Good and Bad Brochure Copywriting: A Tale of Two Marketing Brochures

I have a love-hate relationship with expos and tradeshows. I buy my ticket with a sense of anticipation and excitement. All the things I will discover! The inspiration awaiting me behind those doors!

In reality, though, I walk around politely avoiding salespeople and collecting the marketing brochures being handed out.

As a copywriter, I have discovered a new delight in tradeshows. I walk around critiquing taglines, aforementioned brochures and the “today only” specials and offers.

I recall a big name home improvement and interior design show (my favourite) I went to. I was handed two brochures that encapsulated the good and bad of brochure copywriting.

This is their story.

Marketing brochures have the potential to be incredibly persuasive salespeople when you’re not there. A brochure can communicate important information about your company and products, and motivate potential customers to action. If they are done well.

This is a critique of two brochures. Not the companies or the products, but the copywriting.

Let’s start with brochure copywriting analysis #1

Good and Bad Brochure Copywriting: A Tale of Two Brochures (A bad start)

 

Firstly, the headline and tagline make no sense to me, which makes them a waste of space.

This brochure goes on to tell me this product is the “sexiest, safest, most stylish high performing system on the Australian market”. Two things really stand out in this sentence.

  • A “high performing system” could apply to so many products so is really just a bit of (meaningless) hot air. It’s only when I look at the brochure’s image that I guess the product is a black solar panel.
  • I have to admit feeling amused at stylishness and sexiness being promoted as the most marketable feature. I think I care more about reducing my energy bills… How about you?

Then we move onto some other features listed.

The first bullet point tells me that there are local sales reps. I’m not entirely sure what the product is but I know I can talk to a local rep. Great. The feature list ends with letting me know I can get a no obligation assessment.

  • It’s important to prioritise your message. This kind of information belongs with the brochure’s call to action, i.e. ‘Find out if [product] is right for your home with an obligation-free assessment. Visit [URL] to find your closest distributor.’

The brochure talks up the latest technology in some things I don’t understand – and so don’t care about.

  • This is the classic difference between a feature and a benefit. A feature is a factual statement about a product. The benefit encapsulates the advantage that feature has on my life – why I should care.

The company offers a price guarantee but I’m not sure what the price guarantee entails or what it means for me.

In summary, this brochure copywriting presents me with factual information that I don’t understand. There is jargon and there are features, but with no connection to the benefits of making my life more energy efficient. I am sure the product itself is great, but their brochure really isn’t doing them any favours.

I think this next brochure does a great job.

Brochure copywriting analysis #2

Good and Bad Brochure Copywriting: A Tale of Two Brochures (a good header)

 

The brochure copywriting on the front summarises what the product is (glass insulation) and its most important aspects. So if I don’t read anything else, I’ve got a decent grip on what I really need to know.

Good and Bad Brochure Copywriting: A Tale of Two Brochures (a great flip side banner)

 

The brochure copywriting on the flip side communicates their performance promise with a great graphic.

  • The power of graphics and images in your brochure cannot be underestimated. They not only break up your brochure copywriting and draw readers in, they can summarise complex concepts.
  • There are lots of specific percentages that add credibility to the product performance.

 

Good and Bad Brochure Copywriting: A Tale of Two Brochures (a top 10 list works!)

Then there are 10 reasons why I’ll love this product.

This snappy list doesn’t bore me with the technical details of how it’s made or how it works. It neatly goes through the areas I might be concerned about like installation costs, product effectiveness, environmental impacts and suitability to where I live. It’s not perfect but it’s a pretty good list.

In summary, I think this company has identified what its target customers will be most concerned about. This brochure copywriting discusses how the product overcomes those concerns in a compelling way. It talks about the outcomes and makes me feel smart for considering this option.

So what’s the point?

Brochure copywriting needs to do more than present information. Everything – from the font, colours and graphics to the copywriting – needs to engage and persuade. Remember that purchase decisions aren’t usually made on logic alone, which means features aren’t enough to persuade someone to get their wallet out.

Your marketing brochure needs to lock into the real motivators turning the cogs behind a decision, then back them up with facts and figures needed to justify that decision.

What do you think of these two examples? Am I being too harsh?

The Copy Detective

44 Responses

    1. Wow, thanks Paul! It felt like a bit of a rant but it was extremely frustrating to see such a cobbled together effort (in the first brochure) at a major trade show.

      With people, just like me, collecting info to review over a cuppa at home (although I admit mine was a champers after a day at a trade show) the brochures were the whole pitch.

      Each stall would have cost a pretty penny and there were more than a few business letting themselves down in the brochure department.

      I should have taken some cards. Now that would have been smart marketing! 😉

  1. Hi Belinda,

    Great analysis. I too love to critique real world examples of marketing, especially those that assume you know more than the average person actually does.

    I liked the second brochure too but I think they could improve it further by emphasising what I see to be as one of the key benefits (staying warm or cool while saving on your energy bills – and boy do Melbourne houses need that product!). This could be included on the cover instead of the feature “window film for warm and cool climates” and also be higher up than No.9 on the list. Just a thought…

    Cheers Mel

  2. I am studying Public Relations and we spend a lot of time writing brochures. This information is very useful and to the point. Beautifully explained the strengths and weaknesses of writing brochures and good examples used.

    1. Hi Jessica, I do but not on the blog I’m afraid. As part of my Copywriting Master Class (open now 😉 I break down exactly what needs to go into a brochure and where.

      Check out copywritematters.com/learn-copywriting/ for more details! 🙂

  3. Great points Belinda. It often amuses me to see organisations with well trained sales people that abandon all semblance of salesmanship when it comes to their written material – their ads, brochures and so on… They forget that marketing material is supposed to be ‘salesmanship in print’.
    Try explaining that to them – like speaking to a brick wall.

    1. Thanks Howard! I know what you mean and I don’t think it’s limited to sales people. A funny thing happens when we sit down to write. High school essays have a lot to answer for!

      I always encourage people to pretend their talking to a real person – transcribe that conversation. The difference in the language is incredible!

      Thanks for stopping in and leaving your thoughts.

  4. It often amuses me to see organisations with well trained sales people that abandon all semblance of salesmanship when it comes to their written material their ads, brochures and so on. They forget that marketing material is supposed to be ‘salesmanship in print. thanks for sharing this post

  5. #33: Different type of copywriting clients (and how to manage them)

    Different types of copywriting clients, for heaven’s sake. If that’s been changed when I come back, I’ll think again about joining in. I like your “Don’t close me!” window a lot, by the way.

  6. No words to comments. simply amazing analysis. The first brochure is just like the page of mathematics book. I am interested in copywriting and like to start work as the freelance copywriter . Thanks for good tips.

  7. Hi Belinda,

    Great analysis. I too love to critique real world examples of marketing, especially those that assume you know more than the average person actually does.
    Thank you

  8. Hey Belinda,

    LOVE IT.

    Just what I was looking for to help a client with a (rather dull) CMS system. Is the (potential) customer better off having read the brochure or just turned off – providing value and benefits throughout will always win over.

    Images helped really visualise what I wanted from this article – I added you to my Feedly too 😉

    Thanks.

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