Tuesday, 1 August 2017

My Useful Guide: Effective Brochure Design

It’s funny how things go in cycles. Remember what all the digital marketing gurus and social media experts were saying just a few short years ago? That the internet and online marketing were going to change everything.

Kindles and e-readers would replace books. Online news and information available 24/7 would mean that newspapers, magazines and even TV would become obsolete. Emails would do away with direct mail. And when you have websites you can view and order from whenever you want, wherever you want, who needs boring old brochures?

Well guess what, none of those changes took place. People still read books, newspapers and magazines. TV is as popular as ever, direct marketing is thriving again and brochures are making a comeback.

So, you might be thinking of commissioning a brochure from your design or marketing agency. Before you write the brief, here are six questions you need to ask.

1. Why a brochure?

There’s nothing quite like a brochure for creating an impression of prestige and luxury. It’s all about the smell of fresh ink on quality paper. It’s a powerful trigger which goes straight into the brain and gives the reader a feel-good sensation. When that feeling is associated with your brand it’s good news for your business.

Moreover, brochures work precisely because they are not digital. Online campaigns are fast, here today, gone tomorrow. They have to have an instant impact. If it doesn’t work, scrap it and try something else. Brochures are the exact opposite. They can be around for a long time, selling your company and its products and services over and over again. They can influence the buying decisions of your customers over a long period, as all the information they need to make a decision is right there in their hands. This also makes them very cost-effective.

Talking of cost-effective. If you’ve gone to the trouble and expense of commissioning high quality photography for your business, are you just going to put the images on your website? Get your new photography into a beautifully printed, well-designed high-quality company brochure and your business will really stand out.

Finally, in a world of smartphones and social media, stand out, be different. Focus on being unique by making the most of high quality, design-led medium and set your business apart from the competition whilst using social media to highlight the highlights of your brochure.

2. What’s the budget?

There’s no point in asking for a luxurious multi-page brochure with bespoke photography, embossed lettering, six colour print including specials onto heavyweight luxury paper if your budget simply doesn’t stretch to it.

Of course, if you have the money available, go for it. But a smaller budget doesn’t have to mean a smaller idea. It can actually help your agency be more, not less creative in their design, layout, copy, choice of brochure format, photography or illustration style.

3. Who is your target audience?

It's vital that you know your target audience when you brief the agency. This will influence the whole look, feel and content of the finished piece. Is it going to the general public or to targeted businesses? Is it intended for existing customers, warm prospects or a cold audience? What sort of people are they? What do they like and dislike? What is their age range, income level, social status? 

You might not have all of this information, but the more you can find out about your prospective readers, the more your brochure will appeal to them and be read. For example, a brochure you’re aiming at a largely female audience, say for baby products or services, will be radically different to a car brochure or a sales piece aimed at trade buyers of printed circuit boards.

4. What kind of brochure is it?

When a company decides that they need a brochure, they’ll ask their design or marketing agency to create one for them. But often they don’t know what kind of brochure they actually need. Is it a sales tool? Is it a shop window? Is it designed to raise awareness of the brand? Will it be mailed out with a letter or just used at trade shows and exhibitions as a giveaway? 

As you can see, there are several different types of brochures:

  • Glossy company brochures often with large images and minimal copy
  • In-depth corporate brochures with detailed company information designed for your shareholders or investors
  • Sales brochures including selling copy and specifications for a range of your products
  • Point-of-Sale brochures often seen on display in retail outlets, supermarkets, banks, building societies and so on
  • Direct Mail brochures sent out if requested by a customer or to a mailing list of your potential customers, usually with a covering letter and order form. These days, with digital printing technology, brochures can be cost-effectively personalised too, making them even more tailored and personal to each recipient
  • Sales support brochures usually created to help your salespeople when they’re doing their sales pitch

5. Who’s writing the copy?

A professional copywriter will be able to write copy that is a joy to read, flows seamlessly, is well organised and above all, is in line with the company’s brand values and tone of voice. With expertly written copy, the company will look more professional. The copy will sell the products or services much more strongly. And people will want to buy.

Compare that with supplying your own copy. It will certainly be cheaper. But investing in copywriting will be worth it, potentially increasing your return on investment tenfold.

6. What’s the deadline?

Most important of all. Find out at the start of the process when the finished brochure is required. Then work backwards, from print back to proofing and so on, including all of the stages you’ll need to go through. 

If the schedule is tight and has no flexibility to allow for changes and snags, then give the agency a longer deadline. Remember, it takes time to create a visually impactful, sales and brand-building brochure, and a rushed piece of work could reflect badly on everyone involved.

Throughout August we are offering £100 off the design of a brochure. Want to find out more? Go to our offer page or for ideas have a look at our brochure portfolio.