You CAN Afford Great Catalogue Creative!
As every retailer is fast becoming a Direct Marketer (because customers respond best to a personalised experience) I've found it's worthwhile re-looking at some basic Direct Marketing rules. Doing so can free up funds that will have a compound effect, not just a simple saving going to the bottom line...

I know that most marketers smell a snow job when an agency talks about "investing in creative" but I've often thought that good creative can be the cheapest part of any marketing.
Or at least the best way to drive the total return on investment.

This is particularly so in catalogue marketing.

But as I learned a long time ago, you don't start with creative.
When the vast majority of many catalogue budgets is spent on print and distribution, why wouldn't you want to ensure the customer actually takes action when they receive it?

But as I learned a long time ago in my early days of Direct Marketing (which forms many of the roots of retail catalogue marketing), you don't start with creative.

You start with your list. Or, in the case of letterbox distributed catalogues, your distribution areas. Unless you are going to the right people - customers or potential customers - whatever you send them will be irrelevant.

An efficient distribution strategy will also drive an efficient print program so you stand to make savings in two areas.

The next cab off the rank is the offer. Whether you are looking at a single product or a catalogue of products, it's vital that the merchandising strategy, complete with pricing and any value-added "goodies," is appropriate to your target market.
I recently had a spirited discussion at work with a couple of colleagues who argued that these first two steps were a "given," that they were so basic no-one would ignore them. I maintain both of them can be overlooked in the haste to get something down that can be shown to a client.

(My "Marketing Profs" newsletter arrived yesterday with an article on effective email marketing. I take comfort that points one and two of seven addressed the first of mine above - clean the list and keep it clean. Even email marketers "get it.")

So, NOW you can get down to the creative.

I don't propose to discuss specific creative issues here. There are far too many different variables that it would be impossible to cover them all in one article.

Covers, key spreads, focal points, eye-flow, hero shot treatments, product copy, price lock-ups and editorial integration are the sorts of things we look at on a daily basis. Because catalogue-specific issues like these make a difference.

The right creative gets leveraged across the whole project.
The right creative gets leveraged across the whole project. If you are printing a couple of million 16 page catalogues, that's some leverage!

It's almost like putting a positive spin on the old saying "the tail wagging the dog."

And, you can probably pay for much, if not all, of this improved creative by addressing your print and distribution efficiencies.

That said, printers shouldn't be worried. The more cost-effective we can make catalogues as a medium, the more it'll be used. 

And, with distributed catalogue quantities in Australia up year-on-year (matching that of the US trend), it seems that Australian consumers still love this powerful consumer-marketing tool.

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