Ray Braun Design
Graphic Design for Business and Non-Profits

Brochure Basics

“Brochure” is French, and it comes from brocher, meaning to stitch. The definition at left is accurate, as far as it goes. However, with all due respect to The American Heritage Dictionary, it understates the brochure’s capabilities.

For one thing, brochures aren’t always small. Sometimes they’re quite large. As for brochure contents, they vary greatly depending on the situation. A brochure definitely can be more than a pamphlet or small booklet, coming in all shapes, sizes and a range of folds.

While brochures are found practically everywhere – used by businesses and organizations of all types and sizes – they’re not the answer to all communication needs. Conversely, neither are they obsolete due to the Internet.

Veteran of Many Campaigns

Bob Bly writes in The Copywriter’s Handbook that according to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Hernan Cortez wrote the first brochure about 500 years ago to advertise a sale on turkeys. Then, as the account goes, Charles the Fifth circulated the brochure to the people of Spain.

Since then people have called the brochure a lot of names – pamphlet, booklet, broadside, leaflet, insert, self-mailer, prospectus (financial world), handbill, product sheet and more. That’s probably due to its many formats.

Whatever it’s called, the brochure has proven its adaptability in many situations – advertising, sales, trade shows, direct marketing, you name it.

For instance, without the brochure and the letter there probably wouldn’t be a U.S. Postal Service, since business mail is the bulk of deliveries. Called “direct mail,” the two are as popular as ever.

The brochure has supported salespeople just as long. They make their pitch and then they go. But the brochure stays behind, which is the basis for one of its nicknames – the leave-behind. Sometimes the brochure closes the deal. Often times its routed and reviewed. At the very least, it reinforces the salespeople’s message.

During the advent of toll-free numbers, people called to ask for brochures. They still do. And in advertising – whether print, radio, TV or new media – it’s often the same story. People respond and want the free brochure.

In marketing lingo, those who ask for brochures are called “qualified” prospects, which means they’re interested in what’s being offered. If the brochure does the job, they’re more inclined to buy, join, donate, whatever.

What Can a Brochure Do?

Actually, a lot. First you must determine your purpose or objectives.Will your brochure generate sales or leads? Fulfill inquiries, support the sales force or be displayed at the point of sale? Will you use your brochure as a direct-mail piece or a leave-behind?

The brochure can do one or all of the above with careful planning. Here are some more functions of the brochure:
• Provide product and service information
• Support trade shows and conventions
• Provide news (about products, services, company, industry)
• Build company identity
• Educate prospects and customers

What are you trying to accomplish? Once you decide, you’re ready to start putting your brochure together.

Although a brochure can do a lot, keep it simple. Zero in on your audience and purpose, and the rest will fall into place. Consider the format, page size and how the brochure will fold. Decide on visuals, fonts, colors, paper stock and other design characteristics.

As for copy, put a strong headline on the cover. Capture the right tone, and make sure copy has a logical flow. As a rule, keep sections short, incorporating plenty of subheads.

It’s always wise to include a call to action. What do you want people to do after they read the brochure? Finally, make certain you know how the brochure fits into your overall program.

Neil Sagebiel is a freelance copywriter who has written promotional copy for dozens of national clients. Neil's specialty is B2B, including print and online advertising, marketing collateral, Web, email marketing, direct mail and PR materials. He can be contacted at 540-745-5472 or www.neilsagebiel.com.