Reprinted from The Catalog Marketer

How You Select Catalog Models, and Pose Them,
Can Attract or Repel Your Readers

by Rene Gnam

The successful promotion writer examines all mailing list data before turning on a typewriter or computer to be sure that benefit and description copy is targeted to the names on the lists being used. That list study guides the writer on how to cue the artist and photographer.

Here are general guidelines on selecting models, and posing them, so that the first time your reader spots a photo, he/she immediately identifies himself and thus can relate to the product being merchandised:

1. AGE
This is critical. Do not use a teen-ager if list research shows you'll be mailing to senior citizens. Your guideline is easy to follow: select a model's age to be in the upper one-third of the age range of the bulk of your prospects. Thus, if the lists you use constitute mainly 25-40 year olds, your model should be 35-40. Because readers identify with those who are closest to themselves, you want someone within the age bracket of the list audience. Because younger readers subconsciously respect those who are a touch older than themselves, you want a model in the upper third of your list audience.

2. SEX
Starch studies show males are not primarily attracted to females, but females are primarily attracted to other women. So you do not write copy or select models based on the opposite sex. Instead, select the sex matching that of the greatest number of names on your lists, and if your lists have a 50-50 sex split, try using one male and one female model  .  .  . but,

Write copy and select models for the prime users of specific products. Your reader knows that a safety relief valve on an industrial boiler is not operated by a woman and that, unless you mail to tailors, bobbins on sewing machines are not used by men  .  .  . but,

Often it pays to use more than one photo to demonstrate equal product appropriateness for males and females and to visually communicate that both sexes can easily use your item.

The hunk who runs your farm tractor would not look like a corporate chairman, but if it's a suburban lawn tractor, that's different. Readers should instantly see that models are fit for the product's use.

People shudder at traumas, crisis situations, unpleasant circumstances. So the model in your two-piece bikini should look like she's enjoying herself. Many apparel promoters mistakenly pose models to look as if they're in extreme pain. Would you want to buy a bathing suit that gives you such discomfort? Remember that you are not selling a garment or a piece of equipment. You are selling its enjoyment, utility, status, convenience  .  .  . its glow.

Show the model exhalting over possession of your product (perhaps smiling as she serves the meal she prepared with your cookware), but just show her hands as she fills the pots and places the pans on the stove. That way the reader sees the glow and recognizes the utility. Often you will want to select an additional model for hand shots.

Products displayed by themselves create less desire for ownership than products displayed with someone using them, enjoying them, benefiting by them. But that does not preclude also showing your product separately, perhaps from several views so the reader sees the full scope of your merchandise.

9. SITE.
Wonderful! Let me visualize wearing my tux at La Scala. But a compressor does not belong in a showroom. Show me how easy it is for me to hook up in my workshop. The key is to let me know that this product is appropriate and terrific for me by the combination of your site and model identity to me.

These guidelines are not your only considerations, but for the writer, they are essential.

As the writer plans a catalog or an individual product segment, he must visualize his display simultaneously with creating selling words. If he doesn't, he can't sell with maximum effectiveness and he certainly can't write powerful captions. Caption writing? That's a future column.


Rene Gnam is an independent response marketing consultant

specializing in creative advertising techniques.

He can be reached at 813-407-8400


Photo of Marketing Consultant Rene Gnam

Rene Gnam is a Marketing Consultant and Advertising Copywriter

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I'm usually in Florida, and here are the numbers:

FAX 813-475-4354      CELL 813-407-8400

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