Brochure basics

A few posts back, I started a short series of posts about business basics including business cards, letterhead and websites. Today, I want to tackle the basic brochure.

Since the explosion of the Internet – I was there when we called it the “Information Superhighway” with a straight face – the lowly printed brochure has fallen on hard times. Two dimensions just aren’t sexy any more.

I disagree, and think there will always be a place for a printed brochure. It’s usually where there’s not a computer or an Internet connection, such as a trade show hallway, at dinner in a nice restaurant or on an airplane: some common places to tell your story to would-be clients and influencers. It’s in the hands of people that don’t spend hours a day searching the Internet or those who spend all Sunday morning reading the New York Times.

A printed brochure can use photography, typography, texture and weight to ignite the vision and the sense of touch unlike a Website. Typography adds dimension to concepts in a completely different way than even sound and video on the Web. Creative folds can also create motion and emotion.

I’m not suggesting a printed brochure is superior to a Website, it’s just different. And when it’s done right – with a foundation in the brand – it can complement every other communication tool in the brand warrior’s arsenal.

Make it dynamic; make it personal
Ironically, the dynamic characteristic of the Internet is the driving force behind my overarching brochure creative. Brochures that my firm creates are flexible, consisting of multiple components that can be used alone or in combination to tell a story to a targeted audience after understanding their motives, the desires, their pain and their needs. If you sell three product lines, and you’re talking to a customer who’s interested in only one, why put a brochure about all three products in front of him. Act like you’ve listened and show him only the most relevant piece of information you have. Why pull out a catalog with a hundred items when you can pull out a short brochure that explain what your brand means to his company and two product detailers about the models that will get him excited. A component brochure is like a website in that the reader only sees what they need to see.

Make it emotional
The old adage “sell the benefits, not the features” became an old adage because it’s true. Your competitors can sell features, only you can sell the benefits of buying from you: it’s called a brand and it’s an emotional response in your prospective customers. Roy H. Williams is the master of meaningful copy that elicits emotional responses, in my opinion, and anybody can learn some helpful tips from his book Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads. I suggest you read it if you want to make your brochure copy sing to clients.

Don’t forget to exploit the drama of great photography. Use faces to grab the readers’ attention. Move in close to create excitement. Or pull out wide to create awe. And don’t skimp on the photographer: Photoshoping is not a verb!

Make it memorable
Use beautiful paper that reeks of passion. Or heavy paper that beats its chest with power. Or light, delicate paper that crinkles when you breathe on it. Paper holds unique clues in a story: let it work for you.

Make your brochure BIG so it stands out on a desk, or make it small enough to carry conveniently in a jacket pocket. Or make it tiny so you can whisper a single, simple and critical point into the mind of your reader.

Use type right. It’s not something I claim to know how to do, but typesetting is the difference between good and great design, and it’s worth paying someone who knows the difference to get a hand on your design. I know it when I see it, and your readers will enjoy the experience if the type’s done right.

In the end, a brochure is just another tool, but when used correctly it’s amazing the brand you can build with it. Don’t ignore it: embrace it.

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One Response to Brochure basics

  1. Lucia says:

    >It is so very true. I am obviously passionate about web design or I wouldn’t do it for a living… but I am originally trained in graphic design and paper, type, photgraphy… all of it make such a huge difference. And asmuch as a great website is great – a great brochure has its purpose as well.And trust me… their are so many people out there like me (especially women) that love to hold a beautiful piece of paper in their hands, graphically pleasing to the eye or course… but a beautiful piece of paper (can you see the drool!)

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