From Tupperware to Brochureware

Long before I came of age and probably before most of you reading this column were born, a strange-but-true marketing strategy called “the Tupperware party” came on the scene. These bizarre gatherings were founded on the premise that completely bored American women would gather in living rooms across the country to marvel at plastic containers.

And then some guy (yes, I’m assuming it was a guy) believed that these women would whip themselves into such a frenzy that they’d yelp in near-orgasmic ecstasy when they heard lid and bowl lock together with the signature Tupperware “burp.”

Obviously, you had to be there. But before we all dismiss the T-ware event, consider its present-day incarnation — a brochureware party for your marketing communications team.

Stay with me, folks. If you’re a “marcommer,” you know the pain of tossing cartons of unused brochures that have become obsolete for many reasons: the CEO in the picture has departed, an address has changed, a product has been updated, or the almost-daily California experience of an area code being switched. You’ve also come to realize that had the brochure been a Web page, all those trees might still be alive.

But before you toss all those old-thinking print pieces, take the time to review each one, and consider how some element(s) might be useful for Web site content. Now, I’m not advocating pure brochureware for your site, but I do believe a lot of good communications messages can be recycled into something better.

So, for your next brochure tossing, scrutinize those print items for the following:

What was the primary message of the piece? Could it be enhanced with a little interactivity? For example, that tired piece on your company’s mission/vision might have a new life on the Web if customers could let you know whether your company is living up to all of its wonderful promises. Or, wouldn’t it be great if your customers could email you back with testimonials of a job well done?

Where are the hidden copy gems? Even the dustiest brochures may include a paragraph or two that can be resurrected. Also, take note of clunkers, and remind yourself never to repeat them in any of your communications efforts.

What feedback did you receive? Did everyone comment that the car in the brochure should have been blue instead of red? Revisiting your print pieces can jog your memory of mistakes you don’t want to repeat on your Web site.

Are there any classic visuals? Scan those classic photos into your site, and you’ve made a historic gallery — and isn’t a touch of longevity a nice thing to see on a Web site every now and then?

If you had the money, would you have targeted the brochure to others? The trouble with brochures is that you have to print into the thousands to achieve efficiencies. Think about how the message in that piece could have applied to many different target audiences, and organize your Web site accordingly.

Did the piece receive kudos in its prime? Consider what made a piece successful and why it became obsolete. Can you achieve a similar message with your Web site? How can you ensure the information stays current?

How did the piece promote sales? Was there a simple “tear off” sheet that managed to generate sales? Look at your e-commerce efforts now — did you retain the simplicity or set your sights on data gathering instead of sales? Revisiting the simple “tear and send” form may help you relive your original successes.

How can future print pieces work better with your Web site? Are your marketing communications strategies truly integrated, or do your print and electronic efforts appear to have originated in separate countries? You’re wasting valuable Web space and printing dollars if they’re not in sync.

And when you’re done with the brochures, take a look at your broadcast efforts and corporate videos. Consider how television campaigns and video projects fit into your Web site strategy. Remember, the jerkiness of quick-edited television spots looks even more, well, jerky on the Web. But there may be a few good shots that can still be useful for your streaming media presentation.

If you throw a brochureware party, please let me know how it goes. But if there’s any burping, keep it to yourself.

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