Business Writing – Brochures for the End Times

Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Business Writing | 0 comments

If I hadn’t gotten hungry just outside of Beckley, West Virginia last year, I would’ve never known the rapture was at hand. I was returning from a film shoot in Atlanta with the director and the executive producer when we pulled into a Wendy’s and ordered, for the sake of brevity, what I’ll call food. It had been a few hours since we last stopped, so I decided a bathroom break was in order. As I washed my hands in preparation to head back into the restaurant, I looked down at the sink. And there beside some water droplets and soap residue was Satan.

He was staring back at me as a creepy pencil sketch with giant horns, a surprisingly stylish beard, and the pecs of a bodybuilder. He held a blood covered sword above a pile of mutilated bodies and looked quite satisfied with all he’d accomplished that day. Also, for some reason he had a stomach rocker tattoo that said “MasterCard.” There was a factory in the background and some old World War II bombers overhead and people in gas masks and stuff. The sheer beauty of it defies words.

And the text – wow, the text. It sure let you know the horrors that awaited the world somewhere on the other side of your Frosty.

“Satan will use credit cards to enslave the people and this is ALREADY HAPPENING followed by YEARS of TORTURE and DESPAIR! The Pope will REVEAL his TRUE INTENTIONS by running over CHILDREN with a TRACTOR! CAPITAL LETTERS will FALL FROM THE SKY and goats will run around like TOTAL JAGOFFS! The END TIMES ARE NEAR!”

I only mention this brochure because it accomplished nearly everything it set out to do. It was memorable, encouraged me to read on, and actually got me to retain it as I passed multiple trash receptacles. Although its main objective – getting me to fear the rapture so much that I immediately raced to some local hillbilly church to repent wasn’t achieved, it was still a nice effort that needs to be applauded.

That said, if you’re writing the text of a brochure for your product or event, the rapture brochure is a fantastic example of things to avoid at all costs. For instance, describing exactly how nonbelievers will be beheaded and tossed into a giant post-apocalyptic scrap heap probably won’t help get kids to your lacrosse camp. And a more applicable lesson here is that neither will all the capital letters and EXCLAMATION POINTS!

Writing a brochure is actually much tougher than you’d think. Why? Because initially, it seems like you have to cram a hell of a lot of information into a very tiny space. But guess what? The great thing is you don’t actually have to cram a lot of information into a tiny little space. You only have to place a minimum amount of carefully selected information in what becomes a lot more space than you imagined.

Most brochures are going to come in three different but similar forms. If you really examine any brochures you might have lying around, you’ll notice that most of them have one, two, or sometimes three folds. In essence, this gives you four, six, or eight surfaces on which to place information. In reality, though, you should reasonably expect to eliminate one of those surfaces for text because the cover should be a big, colorful, shiny picture with a logo and a tagline at most. The cover flap should visually encourage the potential reader to open the brochure and glance inside.

The best thing about brochures is that the text itself always takes a huge backseat to the pictures. And there should be a picture or two on each flap – photos of people using your product, scenes of happy, smiling kids attending your event, random puppies, etc.

In general, a good rule is that if you have five flaps at your disposal, you’ll want to narrow your focus down to five things you really want to highlight about your product or event. Then devote one flap to each bit of information. The folds themselves make clear lines of delineation between ideas, so use them to do just that.

Remember, you’re not writing a novel. You’re trying to encourage curiosity. The whole idea of a brochure is to get people to explore further – visit your website, wander into your shop, ask others about their impressions, etc. If the brochure piques their interest, they’ll get their secondary information through other channels.

With that said, here’s a broad template of what you’ll want to attempt on a typical six-flap brochure.

Page 1) (Cover) This is where you put your best photo, your logo, and your tag line. Or if you place terrifying brochures in Wendy’s bathrooms around Beckley, West Virginia, this is where your sketch of the devil committing genocide goes.

Page 2) (Back of the cover) This is where you give a brief introduction about the history of your product or service. At United Church of Friends, we’ve been preparing sinners for the rapture since 1948. Our founder, Josiah Nuttlesjobber had a dream….

Page 3) (Front middle) People have a tendency to stare at this particular flap because it’s centrally located when they open the brochure. Consequently, there should be another awesome picture along with some very specific information. This is the “What we do,” and “What we believe,” section. United Church of Friends believes we’re ALL GOING TO DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH SOON AT THE HANDS OF PURE EVIL! Why do we believe this? The signs are everywhere…..

Page 4) (Front right) This is a great place for bullet points as to why people should explore further.
Why should you repent at United Church of Friends?
• Because if you don’t, Satan is coming to chop off your head.
• The unrepentant will go straight to hell and get their heads chopped off THREE MORE TIMES!
• 666!
• Credits cards are bad.

Page 5) (Inside tuck. Reverse of page 4) This flap is a great place for testimonials, quotes, etc. “Before I came into Wendy’s, I had no idea the Pope was an agent of the devil. I’m talking about the tractor thing. Now I know. Also, I’m saved,” – Dennis: Blumperton, Ohio

Page 6) Back flap. This is the place to wrap everything up. Make sure that people know exactly where they can go to get more information. Put your website, address, phone number, a tiny location map, etc. here. Remember that anyone who sets the brochure upside down is going to see this particular flap, so make it visually interesting as well. For more information, run, don’t walk to United Church of Friends, 196 Hollersville Road, Bump Notch, West Virginia! From I-77, just take Route 14 south to the Dairy Queen and turn left. We’re just past Trevor’s old meth lab. United Church of Friends – Don’t fear the rapture. We make it easy to repent!

Anyway, that’s a very quick and easy outline. The big key is to remember that you probably need about 80% less information than you think you do. Less information with a clear objective is always preferable to lots of ridiculous jumble. The more pictures and white space on each flap, the better it’s going to look and the more likely people are going to be to read it. It doesn’t matter how much great material you’ve managed to shove in there if people discard it immediately on fear that it’s a Steinbeck novel in disguise.

I’d write more but I’m pretty sure the apocalypse is happening outside and I’d better get to the repent… wait, nope. Nope. That was just some stray cats in the alley. Sorry for the false alarm.

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