THE catalogue is ordinarily the most pretentious and important piece of direct mail issued and used by a manufacturer or large mercantile establishment. In the case of those businesses selling altogether by mail or having distinct mail-order departments, it is substantially the only form of advertising used, and anything else that may be put out is largely supplementary to the catalogue itself.
Until your customer or prospective customer visits your establishment or receives a call from your traveling representative, your catalogue is the only picture he has of your business and your product. That it shall faithfully, adequately and pleasantly represent you is, therefore, a matter of the first consequence. From it he will form impressions that will facilitate or retard future relations which you hope to establish.
The form and character of catalogues may vary infinitely, and while the final purpose that all are planned to accomplish is the same, the method by which the result is to be attained is subject to a multitude of changes. Before the holiday season your jeweler may send you an inexpensive catalogue of gift items from which he hopes you will derive suggestions that will result in immediate orders or personal sales. Like Messrs. Sears, Roebuck and Company or Montgomery Ward and Company, he is after immediate results. The manufacturer of dredging equipment will also issue a catalogue and carefully send it to all contractors engaged in that type of work. But he has no hope that any of the men who receive it will sit down and write him an order for a dredge. His problem is purely preliminary and educational. If he can interest the con-tractor to the extent that he will write or arrange a conference, he has done all that he dared hope for. In any case, when he does make a personal effort to sell his goods he will have broken the ground, because the contractor will have known something of his machinery and of the economies and advantages claimed for it. Inasmuch as the profit of a contractor depends very largely on the efficiency of his equipment, the manufacturer may feel quite sure that his catalogue will receive consideration. The successful con-tractor is almost as deeply interested in having the most economical machines as the manufacturer is in selling them.
As the printed representative of a business establishment the catalogue probably stands first in importance, dignity and interest among all forms of direct advertising.
What are the considerations first to be weighed when you determine that you should issue a catalogue? One book on direct advertising that is before us makes the rather astonishing assertion that the first thing you must decide is the size of your book. This is curious reasoning. If a man who had determined to make a voyage around the world were to say before considering at all what apparel he would require, “I am going around the world, and I shall therefore at once buy a trunk three feet long, two feet wide, and eighteen inches deep,” he would be doing much the same thing that our friend suggests to the advertiser. He might find that he could not get into his trunk one-half the things necessary for his comfort and well-being.
The preliminary study of the catalogue-maker, as we conceive it, should be along lines such as this:
1. Exactly what have I got to advertise?
2. Shall I portray them entirely by printed descriptions, or shall I describe them and supplement my descriptions with pictures?
3. Is my product one that can be adequately represented by pictures in a single color, or shall I use several colors to make my pictures more faithful and appealing?
4. What are the real selling points in favor of my goods? What would I say if a man came into my office and said that he was in the market for some merchandise similar to mine, but he had not decided whether it would be better to buy from me or from one of my competitors?
5. What evidence can I produce that the use of my goods is an advantage to the buyer?
6. What suggestions or instructions can I give that will en-able the purchaser of my product to use it more effectively or in a greater variety of ways?
7. What type of engraving is most suitable for the portrayal of my product, and what kind of paper shall I use for my text and pictures?
8. What printing process shall I employ?
9. How and with what paper shall I cover it?
10. What sort of cover design will most attractively and appropriately suggest the contents of the catalogue and excite curiosity and interest?
11. What kind of an envelope shall I use to send it out?
When all these things are sensibly determined the advertiser is ready to proceed. What the advertiser has to say should determine the size of his book, if he wishes to do his business full justice.
It will be recognized, of course, that there are a great many catalogues the size and form of which are determined by the amount of money available from the advertising appropriation rather than by the true needs of the business. Even the amount of postage required for carriage may be an important consideration, especially if the catalogue is a very cheap one and issued in large quantities. But work so conceived and executed must be classed as makeshift rather than standard. It may be reasonably assumed that the best catalogue is that which most fully and faithfully represents the worth of the product and the character of the house that sponsors it.
It has often been said that nobody but a multimillionaire can afford to wear shabby clothing. His prestige is assured anyhow.
While the analogy is not altogether happy (because the book is by no means shabby), we may say that only a house of such universal recognition as that of Tiffany could effectively sell expensive jewelry by mail on mere description and without pictures. The fame of the house gives its “Blue Book” sufficient prestige without the customary embellishment. But only a few business establishments can hope to attain such standing, and it is generally wiser to put out advertising that will add something to your dignity and reputation. The cry for better printing grows steadily louder. In response to this demand the art is constantly improving, and we believe that it will not be long until there is a general recognition of the fact that cheap advertising is false economy.
The catalogue is primarily a list and description of the articles offered, usually with prices attached. The first aim of the business man should be to make his catalogue complete and satisfying. Omit from it no information that is likely to be required by your prospective customer. Nothing is more exasperating than to write for a catalogue and, upon receiving it, to find that it does not contain all the information you require for a decision as to your further course.
The character of your product must determine the type of book and the treatment of the subject. If you are listing heavy and expensive machinery you will find it desirable to include not only a sufficient amount of technical detail, but a series of engravings that will convey a clear idea of the construction. Great detail is essential in all machinery illustrations, and in this class of catalogue carefully retouched halftone engravings or fine drawings will probably be used and a text paper that will insure the utmost clarity in the pictures. Catalogues have an extreme variation in size and price. Some makers of extensive lines, sold through agencies or jobbers, produce books almost as large as an unabridged dictionary. These, of course, are case-bound. But the great majority of catalogues are not ponderous and heavy volumes, and the binding is almost universally in cover paper. It was the general adoption of the catalogue as a major advertising medium that suggested the development of Buckeye Cover more than thirty years ago.
There is no strict limitation to the cost of a catalogue, but the customary range will be between twenty cents and one dollar per copy. For the former sum but a modest book can now be produced. In any quantity the latter figure will produce a sumptuous result. With production costs at such figures it is but common sense to put the utmost of intelligence and taste into the building of a catalogue and to exercise every possible care to see that no copy is wasted or ignored. It is when expensive advertising is distributed that the value of a correct mailing list becomes most patent.
Such establishments as the mail-order houses, which offer an enormous number of articles for sale and rely on a multitude of final consumers for their business, must of necessity issue large catalogues in great number and at frequent intervals. For them the use of expensive paper and elaborate printing would be prohibitively costly. Theirs is distinctly a quantity job; but it is interesting to know that when the portrayal of any of their merchandise can best be accomplished by the use of color, this additional expense is not spared. The type of illustration to be used will be discussed more fully in the chapter devoted to engravings.
The cover of a catalogue is of very great importance. It should possess several distinct qualities. First of all, it must give protection to the contents. It must be strong enough to pass through the mails undamaged and to wear as long as the catalogue ought to have any general usefulness. It is designed to arrest attention and to arouse interest, and to this end it should be not only beautiful, but appropriate. Both color and design should convey some-thing of the atmosphere of the goods advertised.
In the development and manufacture of Buckeye Cover these considerations were uppermost. We tried first to make a tough stock that would truly serve the proper function of a cover. Our next consideration was to make its surface interesting and receptive of all forms of printing treatment. Embossing qualities are essential, because in the better class of catalogues the use of em-bossed covers is very general. The paper, therefore, had to be made of materials solid enough to withstand the stresses of severe em-bossing dies. The reproduction of Lorado Taft’s famous fountain, “The Spirit of the Great Lakes,” of which we have circulated many thousands, is believed to be the deepest embossing ever accomplished on a commercial paper. The difference in level of the various planes is well over a quarter of an inch. Color is all-important. If the catalogue advertises machinery, shop equipment, or heavy materials, the cover should be strong. Moreover, many such catalogues are handled under conditions that tend to soil them. The use of dark colors is desirable. The art work should be characteristic and massive and suggestive of power and strength. To this end we make Buckeye Cover in black, brown and dark-blue colors.
On the other hand, the catalogue of a jeweler, a milliner or a maker of perfumes must make an altogether different appeal. These are articles of elegance and luxury. Delicate colors and treatments will give the atmosphere desired to interest women customers. Utility becomes a secondary consideration. For such requirements we have the light colors and tintsturquoise, Nile green and India. These are the extremes of a varied line. There are general-utility colors, of course, twelve in all; but we have cited the extreme variations by way of more striking suggestion. The ‘use of end sheets of cover paper, either to match or contrast with the outside cover, adds greatly to the beauty of the final work.
It is generally a sound policy in planning a catalogue, where the cost is any consideration at all, to use a substantial cover paper of moderate cost, and to give a good printer a little more latitude in its embellishment. An extra color or a bit of appropriate em-bossing may serve to greatly enhance the effect.
The makers of Buckeye Cover and Buckeye Text papers have always operated on the belief that decoration is the work of the artist and the printer. Both, if well selected, are experts. The production of beautiful and appropriate effects is their business, and their sole business, and we conceive it to be the function of the paper-maker to provide them with surfaces that will lend them-selves to their art and give them the widest possible scope in its exercise. The prime requisites of the paper are that it shall possess strength and durability, that it shall have a distinctive and appealing texture, and that it shall be made in a sufficient variety of suit-able colors to meet the requirements of every sort of work. It is for this reason that we have never manufactured so-called “novelties.”
The size of the catalogue page is one dimension that can and should be determined very early in the planning. If your book is mainly a price list it can be made quite small, for reasons of both economy and convenience. The recipient is much more likely to keep a convenient little book around his desk and to refer to it often than he is to preserve in any degree of usefulness a large and unwieldly volume. But if your product requires pictures of any considerable size to represent it justly, it is obvious that you must plan a page that will admit the use of plates of appropriate size.
There is as yet no such thing as a standard size in catalogues, though progress is being made toward that end. The United States Department of Commerce has done a great deal to bring a certain element of standardization into catalogues, as it has into many great lines of industry. Economy of paper is the main purpose of catalogue standardization. It is clear that if you arbitrarily fix a size for your catalogue without regard to how many pages you can get out of a sheet of the standard size of the paper you have decided to use, you may cause a great and expensive waste. If two or three inches of the paper at the top and end of each sheet are not utilized this becomes pure loss. You pay for it, but you get nothing for your money. Catalogue pages, therefore, should be designed to cut economically from standard sheets of paper, with just enough allowance for the trifling trim necessary to give uniformity and neatness.
Another size consideration of prime importance has for its basis your wish that your catalogue may have a reasonably long life and serve you through a period of months at least. It is well known that in the average business office things that cannot be conveniently preserved soon disappear. Papers don’t “lie around” long. Therefore, while it may seem desirable to go into very large size, you should reflect whether the advantage will more than offset the probability that your work will soon be lost. If your catalogue is of real use and interest to the recipient he will probably wish to put it away in a file kept for that purpose, and his filing case will in all probability be adapted to standard letters of size 8 1/2 X 1 inches. The organized architects of America have established this size, and the purchasing agents, whose requirements are more varied, have declared in favor of two sizes7 1/2 X 10 5/8, and for smaller catalogues, 5 1/4×7 1/2, which is approximately half the size of the larger one. These sizes have been determined largely by reasons of economy, but they are susceptible of meeting most commercial requirements. The principal sizes of cover paper sheets are 20X26 and 23×33, and the main sizes of book papers are 25×38, 28×42, and 32×44. Catalogues that will cut from these sizes will not be wasteful of raw material.
It would be prudent, however, in selecting your paper to consult freely with your printer. He will be able to advise you not only as to the suitability of the surface for the kind of engravings desired, but he will also be able to advise you as to the economical size. In many large establishments and in most advertising agencies are persons quite capable of deciding these questions for them-selves, but the great majority of buyers of advertising do not have the experience of the printer, who is working with these materials every day.
Pleasing effects may often be had in a catalogue by permitting the cover to “overhang”that is, making it larger in size than the text pages. Of course catalogues so bound cannot be trimmed after manufacture if the rare emergency should arise when it is desirable to slightly reduce the size for postage economy or other reason. More careful packing is also required, lest the overhang shall be bent and damaged in transit and the appearance of the book marred. The covers of all case-bound books overhang, but they are stiff and resistant to damage to a degree not possible with paper only.
We have not yet mentioned that almost indispensable step in the preparation of any catalogue of considerable importancethe preparation of the dummy. The dummy is a reproduction of the book you propose to build, without the finished contents. It will be of the exact size, thickness and weight. It will show the papers to be used and the cover design, and it may be carried so far as to demonstrate the effect that will result on the inside pages. In that event the proposed “layout” will be used and the exact type of cuts planned for the final work employed. The typography will also be revealed. The purpose of all this is largely to reduce the hazards of “visualization.” Nobody has imagination enough to tell from specifications just what a book will be and how it will impress the eye. With the dummy there is no guesswork. Even the color combinations may be shown.
In competitive bidding, the custom of submitting dummies is almost universal, and in non-competitive work it is often highly desirable. As a matter of common fairness, however, the advertiser must recognize the fact that the preparation of dummies is an expensive process. In bidding for work the printer may prepare them at his own hazard, with any degree of elaboration that his judgment may suggest, just as an architect may submit a very costly plan in competition, only to have it rejected. But when you ask your printer to prepare a dummy for your guidance, it is fair to regard this as a part of his service, to be paid for on the same basis as any other work. The dummy is one of the most useful things in advertising, and it should not become the basis of a burden-some trade abuse.
The catalogue is purely a commercial book. Therefore, it should be made entirely convenient and usable. If it is of any size and lists any considerable number of items, it is of the utmost importance that it be intelligently and completely indexed.. Your customer will not be willing to spend a considerable part of his time in searching through your book for the one thing that interests him at the moment.
If large and elaborate catalogues of a product that is subject to frequent changes of price or design are to be issued, it may be desirable to put your catalogue in a loose-leaf form. Books of this type are more expensive, but can be made in a sense perpetual. Replacement pages may be sent from time to time to be substituted for those that are obsolete, or new pages added. The value of such a book depends almost entirely on the extent which the recipient uses and approves it. If it is a catalogue that he consults freely, he will probably take the trouble to put in your new sheets; but there is that in human nature which makes the average business man very careless with regard to things that are not of prime interest to him. Your own judgment and your knowledge of your market will be your best guide in determining whether a loose-leaf book is justified.
We have ourselves produced one loose-leaf sample book of Buckeye Cover, making each sheet a double dummy sheet 9X12 inches. These books were placed in the hands of large printers and buyers of printing who have frequent occasion to prepare dummies of Buckeye Cover. Each sheet is numbered, and in a pocket in the binder is a supply of government postal cards, printed and addressed, so that when the user takes out a sample sheet and uses it, he has only to write the number of that sheet on a post-card, add his name and address, and a sheet to replace it is sent back at once. Thus his stock of samples of Buckeye Cover is kept complete at all times. We have in our files many thousands such requests. It is suggestive, however, to note that many of the cards that come to us call for from ten to thirty sheets at one time, proving that the holder of the book has allowed it to become seriously depleted before taking the trouble to order his replacements, which are, of course, sent without charge.