Of course, the marketing corollary to that is, "The urge to solve a problem with a brochure or some other piece of collateral is strong." (Yes. Even in this day of electronic media the 6-panel brochure is, sometimes unfortunately, alive and well.)
Now I know this is a blog primarily about writing, but as a writer -- especially a marketing writer -- you can often provide a great deal of insight into a project. What kind of collateral your client needs depends on what they're trying to accomplish.
I know. Obvious, right? Maybe not.
Step away from the brochure and run through this mental checklist:
Who is the audience? If you have a very specific audience in mind (or a mailing list), I can almost guarantee that a brochure is not the best choice for marketing collateral. This weird age where so many people are constantly in touch, but often isolated, calls for a more creative, personal approach. Maybe a postcard driving people to a Web site would be more appropriate?
How will you deliver the brochure? If you want to stop a client's headlong charge towards a brochure, ask them how they're going to deliver it. For a brochure to be effective, the delivery mechanism is key. Unless they're advertising a very specific service (think California Closets brochures next to the display in Home Depot) or a tourist attraction (think colorful brochures enticing visitors Florida, you know the ones -- they advertise everything from alligator wrestling to Disney World), unless your client's product or service benefits from broad placement, a brochure is probably a waste of production money.
How often will the information change? (or, what's the shelf life?) Four words: crack and peel stickers. I once had to put 7,502 (yes, I counted them) crack and peel stickers on the back of a brochure because it was the only way to switch out text that needed to be replaced. Granted, this is an extreme example, but if the information in your brochure does not have a long shelf life, you too may find yourself sitting on your living room floor working with stickers until your fingers bleed. Just saying.
What do you want your audience to do? In most cases, a brochure is either an expanded business card or a kind of invitation. (Back to those tourist brochures -- they are purely brochures of opportunity -- and they have their place, especially for parks, museums and other attractions.)If you want to persuade them to contact you for a specific product or place and the blind delivery method of a brochure in a stand is effective for your client, go for it. Put some great images and snappy text in there (don't forget your benefits verified by features) and you're good to go.
Have you thought through all other communications tools? Sometimes it helps to work backwards. Work your way through all the other potential tools at hand (including Web, direct mail, e-postcards, etc.) until you and your client are sure that a brochure is the best piece for your purposes.
Do the sales guys really need a general brochure as a "leave-behind?" I have this conversation at least once a week. "But the sales guys want a leave-behind." First thing you do, go visit the sales guys and ask them to define "leave behind" -- run them through all of the questions above. Many times they want a detailed product sheet (something easily produced in house) or a backgrounder on the company, or even a white paper that can be delivered by PDF. A half-hour conversation with the end users of the product can often save you several hours of frustration.
And as always, if you only have time to ask one question, I've had good luck with "What do you want this piece to do?"
What do you think? Is the 6-panel on its way out? Or will it always be with us, like Cher?