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Latest Issue: Nov/Dec 2018

Catalogue credibility

Ten key issues to address to help your catalogue succeed

1. “Who” is your company

This may seem obvious, but many companies don't have anything written down formally, let alone produced by an expert. Larger companies may have a formal corporate identity and creative guidelines, but they are often either out of date, or not appended as a matter of course to every creative brief. A good set of guidelines is a key foundation for giving your company or brand a personality; that vital humanity that enables you to engage with your prospects and customers.

2. Who is your customer and prospect?

As well as knowing who “you” are, you and your creative agency should also have a clear picture of your archetypal customer and perhaps your prospective customer too. These archetypes should be a key component of the background briefing to the designers, the brand copywriter and even the poor souls who are going to write your product copy.

3. Is your brief complete and clear?
There is not enough space to go into this critical piece of paper here. The Institute of Direct Marketing has a short creative brief with 16 sections, and there's no reason, or excuse, for a catalogue brief to be skimpy.

4. Who's in charge?
It is always best if one person is responsible for the entire project. This is usually the person client-side who writes the brief. However, I've known of successful cases where somebody at the agency is the project controller; perhaps because of volume of work at the client company, or perhaps because of lack of relevant client experience or expertise.

5. Does your catalogue “look right”?
If you have performed well in points 1 through 4, and you have a good rapport with a highly creative agency, your resulting catalogue should look good. Aspirational and evocative pictures, good use of white space and imaginative use of typography all help the visual communication-generating a positive reaction.

6. Does your catalogue “sound right”?

Similarly, your catalogue should have the correct tone of voice, so that your customers and prospects have the feelings about your company that you want them to. Engaging and compelling copy that gets across the reasons to purchase clearly and coherently, helps generate the desire to buy from you.

7. How easy is it to find what you want?
Your catalogue might look good and sound good, but is it working hard for you? Is the information structured properly, is there clear navigation? Can the reader find a specific item quickly, as well as simply browsing?

8. How effective a sales tool is it?
Is the product pictured clearly? Is there an “in use” or a lifestyle image or detail images where appropriate? Is the copy benefit-led; does it sell the “sizzle”? How easy is it to make a buying decision? Is there directed choice, upselling and cross-selling? Is there a brand presence, reassurance copy, a guarantee, a reason to buy now-and reasons to buy from you?

9. Are you thinking multichannel?
It's always good to know where each order came from initially, especially if your results from each medium influence your future budgets. There was a time not so long ago when some companies erroneously apportioned a sale solely to the medium used for the order. The world is not so simple.

10. Are you testing?
If not, why not? If so, what are you testing, and why? What do you want to find out? How reliable will your results be? What will you do with the results?
And finally, the one secret of success? I suggest it's the ability to see both the big picture and the details equally well.

James L Clarke is DM consultant and copywriter with TA Design, the creative catalogue agency.