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Direct commerce | Creative

Before Approving Your Print Catalogue, Read This

image: Printers marks graphic
A nine-step checklist to ensuring your marketing tool is an effective one

A print catalogue is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Each photo, product description, and page layout is important, but how you put them together is what makes the printed piece an effective sales and marketing tool.


To make sure that all the parts as well as the whole are in perfect order, educational organisation Catalog University came up with "The Great Catalog Checklist" of specifics to review before signing off and sending your files to the printer.




Your front and back covers

Do the wording and the position of your cover lines command attention? If you're offering promotions, are they readily apparent and clearly communicated? Do you have a clear call to action? Is your logo prominent? Does the image highlight a popular product and/or make clear what your brand stands for? And make sure the back cover is as effective as the front: Nearly half of all people read catalogues back to front. Another tip: If you're giving a product the hero treatment on the cover, consider including the page number where the shopper can find that item.




Your opening spread

Pages 2 and 3 need to be as hardworking as your covers, whether you're using them for branding (for instance, including a president's letter and information about your guarantee, history, and unique selling proposition), for navigation (offering a table of contents or an index), and/or to sell products. If you do have a table of contents, double-check all the page numbers; if you're including contact details, double-check that they're correct too.




Page flow and pacing

Two pages can be evocative on their own, but when placed side by side in a spread, they could clash or juxtapose awkwardly: You don't want the model on the left-hand page staring out to the left while the model on the right-hand page gazes out toward the right. Similarly, spread after spread of similar layouts can bore the reader before he or she is halfway through the catalogue. You want to page through your catalogue before finalising it to make sure that it flows. You also want to be sure that there are "disruptor" pages or spreads—a "lifestyle" photo showing products in situ after several spreads of multiple products silhouetted in a grid format, for instance, or a page dedicated to giving one item the "hero" treatment, complete with close-ups and in-use photography—to avoid monotony. Perhaps most important, you want to be sure that you're not dedicating too much valuable real estate to products that have low margins or are soft performers and that, conversely, you're allotting enough space to items that are strong sellers.




Headlines and other display copy

Headlines, decks, and other display copy give context to the images and encourage shoppers to read the product descriptions. Whether you opt for a straightforward style or a more creative, even humorous approach depends on your overall branding. Whatever you choose, though, be consistent: If your display copy is as a rule features or benefits oriented ("This automatic whatzit will save you a half-hour every morning" "Our new whatchamacallit is 10% bigger/brighter/heavier/lighter"), don't include one or two punning headlines just because they tickle your fancy. And while you're at it, make sure the display copy works with the photos, doesn't have any hidden meanings or connotations, and of course, is spelled perfectly. Always have at least two people as well as the writer review all copy.




Product copy

Review product descriptions as if you had no previous knowledge of the item; in fact, if you can run it by someone who truly is a stranger to the merchandise, so much the better. Be sure that all the necessary information a shopper needs to complete the purchase is included. If it's clothing, include basic care directions; if it's an industrial cart, include how much weight it can carry. If you simply don't have enough room to address both features and benefits, focus on the most important and direct readers to your website for more information.




Captions and callouts

If you use captions or callouts, review them in the layout, so that you can be sure they're still pointing to the relevant product; directionals can easily change as layouts are tweaked.




Legibility and usability

Copy that looks pretty isn't always legible. While knockout type on a busy background may please your designer's sense of aesthetics, if shoppers can't easily read it, they're not going to buy. For the same reason, don't try to shrink the size and leading of your type in order to squeeze in all of the copywriter's prose. Also make sure that a reader can easily match the product copy block to the relevant product photo; if necessary, key the photos and copy with numerals or letters.




Calls to action

"If you don't ask, you don't get," so the saying goes. Remind the reader that the catalogue isn't a magazine or a sourcebook but a shopping tool, with merchandise just waiting to be bought. Include your company's URL and phone number on every single spread. And if you can introduce a sense of urgency into the call to action ("Order now while supplies last"), so much the better.




Every single number

Make sure the phone numbers listed are working (and the URLs too, while you're at it). Be sure all digits are present, accounted for, and in the correct place for every price; if you're highlighting a price in a button or a callout, be sure it matches the price in the actual product copy block. If you're including SKU numbers in the catalogue, have proofreaders check the numbers back against the original. No, it's not fun, but it can save you sales, margin, and operational headaches.

author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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