Brochures and relevant ideas

There are a number of basic principles that can help make our brochures memorable, reflect our strategy, get attention, get read and get results. They’re related to basic advertising and marking principles. But they are different. Following are nine brochure basics. In references to ‘products’ the principles also apply to services.

1. most readers are not interested in our brochures
It sounds harsh, but our brochures often belong to an unwelcome flood of information. That’s why brochures have to cut through the communications clutter with clear, memorable copy that gives our prospects instant orientation. We want our prospects instant orientation. We want our prospects to know what we are selling and how it can benefit them – in one quick glance. The closer the benefits in our brochure are to our prospects’ critical success factors – the factors that determine success in a market- the more interest we will generate. This presents a challenge if we are marketing a commodity product or a product that is not ties closely to our customers’ critical success factors. In that case, look at customer service from our prospects’ view. Can outstanding customer service be related to their critical success factors? If it can, customer service becomes as important – or even more important – than product benefits.

Second, look at what we know about our customers, or what kind of data we could generate on the company computer system. We may actually know more than they do about their ordering patterns. Not only that we probably have information about ordering patterns thought their industry- information they wouldn’t necessarily have. Can any of that information be related to our customer’s critical success factors? If we can use our information technology to predict when they will need more of a given item, and ship it just before they run out, they can cut inventory. That could be a critical success factor that tips the scale in our favor. If we use our information technology to provide market or industry intelligence to our customers, highlight that in our brochures. Not every company can do that, but again, the closer we get to our customers’ critical success factors, the better.

2. there are three types brochures
The casual reader spends a few seconds reading the headline on the front cover. The interested reader opens our brochure and reads all the headlines – but nothing more. The serious reader reads everything. Our aim is to convert the casual readers to an interested reader, and the interested reader to a serious reader. This is the single most important influence on brochure structure and design.

3. brochures are not like ads
An ad tells our story on one flat surface; the reader can see the entire ad at once. With a brochure, the reader starts with just the front or back cover. The front cover’s main goal is to get our prospect to open that brochure and read it. Everything on our front cover should contribute to that goal. Our headline must get attention and generate interest. If we use a photo or illustration, it should actively support our headline.

4. we can and should use creative work from our advertising campaigns in our brochures
Numerous brochures carry ambiguous and dull photos or illustrations – or worse yet, the artwork has nothing to do with the product. When we feel we can’t generate interest in our product, there’s a natural tendency to link it to something more exciting. That’s called borrowed interest. An example of borrowed interest in the greeting card with ‘sex’ in huge letter on the cover. When we open the card it says, ‘now that I’ve got your attention, happy birthday!’ the problem with borrowed interest is that our prospects start to read our brochure for the wrong reasons. Sure we can get their attention, but once we’ve done the old bait and switch routine, can we hold them? A simple description of facts words for complex products in an emerging industry. But as an industry matures, and its products approach commodity status, the straightforward informational approach often begins to falter. We need an unusual, dynamical compelling and visual way to state our product’s benefits. Of course, any brochure is basically informational. But our prospects may not be open to our information when our competitors practically echo our claims.

Our brochures’ headline and picture should work as a team to illustrate the product’s main benefit. We can often use creative work from a strong conceptual advertising campaign on our brochure covers. When considering adapting a conceptual ad for brochure use, ask ourselves if the ad’s illustration and headline will stand alone. If they will, they’re likely material for a brochure cover. Ask ourselves if a brief sub headline will clarify the head and the photo. Does the text need to be expanded?

5. the graphic structure inside a brochure is critical
If the inside of our brochure is dull appears hard to read, we will lose a large part of our audience. When a prospect opens our brochure, there should be a clear pathway for the eye, from the most important to the least important elements. We’ll probably want to have one large main headline and several smaller ones. Keep those interested readers, the ones who only read the headlines, in mind. Even if our headlines can’t convert interested readers to serious readers, they still should give them enough information to create a lasting impression. Because interested readers are inclined to read picture captions, use them. We can also use ‘call out’ boxes, with excerpts from the text run in large type. Call out boxes work very well in brochures. They give us a second crack at those interested readers; if the headlines don’t interest them, perhaps the call out boxes will. Aside from graphic structure, there are a number of simple typographical techniques that will make brochures easy to read. Some of these techniques are based solely on reader perception. For instance, people believe that plain lowercase type is far more legible and pleasing than boldface lower case type. In fact, however, they are read at the same rate. But the use of plain lowercase type will make a brochure appear to require less reading time.

Avoiding all capitalized words, on the other hand, goes way beyond reader perception. Participants in one study ranked lowercase ahead of all caps in legibility and pleasingness. And they were right. Lowercase text is read 13.4% faster than text set in all caps. When we read a line of lowercase words, the tops of the letters t,l,f,b and d and the bottoms of y,p,g,j and q give each word a distinct shape. Because these distinct shapes make words easier and faster to read, using lowercase is critical on brochure covers- we have just a few seconds to grab readers – or lose them.

Column width is also a major influence on legibility. Very wide columns are hard to read because the beginning of each line drops out of sight as a reader gets to the end. Our prospect has to make an effort to find the beginning of the correct line as the eye sweeps back from the line’s end. Very narrow columns also slow down readers, because the eye has to scan too rapidly, and rapid left to right eye movements are inefficient and uncomfortable. Research has found that for 10 point type, an 80 millimeter line or 18.6 picas is optimal.

Brochures should be designed with as few variations in type as possible. A set of carefully conceived graphic standards will help us build maximum legibility into all our brochures. Graphics standards also give our brochures a uniform look- which helps build recognition.

6. Brochure copy should have a ‘personal’ touch
Simply adding personal pronouns- he, she, my, our, you. Our brochure copy makes it much more readable, and adds ‘high touch’ to high tech. brochures have to go a step further, however. The tone should be warm, involved, friendly, gracious, witty and – at times – humorous.

7. a brochure needs a close
The action we want prospects to take when they finish reading our brochure seems obvious to us. But it isn’t always to them. We need to direct our prospect just like a good salesperson does. We must ask for the order and then close. Our close should come on the back cover, which has a dual purpose. While the back cover’s main function is closure, a smaller version of the front cover’s headline will catch readers who scan the back first. The headline also serves as a summary, which helps lead toward closure. Be specific about what we want our prospects to do. Tell them how to find their local dealer; ask them to call for more information; and be sure our company’s address and phone number are large, bold and easy to find.

8. a brochure has a life span
Better answer the following questions and they’ll help us predict the approximate useful life span of our brochures. That in turn will help us plan the most economical print run:

– What is our product’s life cycle? How son will a new stage in the life cycle call for a revision in our brochure?
– How rapidly is the marketplace changing? Are new, improved products likely? Will there be new competitors? Will our customers’ critical success factors change? How soon?
– Are prices stable enough to include them in our brochure, or is it better to run them on an insert?

9. an alternative to a brochure can be useful
When a buying decision is complex, or when our brochures’ life cycle is short. We do not expect brochures to be objective; we do expect them to contain a sales pitch. When prospects face complex buying decisions, they want unbiased information. A cleanly formatted, typewritten report – an ‘unbrochure’ – can give the appearance of objectivity.
The approach here is to use the unbrochure as a supplement. The unbrochure gives the detailed information- the brochure closes the sale.

But even though the unbrochure is informational and looks objective, we should weave in a low key sales pitch. An unbrochure is especially useful for direct mail packages. It can have a strong sales pitch, but as long as it looks like detailed, useful information, it’s more likely than a brochure to get past the prospect’s secretary.
If our brochure’s life cycle is very short, and we want to make continual changes, a presentation folder is a better alternative. In many ways, a presentation folder – a folder with pockets – is like a brochure, and it needs similar strategic planning.

We still have to convince our prospect to open that cover, so a presentation folder needs a benefit oriented headline, just as a brochure does. Once the folder’s cover is open, we still need to cater to casual and interested readers. The sheets on top of each side require careful planning. Bold headlines and sub headlines that tell our story quickly help convert casually interested browsers to serious readers.


Brochures and relevant ideas

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