Why Catalogs Aren't a Bunch of Ads Stapled Together
How a Catalog Sells
Successful catalogs accomplish the following:
- grab attention;
- create desire;
- play the role of the salesperson; and
- close sales.
There's not a set formula for how to do all that. J. Peterman does it differently from Vermont Country Store, which does it differently from Duluth Trading. They have their differences, but they all accomplish the following:
1. Use the front cover to grab attention and get viewers to open the book. You can grab attention with clever headlines and/or illustrations (like Duluth Trading), amazing adventure photos (like Patagonia), a mouthwatering steak (like Allen Brothers) or just great products. Your cover is your "ad"; inside is your "store."
2. Create desire with a combination of layout, color palette, photography, headlines (for pages, groups and individual products), and pagination rhythm and flow. Throw in some evocative photos or illustrations, or helpful tips, depending on your brand and product line.
3. Play the salesperson with informative product photos and copy that together communicate the product's wonderful features and benefits. Sometimes copy needs to be long, sometimes short. Sometimes one photo per product will do, sometimes you need several. Just imagine yourself as the salesperson talking to an on-the-fence prospect. What would you need to say or show in order to convince that prospect to buy?
4. Close the sale with easy-to-find contact info (URL, 800 number) and order form (yes, they still lift response even if customers don't mail them in).
A catalog that's more or less back-to-back ads (you're seeing more of them lately, aren't you?) can do an admirable job of steps one and two, but it falls flat on steps three and four — and that's where the money is.