Friday, November 13, 2015

Brochure Content & Design Fundamentals

Brochures form an integral part of the traditional printed marketing collateral, despite the growing popularity of online marketing initiatives. A well-designed brochure is very much a collectible item, not only for its captivating visual effects, but for the loads of product-specific information featured in it.

A printed brochure is an integral part of the sales process. It serves as a leave-behind after a sales call or meeting with prospective customers. It is also used as a way to respond to inquiries or to introduce new products or services when cold calling. As part of a direct mail campaign, it can be sent with a sales letter or used as a self-mailer. And finally, a brochure can be displayed at the point-of-purchase to interest customers in additional products or services or to provide information.

The best part is a brochure can be tailored to any printing budget. Whether it is a simple one color bi-fold, a two color tri-fold, or an elaborate full color die cut folder, a brochure effectively serves the organization’s marketing objectives.

The Elements of a Brochure

Most all brochures share certain characteristics. They have:
  • Written copy
  • Graphics in the form of photographs, illustrations, diagrams, charts, or graphs
  • An underlying organization
  • The company or organization’s identity and contact information

Writing the Copy

To write effective copy for your brochure, you need to know your audience, know your product or service, and be able to translate the product or service features into recognizable benefits for your audience. A good way to translate features into benefits is to think, “What’s in it for me?” For example, if your product is made of a different type of material than your competitor’s, the benefit could be that it will last longer or maintain its appearance.

An effective brochure uses concise writing that leads the reader to the important points. Rather than a straight text narrative, brochures use bulleted lists, headlines and subheads, reverse type, captions, and pull quotes to emphasize the message.

Creating Visual Interest

Visual images help readers understand complicated concepts, retain more of what they read, and stay interested. Images are what typically catch the reader’s attention first and often generate an emotion that leads to a sale.

The internet is a good source for professional-quality collections of images, particularly illustrations, drawings, and stock photography that can be licensed for a small fee. You may also be able to obtain images from your trade association, product manufacturer, or a professional organization within your industry.

There are many ways to design the cover of a brochure. One simple option is to use your company’s name and logo as the cover design. This is a versatile option and may be quite effective if your company logo is unusual or generates interest.

A second option is to think of the outside panel of your brochure as the front cover of a book. Be sure the design informs the reader of the content, indicates the intended audience, and sufficiently engages the readers in order to catch their interest. Sometimes this can be done by using a photograph that shows people representing the target audience engaged in an activity that is related to the topic of the brochure. If you are designing a brochure that will be displayed in a rack, be aware of how much of the cover will be visible and plan your design accordingly.

The Underlying Organization

An effective brochure is like a book. It has a beginning, middle, and end; and it tells a story. The story is developed logically, and by the end, the reader understands the purpose of the brochure.

When laying out a brochure, keep in mind the order in which the panels of the brochure will become visible as the reader unfolds it, and put the parts of the story on the appropriate panel. A good method to determine when a specific panel will be revealed is to fold a piece of paper into a brochure. Write a number sequentially on each panel as it becomes visible to you, and use the numbers to determine the sequence of the story.

One exception to this method is the back cover. If you are designing a brochure that is to be a self-mailer, then the back cover will be the mail panel where the return address, postage, and addressee information will be placed. If it is not a self-mailer, then the back panel is often used for company contact information.

Formats for Brochure Layout

The most familiar brochure style is the standard tri-fold, six-panel layout. The brochure folds are parallel -- the right side folds in toward the center and left side folds over the right. Some variations can be created by changing the sheet size, but the basic format is the same, six panels on which to tell the story.

To add interest and possibly tell the story more effectively, try a variation on the standard tri-fold brochure. For example, fold a 9 x 12 inch sheet like an accordion and you’ll have an entirely new way of revealing the panels. For another variation, fold an 11 x 17 inch sheet in half, then in half again to create an 8.5 x 5.5 inch, 8-panel brochure. Or fold in thirds to create a super sized 6-panel trifold.

The key to all these options is to gather several sheets of paper and start folding unfolding, refolding, and reverse folding until you find a number of panels in the right size and sequence to tell your story, one page at a time.

Professional Design and Printing

Because a brochure needs copywriting, design, images, and layout, it can be very complicated and time consuming to create. Additionally, a professional looking brochure requires some complex pre-press skills. The brochure panel widths must be adjusted to accommodate the fold, with the amount of adjustment dependent on what type of paper is being used and it’s thickness. Selecting fonts and point sizes to be effective in small panels requires experience in typography. And since the cover of a brochure is so important for attracting reader attention, it requires the training and talent of a graphic designer.

We have been designing and printing brochures for our customers for over 20 years, and we’re experts at it. We are happy to provide you with an estimate for budgeting purposes or we can get started now if you are ready to proceed. For more information or to set an appointment, call Brigid at 215-923-2679 or email

Happy Thanksgiving!

To spend time with family and friends, we will be closed
Thursday, November 26 and Friday, November 27.

Leveraging Small Ads in Publications

A great way to get your brochure in the hands of your prospects is to place small ads in publications that you know your target audience will be reading. These are often small community newspapers, non-profit organization newsletters, or professional trade association magazines.

Provide just the key benefits and a graphic to generate interest, and offer a free brochure. List several ways to request the brochure (phone, email, text, website), and then follow up quickly, including a personal note thanking them for taking the time to request it. The note is also a good place to reference something specific in the brochure to make sure they see the most important benefits.

Those who request the brochure are serious prospects. Contacting you signifies a very powerful intent on their part. Estimates are that between 25 - 33% of people requesting a brochure will eventually make a purchase based on the brochure, providing it is well thought out and contains the key benefits.

Reusing Brochure Copy

When considering moving a printed brochure to a website, it may be tempting to just convert the brochure artwork to a PDF file, upload it, and make a link to download it. The problem is that the viewer will see the brochure much differently, and it will most likely not have the desired effect.
The printed brochure is designed and structured in such a way that there is a flow from cover, to features and benefits, and finally a call to action. That flow is lost when the viewer just sees the flat outside and inside panels.

It is, however, possible to reuse all the brochure copy and graphic elements by restructuring them to be effective when viewed on a computer screen. This is typically done by redesigning the elements in a top down fashion, rather than panels that unfold left to right.

Case study brochures are very popular. They can also be easily converted from a printed brochure to one viewed on a website.

Q&A: Should I have my brochure offset printed or digitally printed?

We recommend offset printing when a large number (2500 or more) of exactly the same version of the brochure is required. However, if fewer are needed, there are several reasons to consider color digital printing.

With color digital printing, only the exact amount required is printed. Since there is very little setup and waste, just a few brochures can be printed relatively inexpensively. Offset printing requires quite a bit of setup time and materials, and it is usually considerably more expensive to print small quantities.

With digital printing, self-mailers can be printed and addressed at the same time which eliminates the step of having to add mailing labels later. This saves significant time and allows the job to be mailed more quickly.

And finally, digital printing makes it easy to send out slightly varied versions to different targeted groups. For instance, you can send one version to existing customers and a slightly different version to prospects. It also allows you to test different copy and/or graphics to see which combination is most effective.

Essential Elements

A brochure is an essential sales and marketing tool for any company or organization. It plays a major role in establishing brand identity and helps companies expand their customer base by being portable and shareable. In fact, brochures are among the most versatile tools you can use to tell customers about your products or services.

Brochures are intended to be brief, concise and instantly capture the attention of a potential customer. The relatively low cost of producing brochures compared with other marketing options adds to their value for small businesses. A brochure will convey a much deeper message than you can get across in more expensive television or print media ads.

An appealing brochure design can be a very effective marketing tool. Give me a call at 215-923-2679 or email if you’d like to refresh an existing brochure or develop a new one.