Time for a New Design or Just Bored?
PATIENT: “Doc, I'm so bored with my catalog design. I see familiar photos and lookalike layouts daily until I'm sick of them. I thought I'd spice things up by having our creative team do a completely new look. What do you think?”
CATALOG DOCTOR: “Being bored with your catalog design is a really terrible reason for a redesign (although more companies do so than you would imagine). Frankly, your feelings don't count. What counts is your customers’ feelings. To help learn your customers’ feelings, start by asking yourself these questions … ”
- Are overall sales trending up, down or flat on similar circulation?
- Are customers coming back to purchase again?
- Are prospects converting well?
- Is your 12-month buyer count remaining steady? Growing? Shrinking?
If all indicators are good, that means your customers are mostly happy. An old rule but a good rule: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Yes, do freshen the look for each print run to keep customers opening each new catalog they receive in the mail. Yes, do have new front and back covers and intro spreads for each issue. Yes, do try out new ideas on pages here and there. However, do all this in an evolutionary, not revolutionary way.
Happy customers like the “familiar” things about your brand and catalog. Familiarity is comfortable, and helps build confidence. Consumers also like some freshness (e.g., fun and interesting new products and photos) within the context of overall comfortable familiarity. A big shift can turn happy customers nervous.
Here's a true sad story (that ended happy): A successful cataloger had a bright, sunny look that customers loved. The company got tired of its look and changed it to a rich, moody look … and sales tanked so fast that the company had to do a quick design rollback and get an “old style” catalog in the mail fast to keep it afloat.
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.