Critique Your Catalog
Optimize your catalog creative with this 50-point checklist.
By Lois Boyle
When was the last time your catalog was thoroughly critiqued? Whether using an outside consultant or an internal team, every campaign should be reviewed to build a better-selling tool.
Many catalogers shy away from a critique for fear of negative criticism. In reality, a constructive critique should be a positive experience, not one of placing blame.
Following is a guide that can be used to explore the key components of success when reviewing your catalog creative. Before using this checklist, remember to focus on the following key questions. Does the catalog:
- Support brand differentiation?
- Grab attention?
- Quickly explain product benefits?
- Create an easy shopping environment?
With these in mind, look at your last campaign and see how well your catalog measures up.
1. Does your catalog effectively reflect what differentiates you from your competitors? Is it obvious to your reader?
2. Have you used every graphic or copy opportunity to support your merchandise concept and expertise in your category?
3. Do all of the design elements support your unique positioning in a consistent manner?
4. Is your catalog consistently presented from one campaign to another, creating brand recognition with your customers, but maintaining a fresh look?
Format and Organization
5. Have you optimized the number of pages allowing enough profitable real estate to sell your full product assortment?
6. Is the format (size and number of pages) of your catalog optimized for the most productive print run?
7. Does the format and size of your catalog fit your audience and brand?
8. Is your catalog easy to shop from, allowing your customers to quickly find the products they're interested in? Is your catalog large enough to necessitate an index or an order form?
Covers and Hotspots
9. Does the cover have an easy-to-read logo and tagline that tells who you are and what you offer?
10. Does the cover grab attention, evoking emotion or interest while standing out in the mailbox?
11. Does the presentation differentiate your brand and your merchandise concept?
12. Does the cover invite readers inside with either alluring graphics or an inside page reference?
13. Is the cover appropriate for the audience (i.e., prospects vs. customers)?
14. If there is an offer, is it brand-relevant, clearly presented and quick to read? Have you mentioned your offer enough times?
15. If appropriate, are you presenting one of your products? Based on your brand, should you be selling on the cover or including an inside page reference to the product shown?
16. Does your back cover have an easy-to-read logo and tagline that states who you are and what you offer?
17. Does the creative presentation accurately represent your brand?
18. Are you using this important hotspot to sell products? If so, do these products accurately represent your product, price point and assortments?
19. Have you included your toll-free number, URL and any other pertinent customer service information?
20. Do you include inside page references to get readers inside?
21. Have you taken advantage of the space on your back cover, using only the minimal amount of space necessary to get your catalog mailed?
22. Have you repeated the offer (if there is one)?
Hotspots (inside front spread, inside back spread, pages around the order form, etc.)
23. Have you used your hotspots wisely, placing your best-selling, most intriguing or most profitable products or categories on these high-traffic pages?
24. If you've placed new products here, are they truly special?
25. Have you placed important customer messages in these high traffic pages:
- letter (if appropriate).
- special offers.
- any brand differentiators.
- special service propositions.
- table of contents or index (if appropriate).
- new products or services (if appropriate).
Pacing and Design
26. Is your catalog easy to read? Do your layouts flow, encouraging customers to browse with interest?
27. Have you varied your layouts so all spreads don't look as if they were developed from the same template?
28. Do your layouts take advantage of how the eye travels across the spread?
29. Have you created visually interesting spreads that grab the reader's attention?
30. Does photography vary in size throughout a spread creating visual interest, as opposed to every image being the same size? Do photographs flow into the page as opposed to leading the eye away?
31. Have you placed best-sellers, key price points or interesting visuals on the upper-right-hand placement on each spread (the hot spot)?
32. Is product copy and pricing information easy to find? If necessary, have you used keys to help tie products and copy together?
33. Have you used selling techniques to encourage a multiple unit sale such as bundles, "two-fors" and cross-references?
34. Have you used combinations of compelling price points within a spread or section? Have you adequately explained why a seemingly similar product is more expensive?
35. Are your products photographed and cropped as the hero without including distracting props or backgrounds?
36. Are products clearly presented with important features in focus?
37. When color is integral to the product, is it accurately represented, preventing a high return rate?
38. If photography can't tell the entire story (special features or benefits), have you used other graphic tools to help explain the product? These attention-getters might include:
- a second photograph.
- before and after shots.
- an in-use shot.
- special offer violators.
- copy violators.
39. Does your catalog use color to help define your brand? Have you used color to organize your layouts or draw attention to special messages?
40. Do the photo backgrounds use a consistent color palette appropriate to your brand and the product presented?
41. Are product headlines, item numbers and prices easy to find?
42. Are your copy and headlines presented in fonts, sizes, leading and line lengths that allow for easy reading?
43. Have you limited, or eliminated, your use of hard-to-read type (e.g. reverse type, all caps, italics and copy that's centered, justified right or placed over a photograph)?
44. Does the overall copy support your brand differentiation with authority, inspiring the reader to purchase?
45. Does all editorial content focus on brand differentiation that's relevant to the consumer, not your company?
46. Have you used appropriate spread headlines that pull the reader into the catalog while explaining the spread concept?
47. Have you used product headlines that clearly state the primary benefits of the item?
48. Does body copy quickly support product benefits by offering enough feature information for the reader to make an educated purchase?
49. How accurate is your technical information? Does it provide correct item numbers, options, sizes and dimensions, pricing or other information needed to fulfill the order?
50. Does every spread include easy-to-find, service information such as toll-free numbers, Web address and page numbers?
How well did your catalog stack up? Is it possible that your catalog creative is depressing sales?
Remember: Your catalog is a powerful direct marketing vehicle, and for some, it may be the only intrusive tool you have to present your merchandise! Don't squander your pages away with a less-than-perfect presentation.
Lois Boyle is partner and chief creative officer of J. Schmid & Assoc., Shawnee Mission, KS. You can reach her by e-mail at email@example.com.