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Direct commerce | Creative

How to Make Your Catalogue a Keeper

Photo of catalogue pages
A bit of content can go a long way to adding value to your mail piece

Producing a print catalogue isn't cheap. So you want to give recipients a reason to not only look through it but also keep it around. The longer your catalogue is within reach of the consumer, the more likely the consumer is to shop from it—or to visit your website or stores.

 

Content can add to a catalogue's shelf life, just as blogs and guides can increase the stickiness of a website. Generally speaking, catalogue content that isn't dedicated to directly selling your products and services falls into two categories: advice and aspiration.

 

 

At your service

Advice (sometimes called service editorial) complements some types of merchandise more easily than others. If you sell anything related to food and cooking, for instance, the inclusion of recipes transforms your catalogue from "junk mail" to "resource," something merchants as varied as spices specialist Penzys, upscale cookware cataloguer/retailer Williams Sonoma, and housewares purveyor Lakeland well know.

 

 

Lakeland makes sure to include sales copy for a product featured in its recipe on the same page as the recipe itself.

Lakeland makes sure to include sales copy for a product featured in its recipe on the same page as the recipe itself.

 

 

Merchandise that fills needs rather than wants lend themselves to content that advises how best to use and choose products. Because these items are often commodities, complementing your sales copy with actionable advice provides your brand with added credibility, differentiating you from competitors that might sell the same or similar products at the same (or even lower) price.

 

Case in point: A. Perry & Co., which manufactures and sells hardware. Lots of companies sell hardware. Perry stands out in part by sprinkling its print catalogue with text boxes of tips and facts to help ensure that shoppers choose the best products for their needs. (For instance, it solves the mystery of when to use a screw rather than a nail.) These boxes provide another benefit: They help break up the catalogue's rigid grid-based design, disrupting what could have been spread after spread of hinges and bolts and threaded bars.

 

 

Amidst a sea of black-and-white product silhouettes, the content boxes in the Perry catalogue are a welcome design element as well as a source of information that recipients might turn to again and again.

Amidst a sea of black-and-white product silhouettes, the content boxes in the Perry catalogue are a welcome design element as well as a source of information that recipients might turn to again and again.

 

 

The Poultry Solutions catalogue from Premier 1 goes all-out to position itself as a keep-on-the-shelf reference guide. An entire page of the 72-page book is dedicated to an article titled "Common Netting Mistakes"; a half-page to "How to Choose a Waterer" and another half-page to "Getting Hens to Lay in a Nest Box"; other tips are scattered throughout. You might argue that taking so much precious selling space away from actual products will hurt the profitability of the catalogue or that Premier 1 could have reduced its production and postage costs by eliminating the editorial content. But the company clearly considers the content a long-term investment: By using service editorial to extend the shelf life of the catalogue, it can limit itself to producing just one edition each year, rather than quarterly disposable issues, which would likely prove more expensive. And again, the editorial establishes Premier 1's credibility in its sector.

 

 

Much of the editorial in Premier 1's Poultry Solutions catalogue speaks to novices—handy for creating brand loyalty from the get-go.

Much of the editorial in Premier 1's Poultry Solutions catalogue speaks to novices—handy for creating brand loyalty from the get-go.

 

 

Selling the dream

When it comes to more-luxurious goods, such as apparel and home decor, service content leavened with a dash of the aspirational can make a catalogue a keeper. In this case, we're using aspirational to refer to a lifestyle that the consumers wish were theirs but that seems just out of reach—but that your product can put within their grasp.

 

In its spring 2017 catalogue, home furnishings merchant Graham and Green offers tidbits of advice about how best to use colour: "Combine leafy green plants and emerald furniture with botanical prints for a luscious layered look"; "Lift any look with subtle accents of soft yellow, or make a statement with bold and bright yellow furniture." Complementing the text are colour swatches, product photos, and most important, lifestyle photography of room vignettes, any of which would look right at home on a Pinterest board.

 

 

The text of this Graham and Green spread provides advice; the lifestyle photos are unadulterated aspiration.

The text of this Graham and Green spread provides advice; the lifestyle photos are unadulterated aspiration.

 

 

As the popularity of Pinterest indicates, visuals are key elements of aspirational content. Full-page photos showing furniture in situ, apparel ensembles on a model striding across a dazzling landscape, a garden in bloom, or rosy-cheeked children playing with toys can all add to the shelf life of a catalogue, or at the very least, to the shelf life of that particular page pinned onto an inspiration board.

 

This brings us to an important point: Because recipients might save just pages of your catalogue rather than the entire book (painful to think about, I know), be sure to include your company name, URL, and phone number on the footer or header of every page.

 

Not sure exactly what sort of content would best complement your brand? Look at your blog if you have one or the blogs of competitors. What sort of posts are they featuring? Also, check in with your customer service team or sales reps: Do certain types of questions arise repeatedly? Another source of inspiration are magazines and websites read by your customer base; given the preponderance of articles in women's magazines about how to dress to show off one's figure type, it's astounding that I've yet to find an apparel catalogue that includes callouts or tip boxes suggesting certain clothing items for certain body shapes. Maybe yours could be the first?

 

 

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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