Rabbit Season, Duck Season, Rabbit Season… Catalog Season!


Over the years VFC has developed dozens of catalog strategies and produced hundreds of catalog layouts for regional manufacturers and distributors. The process involves examining the target audience, market nuances and catalog trends that are effective for other marketers.

More than anything else, however, catalog production is about project management. We always start with a solid strategy and a plan that defines the standard for each catalog that we develop and, after that, it’s all about getting the pieces to fit together.

So much of catalog development is dependent on the copywriter composing effective product descriptions, the photographer shooting product effectively, decent models showing up on time, stylists working well with the creative director, clients accepting agency vision and all of it culminating in a layout that will be compelling and engaging to the potential consumer. This isn’t even taking into account production and mailing, which can have their own set of project management issues.

Here are a few tips that VFC has gleaned through many Septembers and Octobers of developing catalogs of all shapes and sizes for the holiday seasons:

Of course all collateral is based on the brand standard, but we also develop a catalog standard to keep things new and fresh from year to year. That defines the layout plan but we also try to enforce a production plan with a schedule and milestones that all require client approval.

If you know you’re going to be developing a catalog for a November mailing there’s a lot of groundwork that can be laid as early as August. Start to conceptualize layout themes and cover treatments to get the client buy-in so that nothing is left to the last minute.

Because so much of catalog development is project management it’s important to stay organized throughout the process. You can do this by breaking the project up into smaller projects like writing, photography, design, and layout and monitor the steps required for each of those mini-projects.

You can save a lot of time, effort and labor by thinking the catalog process through and repurposing assets and tasks. For instance, if you’re going to somehow port the catalog to your Internet presence you can take the steps necessary to make that process effective as you develop the print piece.

APPROVAL STEPS: Like any project at VFC, a catalog goes through three iterations from concept to approval. That’s plenty of time for the client to proof and approve but we make it easier on them, breaking a catalog down section-by-section and providing three iterations of each.

VFC has produced 250+ page, perfect bound annual tomes that have required nearly 500 hours to produce and 12 page circulars that we knock out in a week, but the formula is always the same, 33% creative, 33% production and 33% planning. If you’re like us you’ll want to reserve the right to use the remaining 1% to reflect on how to improve the catalog next year!.