Brochures are a bit of a paradox for marketers: They are one of the simplest channels to engage with, and yet they have traditionally been one of the most difficult offerings to create and distribute.
For consumers, brochures are clearly extremely useful: They provide a range of context—descriptions, images, graphics, etc.—usually in a simple, easy-to-read structure. That is why they remain so popular today while other advertising channels have lost their luster.
For marketers, on the other hand, properly formatting brochures has often been a difficult undertaking, and getting them in front of consumers has been an added burden.
Thankfully, the challenges of brochure creation and distribution have been eased significantly recently by technology; which means brands can now develop them much more efficiently while also increasing their effectiveness.
To understand the benefits of this new technology, let’s take a look at the three major options available for creating and distributing brochures:
Print, of course, is the granddaddy of brochure formats and has remained remarkably resilient—the 1924 Ford Model T had a print brochure as does every current Ford model.
The creation of print brochures has evolved over time, from laying out each element by hand in the past to today’s sophisticated software programs such as QuarkXPresa and Adobe InDesign. However, the actual medium—print and ink—and the distribution—mainly in-person or via snail-mail—has stayed pretty much the same.
Pros and Cons: There is something to be said for the tactile experience of print, especially for high-end brands trying to make an impression with heavy paper and lush imagery. They can also be effective for businesses that rely on leads generated by foot-traffic.
However, the cons of print brochures are numerous. First, let’s start with creation: While print brochures are primarily designed via software these days, those programs remain difficult to use, in large part because traditional physical limitations must still be taken into account (i.e., where will the page fold? how must it be formatted to be double-sided? etc.).
Printing and delivery are even bigger problems. Even creating a small brochure can be extremely expensive—thanks to paper, ink, and printer costs—and paying for mailing, display cases, or by-hand distribution adds even more to the price.
Overall, in the digital age it’s hard to make a compelling argument for print being the most effective method for presenting most marketing brochures.
Traditional Digital Brochures (PDFs)
Given all the issues with print, it is not surprising that brochures have moved increasingly towards digital over the past decade. This has involved a number of different paths, but the most common has been to save the pieces as files (usually PDFs) and then distribute them via download pages on websites or as email attachments. (See example of PDF brochure, above)
As with print, there are many options for creation of online brochures, from complex software suites to good old Microsoft Word, which has an entire brochure workflow built-in.
Pros and Cons: Brochures delivered via PDF have a number of advantages over print. In particular, they are far cheaper to create (no paper or printing costs) and can be distributed via some of the channels that consumers increasingly rely on (the web, email).
However, in many ways PDF brochures are merely a stepping-stone away from print. Yes, they are significantly cheaper to make, but they are still remarkably difficult to create and are not perfect for modern distribution.
The issues with creation stem from the fact that most PDFs mimic print. This means that a lot of the same formatting issues—worrying about image sizing, page numbers, etc.—that come into play with print also apply to the online brochure experience. If you’ve ever tried to create a PDF brochure using Microsoft Word, this will make sense—in many ways the experience is identical to creating a physical offering.
The distribution problems are based on a simple fact: PDFs are files, not pages. In the initial phase of the Internet, that wasn’t a big deal since most people accessed content by having it sent to them directly.
However, today content sharing and discovery is very much page-based. Google looks primarily for direct URLs when crawling sites and social media distribution is link-based. Forcing consumers to download a file adds extra work, often significantly impacting engagement.
Truly Web-Based Brochures
Now, we come to the next step in the evolution of the medium: online brochures that are web-based. As with PDFs, these are digital, but they have the advantage of being page-based rather than file-based.
An example of one of these is this offering from SunBriteTV. As you can see, it includes traditional brochure elements—images, descriptions, etc.—as well as new elements, such as video.
Pros and Cons: The example above was created using Readz technology, so we’re obviously biased in our view. That said, we developed the platform because we truly believe that the current brochure creation methods are flawed. Here is why we think this new approach is better:
First, it decouples development from the constraints of print; making brochures much easier to create. If you use our tool, you’ll be able to see this difference immediately. Because the ultimate offering us web-based, the experience will feel familiar to anyone who has created a blog post—that is because it is rooted in the needs of the user, rather than the demands of paper-sizes and printable colors.
Second, the ultimate output—a web link—is far easier to distribute and discover. You can tweet it out, share it directly via an email newsletter, and allow it to be included in search engines.
Finally, the Web-based approach to brochures positions marketers well for the rapid shift towards mobile. Print brochures are obviously not phone and tablet-friendly, but what is often forgotten is that PDFs can often be difficult to access and read on these devices as well. Brochures created for the Web using responsive-design, on the other hand, adjust automatically, making them truly accessible on all platforms.
Ultimately, we believe it is the combination of these benefits—easier creation, better distribution and true mobile-readiness—that makes the technology the best for online brochures.
Tweet This: PDF brochures are merely a stepping-stone away from print. Is there a better option?
Tweet This: Web-based online brochures that use responsive design are truly accessible across ALL devices!
Tweet This: Creating an #OnlineBrochure? Use a web-based platform for easier creation, better distribution and true mobile-readiness.
Photo 4: http://outdoor-tv.readz.com/