Is Creative Worth the Paper It’s Printed On?

While walking around a city I happened to be visiting, I spied a store that I recognized. Well, their catalog was really what I knew – I had never been into one of their stores before. I was curious to see their products as I remembered their catalog (which I hadn’t seen in quite a while) being beautiful, with top-notch photography, compelling stories, and the branding piece to end all branding pieces.

As I walked through the store, admiring the products that were still high quality and beautiful, I was, to be honest, scanning every surface hoping to find one of their catalogs. I finally did find one on a display table and grabbed it. But my excitement quickly turned to surprise as I realized that their beautiful, high quality catalog had become… boring and low quality.

What happened? Instead of the big beautiful format, it was now a thin digest sized book. Just 24 pages and fairly pedestrian in every way. The products were all there, but there was no excitement or bold branding.

Being the ambitious type, of course I sent an email to their CEO. “What happened to your big, beautiful catalog that I remember so fondly?” I asked.

The answer I got was (in part) a terse “What happened is, we aren’t going to pay thousands of dollars to design and print a fancy catalog! Catalogs aren’t what sells our products!”

While I disagreed with that assessment, I did get the strong message that it was really the creative that they weren’t interested in paying for. They didn’t feel that having excellent creative, photography, and branding (as they had in the past) was worth it. At all.

This wasn’t the first time I had heard this type of reasoning; I have heard variations of it from time to time over the years. And yet I’ve also known of (and worked with) many, many brands that all but insist on having the best creative, photography, and copywriting that can be produced. But being a creative guy myself, the naysayers make me wonder.

Is a strong creative presentation of your brand worth the time, cost, and attention?