There are probably as many different ways of writing brochures as there are brochure formats. For brochure copywriters, this could be a little daunting – until you bear in mind that there are several useful copywriting principles that can and should be followed.
Let’s start with the front cover. This is arguably the most important page in any brochure; whatever its format; and no matter how many pages are involved. Obviously, a brochure must be pleasing on the eye – not necessarily eye-catching in its design, but certainly smart and stylish enough to demand you lift it and read on!
So is the front page all about the design? Or are there other elements that should be considered? The answer is that copywriting in its purest sense should be involved. That is to say, the copywriter must come up with a headline that complements the visual. It goes without saying that the creative concept should be one hundred per cent relevant to the product or service being sold.
Notice the word ‘sold’. A brochure is very much a sales document – an opportunity for a copywriter to champion the virtues of their client’s brand, business, product or service. A creative concept that doesn’t ‘sell’ is totally worthless – no matter how clever the headline and no matter how appealing the design, photography or illustration.
The Importance of Internal Pages
A skilful brochure copywriter will carry forward the underlying sales message into the inside pages of the brochure. It should in fact be the copywriter’s sole and major responsibility to make sure that there’s a consistency to the sales message running throughout the brochure.
The design of the internal pages should therefore continue the same graphic theme from the front cover. Crucially, the main internal headline – especially the headline on the inside front cover – should be a natural extension of the front cover headline. This could be in answer to a question posed about the product or service, or a development of a theme that originally piqued the reader’s curiosity, intellectually or emotionally.
Depending on whether the design format allows it, the main internal headline could extend across the entire inside spread of the brochure. This is usually only possible where there is a double-page internal spread. To extend a headline across three or four pages is not normally feasible (simply because it becomes difficult to read).
Of vital importance is the very first paragraph of the body-copy proper which features on the inside spread. This is usually ‘ranged left’, although it could be centred if the design is picture-heavy. Following the same typographical principle of newspapers, the copy should be ‘bolded’ to demand attention and outline the main sales argument of the copy that is due to follow.
It is then vital to develop a logical sales argument in the copy and link this, as far as space allows, to appropriate visuals. Sub-headings and panels are useful devices to achieve this process. Where the copy involves great detail, or possibly some complex technical data, it’s often a good idea to use bullet points. Likewise, if you’re summarising product features or benefits.
Space Matters, Offline
It’s all about the optimal use of space. Unlike the online environment, the available space for brochure design and copy is finite. Although this may on the face of it appear to be creating a straightjacket, it can in fact be used to good advantage in that it provides a perfect framework and vehicle for a highly specific sales message.
If more (or less) space is required, a different format should be chosen at the outset. Again, if there are distinctive products or services within a wider range, then a family of brochures should be considered. A popular option in these cases is to have a ‘master folder’ created from heavy stock or card that has a wallet incorporated in the design.
This will often carry useful corporate copy that introduces the company and what it does. More detailed information can be included on separate product or data sheets which are then inserted into the wallet. This is useful when responding to enquiries that may require different information, or for providing new information that may have gone out of date for various reasons.
In some ways, data sheets can be compared to the various sub-pages on a website. However, it’s important to plan carefully regarding the future content of data sheets in order to minimise printing costs. The back cover of a brochure is usually very much the flip-side of the front cover design and usually includes very little copy apart from contact details.
If space is at a premium, it may be appropriate to include a short corporate overview, either to reinforce details given elsewhere in the brochure or to provide a crisp resume of a corporate culture, history or even the CVs of key personnel within the company. (It’s worth noting that this isn’t always a good idea in businesses where staff turnover is high!)
An important detail that can feature on either the front or back cover, or both, is a memorable and meaningful strap line. This should be short, pithy and versatile enough to be used across all the company’s marketing collateral. Spending time developing a good strap line is always a good investment and a job that most brochure copywriters will relish!
About the author: Mike Beeson is a freelance copywriter with a special interest in the revival of offline copywriting techniques including brochure copywriting. Mike’s company, Buzzwords Limited, was established over 20 years ago and is located in Manchester, UK.