Catalog Show Speaker: Great Copy Brands and Sells

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Kevin Kotowski was blunt at the outset of his discussion of "great catalog copy" yesterday during The Annual Catalog Conference at the Moscone Center here.


"[It's] not copy that you can just get easily approved through a merchandising department so you can go home at 5," said Kotowski, president of direct response communications agency Olson, Kotowski & Company, Redondo Beach, CA.


He defined great catalog copy for the standing-room-only "Critique Your Ability to Sell Off the Page" session as "Copy that sells product while at the same time differentiating and positioning the catalog in the reader's mind to set the stage for future sales."


"Great catalog copy these days has to do double duty," he said. "It has to do branding work … and it also … has to sell off the page."


Kotowski rejected the idea that what you say is more important than how you say it.


"Today, how you say something is actually more important than what you say," he said. "We're living in a 'me-too' world. A lot of catalogs are selling the exact same products, or very similar products, to their competitors. The buying public sees very little difference between them."


Kotowski said that there is no such thing as a commodity product, and that great catalog copy addresses emotional, not just physical, needs.


"The way you choose to sell a product can remove it from the commodity list and make it … something special," he said.


He also addressed the first rule of creativity: Look at what everyone else is doing and try to do something completely different to set yourself apart.


Kotowski also offered "hints, tips and tricks" regarding headlines that included:


* Use a customer testimonial in quotes and identify the source.


* Begin your headline with a verb.


* Don't be afraid, "sometimes," to write a single-word or two-word headline.


"Think short," he said. "Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. I write my first sentence to be very, very short -- never more than seven words. Shorter than that is even better. Try to get your writers to write their sentences to be no longer than 12 words. Try to use words with as few syllables as possible. Paragraphs should be no longer than seven lines, and these days, with shortened attention spans, I'd say no more than six lines."


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