Brochure Ideas for Every Palate
A brochure can be a delectable thing: A chance to showcase your product, tell a stirring visual tale about your organization, add weight to your direct mail package and illustrate that you are everything you claim to be. "If the letter in a direct mail package is your salesperson, the brochure is the 'prove it' part of your sales pitch," assert direct mail gurus Denny Hatch and Don Jackson in their book, "2239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success."
Of course, how you serve up this proof depends on a variety of factors, from the complexity of your sell and the demographic of your audience to the goals of your concept and the size of your budget. But no matter what the constraints, limitations or factors you face, the right mix of fundamentals and creativity can help you create a brochure to match any taste, budget, strategy and message.
The foundation of a good brochure begins with the basics. "A brochure doesn't need to be eight-color, foil-stamped, die-cut, oversized and prefaced with vellum fly sheets to be good," says art and design expert Jenny Sullivan. "It just needs to be visually and verbally authentic."
For award-winning freelance copywriter and consultant Otis Maxwell, creating this verbal authenticity requires careful crafting of your brochure copy.
The message of your brochure should enhance, support and add to your direct mail package, not simply reiterate it, says Maxwell. While you need to be consistent and communicate the same offer, benefits and call-to-action as the rest of your package, an effective brochure will go on to add a layer of objectivity and verisimilitude.
Using devices such as tips and lists will "make people feel that the organization or the person writing to them has some credibility," states Maxwell.
Strong headlines that make a statement and have a point of view also will help to overcome reader objections. "[You need] really good, arresting headlines, states Maxwell. "Not necessarily great body copy, but great headlines. In a lot of cases, just seeing the brochure and seeing there's information there satisfies the reader."
For Sullivan, creating the visual authenticity starts when you choose design elements that support your overall goals and messaging. "In a great brochure, every design decisiontypography, colors, paper stock, imagery, printing, binding, etc.ties back to your strategy."
Costly production tricks that don't speak to your strategy will not boost response. As a matter of fact, agrees Maxwell, they probably will depress it. "Spending too much money on the wrong elements, specifically on heavy stock and die-cuts, makes it look like this company isn't really efficient, and is probably charging too much. It's a carry-over from collateral pieces, and it doesn't look good in a direct mail package."
Instead, take simple elements and create a strong design personality for your brochure, advises Maxwell. "Find a designer who is really good at working with type as a design element," says Maxwell. "And the use of graphic elements like bars and rules will make for a very complete design with good eye flow."
Add a Little Flavor
When Sullivan was choosing pieces to profile in her book "Brochures: Making a Strong Impression," she focused not only on brochures that generated results, but also on pieces that achieved their goals in original, compelling and distinct ways.
One of the most effective approaches that Sullivan saw was the meaningful use of singular production methods. "One carefully chosen paper, ink or production technique used poignantly can be much more powerful than a brochure that is overloaded with every bell and whistle."
In a sea of four-color efforts, Sullivan points out, a one- or two-color brochure really can stand out. To make one- or two-color designs work for you, try:
* Choosing contrasting colors to create bold interplays or complementary colors for a softer look;
* Enhancing your ink(s) with the finish, texture and color of your paper;
* Adding a single spot color to a black-and-white brochure for emphasis and drama;
* Using tints of each colorwith modern software, your tints can range from 5 percent of the original color to 100 percentto create interesting colors and effects that draw attention to headlines, key words and big ideas; and
* Creating images with depth of color by applying halftones and duotones to grayscale images.
When used superfluously, techniques such as UV spot coating, die-cutting and creative binding can be distracting, ineffective and costly, but when used as a meaningful part of your piece, they can have dramatic results.
Sullivan points to a number of examples where mailers used such production techniques to speak to the overall message of the piece, including a recent effort from USA Swimming that used UV spot coating to simulate splash marks throughout the piece and a brochure from clothing company Base London that was hand-stitched using a sewing machine.
A recent brochure from FreeMotion Fitness Inc. exemplifies how production mechanisms can be used to further your message as well. The mainly black-and-white piece features close-up images of different muscle groups, which certainly adds drama. But it then goes a step further, using a colored vellum overlay to show readers how complex muscle groups can be strengthened using FreeMotion equipment. The resulting image clearly illustrates the benefits of usage; in short, it delivers the proof.
Extra Points for Presentation
Developing a format to hold all that arresting copy and innovative design is just as important as what you put inside. After all, people won't ever see that vellum overlay or read those top 10 tips if they don't bother to open the brochure.
One simple format technique that can add intrigue to your piece is creative folds. Not only can creative folds draw readers in, but they also can be used to add focus and control how your story unfolds. Don't feel confined to the usual suspects, such as the accordion, spiral and barrel folds; grab a sheet of paper and play around, looking for unique and inventive ways to get your message across.
And just because you are looking for something different doesn't mean you have to go for special sheets or custom presses. Standard paper sizes, such as 8-1/2" x 11" and 8-1/2" x 14", asserts Maxwell, can be manipulated in a variety of interesting ways to create powerful communication tools that also are also hand-friendly sizes.
"Fold it a little off-center, so that you have part of the inside peeking through," recommends Maxwell. "Then put something on the inside that makes [people] want to open it, such as an incomplete picture or interactive [element], to compel them to handle the piece."
You also can achieve the same impact with inexpensive angle cuts that allow part of your message to show through.
Another way to draw readers in is to use a metaphor that relates to your product, service or campaign. "We all have this cultural awareness of certain types of documents," says Maxwell. "And by making your brochure look like that kind of document, you get some quick acceptance from your reader."
Passports, menus and photo albums are just some of the many concepts you can adopt to add dimension to your brochure. This summer, Veer sent a mailing that included a brochure titled "The Very Big Summer Activity Book for Creatives." Interspersed with "advertisements" for Veer's products and services are games, puzzles and other activities that not only are fun for its readers, but that also position the company as a leader in the fields of photography, illustration and art.
Sullivan notes a number of other interesting format trends in the mail right now, such as the "brochure within a brochure," where a mini-brochure (often printed on a contrasting paper stock) is stitched inside the larger brochure. "It's an expensive and tricky production feat, but conceptually interesting in that it allows for separate but parallel storytelling," states Sullivan. "The big/mini approach also allows sumptuous photographs to live large, unadulterated by copy, which can be annexed to the mini pages."
Sullivan also points to an intriguing brochure mailing from Blue Ridge Carpet: a bound booklet of postcards. Created to promote the carpet company's new line of modular carpet tiles, "it was utterly apropos for the brochure itself to be modular too," says Sullivan. "The piece produced a viral effect in that the architects, designers and facility managers who received the brochure were encouraged to tear out and use the postcards on their own." Blue Ridge also overprinted the postcard tear-outs to be used as self-mailers and ad inserts.
Effective brochures come in all shapes, sizes, colors, concepts and budgets. So no matter what's on your direct mail menu, you can create a brochure that satisfies; the only thing that limits you is your own creativity.