to help grab the attention of a quickly scanning reader?
You can pack interest into the product name. Consider the following example:
- Camp Stool: Not too interesting
- Folding Camp Stool: Better. "Folding" adds a benefit.
- Folding Steel & Canvas Camp Stool: Better yet. Conveys that the stool is handy and strong.
The third headline clearly names the product, adhering to the style guide and thus pleasing management. Plus it instantly evokes a strong (steel, not cheap pot metal), comfortable (you sit on canvas, not metal), compact (it folds) camp stool for the reader in one quick scan.
Suddenly one quick scan makes your reader interested enough to stop and read more — which is your goal.
Add more benefits to product-name headlines. If your style guide allows for longer headlines, you can pack major benefits right into the headline. Vermont Country Store is a master at this type of headline. Here are a couple of its recent examples:
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.