7 Ways To A Winning Brochure

What makes the perfect brochure or catalogue?  When I worked at The Mayflower, the season brochure was the single most important marketing tool that helped take us from a loss making theatre to the country’s number one regional receiving venue. These days, the website would probably challenge it but you’ll notice top online retailers like Boden, White Stuff and John Lewis still issue sales catalogues.

A winning formula involves more than making it look pretty, so don’t leave it to a designer.  If the brochure you’re involved with isn’t using the following techniques and quite a few others, then you’re wasting money and losing sales.

1. Let’s begin at the end.  If the brochure has been displayed back to front or thrown casually on a table, its back cover may be the first sight the customer has of a brochure, so a good one will have the venue/retailer’s name clearly displayed at the top. When you put something on the back cover, it’s like shining a Super Trouper on it.  Along with the inside covers and the centre spread, it’s one of the ‘hot spots’ that get noticed.  A well planned brochure won’t waste them with boring information like opening times or terms & conditions because these are the best pages to sell the most valuable products.

2. Flipping the brochure over, the front cover must be shouting ‘PICK ME UP!’ Look at how the covers of successful magazines like Radio Times or Cosmopolitan stand out on the racks- you’ll nearly always see one big image (probably a face (probably an attractive famous face)).  An unusual pose like a leaping dancer can also make an impression.  What they won’t have is a lot of tiny images, because trying to please everybody pleases nobody. The most important reasons for picking it up need to be at the top.  A designer sees the whole cover on a screen but we know that our piece of print may be stuck behind something on a tiered rack, so we need the business’s name and the key products to be featured on the visible area.

4. The brochure cover should use strong colours. If your market is female dominated (and theatre ticket buying usually is), remember that red is a colour that appeals to many women.

5. Let’s turn to the inside pages.  Eye tracking research shows that most people automatically look at a point slightly above the centre and to the right, so if you want them to look at the rest of the spread, you must lead them round it.  A good layout uses a face looking inward or a curving body to move the eye in a circular motion around the whole page and to focus it on the key information.  Painters have been using this and other rules of composition to control eye movement for hundreds of years – check out Botticelli’s The Birth Of Venus.

6. As for the words, the best brochures sell benefits not features.  Since this is a basic rule of marketing, I’m surprised how often it’s broken.  For example, just because the show won Best Musical Award, it doesn’t follow that your customer will enjoy it; there’s a world of difference between Les Miserables and Legally Blond.  Talk to the reader about what they’ll get out of it: “When you leave the theatre dancing down the street, you’ll know why this joyful show won Best Musical Award.”

By the way, if you’re a promoter, don’t rely on the venue to write good copy- supply your own selling words from a snappy one liner to a couple of paragraphs.  Then ask to see a proof- it all concentrates the mind of the marketing manager.

7. Designers may love pink type coming out of a red background but customers won’t be able to read it, which, lest we forget, is the whole point of the brochure. Black type out of a white background is best but that can start to look boring so at the very least use a strong contrast. Never use pale type out of a dark background except in very small doses. Research has proven that it is never ever easy to read. Designers also use small type because to them the words are just another (rather boring) block in the overall look of the page. So they may want to use 8 point type to make more room for images but tell them it must be at least 12 point.  A good designer will make the brochure look lovely but the good marketer keeps the artist’s feet on the ground and insists that important messages are communicated clearly.

One other point, the best brochure will have been checked by independent readers, who will have included older customers if they make up a significant proportion of the audience. Misspellings and misunderstandings are all too easy to miss if you’re close to the project.

There are many more techniques that a brochure specialist can suggest to boost sales but by incorporating the rules above, you’ll ensure that your brochure is a page turner instead of a turn-off.

If you’d like to consult me for FREE on how to improve your catalogue/brochure or would like me to look over your designer’s shoulder (money would have to change hands for that service), call Paul Lewis at Seven Experience on 07946 981733 or email paullewis@sevenexperience.co.uk. Or send a copy of your brochure to Paul Lewis, Seven Experience, Southgate Chambers, 37-39 Southgate Street, Winchester SO23 9EH and I’ll send you back a free critique.

This article was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy Seven Experience, and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.