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Catalogers' Brand Identity Must Be 'in It for Long Haul'

BOSTON — Catalogers should guard against sending mixed messages across their brands, a catalog executive warned yesterday.

Speaking at a session of the Direct Marketing Association's catalog conference, Rhonda Cohen, chief creative officer and executive vice president at AGA Catalog Marketing & Design, New York, said catalogers should create and maintain a consistent brand that maximizes their interactions with customers. The brand should be able to be adapted from its Web site to its print book to its retail store to establish that cataloger's identity, she added.

A cataloger's brand identity must be relevant and consistent, she said.

“A great brand is in it for the long haul,” Cohen said. Brand identity “can be anything,” but it must appeal to customers' emotions and help a cataloger establish relationships with its customers, she added.

When creating that identity, catalogers should keep in mind that consumers who shop from catalogs — 42 percent of whom are also online — do so for convenience, quality, unique merchandise, good service and competitive prices.

The seven elements that make up a company's brand identity, according to Cohen, are logo, color, typographic style, photographic style, model imagery, copy voice, and layout and design.

A good logo — like those of The Company Store and Spiegel — should communicate the marketer's personality, and it must be memorable and recognizable. Good use of color serves as a quick identifier for customers and helps them make a connection with the cataloger's brand. For example, customers know they will see red throughout the RedEnvelope catalog and Web site, sage green panels throughout the Restoration Hardware catalog and site, and a pastel palette on the pages of Martha By Mail.

Typographic style is the visual reflection of the attributes that are at “the heart of the brand,” Cohen said, using as an example the tall, narrow, letters used in the Tiffany's catalog that exemplify the elegance of that brand.

Garnet Hill and Sundance are two catalogers that use photography effectively in their catalogs and Web sites, Cohen said. Garnet Hill uses photographs that are “warm” and “approachable,” and it highlights products in an innovative way. Sundance employs photos of real-life moments, adding the human element to its brand, and it uses brushed, textured walls as backgrounds for product shots.

Cohen also said catalogers should think of their model imagery in terms of “casting as branding.” Models must have the right image for the target audience of the catalog, she said. She pointed to Victoria's Secret as an example of a cataloger that has chosen effective model imagery across its channels.

Also, a catalog's layout and design must be distinctive, like that of Banana Republic, she said. Finally, “words matter,” Cohen said, offering Delia's as an example of a cataloger that uses appropriately whimsical copy for its teen-age customers.

Catalogers that have established effective brand identities across all three channels, Cohen said, are women's “bohemian chic” apparel merchant Anthropologie; Lands' End; Eddie Bauer; and Sephora, a makeup and beauty products marketer.

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