Live From ACCM: Cleaning Up Your Catalog Creative

New Orleans – Most catalogs realize an average 2% response rate. How can your catalog design help grab the other 98%? You can use design and photography to boost your catalog’s performance, according to Lois Boyle-Brayfield, president of consultancy J. Schmid & Associates.

Boyle-Brayfield said in Monday’s intensive session, “Project Runway: Creating a Red Carpet Catalog,” that three criteria comprise the engine that is a catalog: Grab attention; sell the story, and make it easy! Covers, both front and back, are the “foremost opportunities” to increase results by using drama and consistency. “It’s your first line of defense,” she said. “Will they open your catalog or not?”

Creating engaging covers needs to include something to grab attention, quickly tell who you are, present any offers, get the reader inside, and sell! Back covers should not be forgotten, Boyle-Brayfield said, because they must accomplish “everything that a front cover does. I love headlines on back covers.”

Always sell on the back cover, and always repeat the company logo and tagline, Boyle-Brayfield explained. Show a range of categories and price points, consider a headline that either sells or differentiates the brand, list order options and include a mailing block. “Remember, this is a visual medium first,” she noted.

Other “hotspots” in a catalog include front inside spreads, back inside spreads, pages around the order form, and pages around inserts or bind-ins. Eye flow, Boyle-Brayfield noted, begins on the upper right hand of a catalog page and moves left and then down and right across the bottom of the page. Thinking strategically is essential, she said. “Put on your customer goggles. Always find the hook.”

Taking advantage of “hotspots” is important in terms of editorial support of the brand, best selling products, special customer messages. Pacing the reader – 30% begin from the back of the catalog and 70% spend time on the “hotter” pages – becomes an ongoing goal.

Boyle-Brayfield offered some suggestions to help pace readers: Vary your design templates; create visually interesting spreads that pull the eye in with unique layouts or design treatments; vary the size of photography; provide editorial support of the brand; and take advantage of eye flow research.

Spreads that tell a collective story or present a theme will, typically, outpull all other spreads. Themes should support your brand and should emerge out of your merchandise concept and analysis.

When the eye is overwhelmed, Boyle-Brayfield noted, “it literally quivers with fatigue. Organization is everything.” All components should support the brand, present product as the hero, accurately present all features and options, and create an easy decision path. “If a customer is engaged, compelling copy and design hygiene play a big role in closing the sale.”

Ordering should never be difficult, Boyle-Brayfield added. Try to oversimplify complicated purchase options and exploit all offers. “Don’t get too cute,” she said. “Assume the customer doesn’t get your joke.”

There are three rules to follow to give a catalog that “clean” look, she said. “Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Keep it consistent.”

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