Branding Is Key to Catalog Creativity

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SAN FRANCISCO -- If a catalog's creative is getting stale, or if its house list is shrinking, then it may be time for a brand makeover, Chris Carrington, president of Catalogs By Design, King of Prussia, PA, told attendees here at a session on brand building.

The session kicked off the creative workshop, one of eight full-day workshops yesterday at the 17th Annual Catalog Conference & Exhibition at the Moscone Center.

Carrington said a catalog's cover, logo, tag line, use of color and pacing of pages all affect its brand.

She gave three examples of catalogs that have built a strong brand: The Sharper Image, J.Jill and Restoration Hardware. The Sharper Image has a "can't-miss cover," Carrington said, and products are displayed in a grid-like fashion.

"J.Jill puts it all together ... with real people living a real life," she said. Restoration Hardware uses nostalgic copy and a lot of white space to highlight the products.

Developing a strong brand is a trial-and-error process, according to Dave Pimper, CEO of Wall Street Creations Ltd., a catalog of financial-themed products ranging from cuff links marked "buy" and "sell," to a matted and framed uncut sheet of $2 bills.

"I don't think there's a real a-b-c, 1-2-3 to branding," Pimper said. The catalog targets men who buy for themselves -- unlike most catalogers, which usually target women, Pimper said.

For example, the cataloger tested Under $30 and Under $20 pages in a holiday mailing, but it discovered that the tactic did not fit with its brand. The products sold better when they were peppered throughout the book instead.

If a customer flips over to the back cover of the Wall Street Creations catalog -- and turns the book upside down -- he will find a different brand: Autographs of Distinction, which offers memorabilia signed by the likes of musician Eric Clapton, baseball great Hank Aaron and John F. Kennedy Jr.

Autographs of Distinction is successful, Pimper said, but it provokes some eyebrow-raising. Pimper said the flip-cover still generates phone calls from consumers and friends, saying, "I bet you didn't know this, but part of it [the catalog] is upside down."

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