Skip to main content

Five principles of effective print flyer engagement

From great covers to disrupting readers, here's how to make your flyers great

For years now, retail experts have proclaimed the imminent death of the traditional print flyer, and for good reason. Flyers are onerous and expensive to produce, and wasteful. (How many flyers have you thrown out before you even flipped a page?)

The digital era was supposed to mark the beginning of the end for the printed flyer, as consumers would choose digital versions of flyers over more cumbersome printed ones.

While some argue that the extinction of the printed flyer is only a matter of time, the fact remains that, for most retailers, the printed flyer is–by far–their largest marketing expenditure, and considered the most crucial lifeline to their potential consumers.

And for good reason:

According to the Flyer Distribution Standards Association, 76% of Canadians claim to read print flyers, a figure that is unchanged from 2013. It’s no wonder that the weekly flyer is a consistent topic of conversation in the executive boardroom, both in terms of financial performance and as a reflection of the retail brand.

Stating the obvious, the success of a flyer starts with effective circulation. Item selection is also paramount. But what about consumer affinity and usability?

Take a quick scan of the flyers across a broad spectrum of retailers. How many present the reader with a pleasant, engaging experience? How many adopt communication and design principles that make it easy and enjoyable to digest the information?

As a retail consulting and creative agency, my company spends a considerable amount of time reviewing, analyzing and critiquing flyers from across North America and beyond. From all of this, we’ve boiled down the five best practice principles that affect consumer engagement with flyers. These principles are universal and apply across all retail categories.

The cover is key. Think about customers in line at a supermarket. Did they pick up a magazine? If so, which one and why? Most often, it’s because the cover was visually appealing and/or the content compelling. Flyers are no different. The Home Depot does a nice job on its covers, with a frequent focus on a core event that captures intrigue.

Make it ownable. If you took the name off the cover of a flyer (and perhaps changed the primary colour), would anyone correctly guess the retailer? Beyond the name and colour, there should be elements of content and style expressed within the flyer that are unique to the business. A unique product photography style is a good way to stand out in the crowd.

Keep it engaging. Smart retail marketers complement the monotonous flow of price/item with other content that visually disrupts and engages the reader. This reduces space productivity, but there has to be a good balance or consumers will gloss over your price/item content. Loblaws does a nice job of this with its “In-store Dietitian Top Pick that combines engaging content– anchored by the “Guiding Stars” program–with deals on healthy options.

Keep it simple. By their very nature, flyers are visually busy. The products, supporting images and packaging are all competing for attention. Additionally, retailers sometimes bow to merchant pressure and overload product shows. While this tactic might drive short-term results, the net result can be a disinterested or uninspired reader. So keep the visual background of the flyer simple and clean. The American grocery retailer Publix does a nice job keeping unnecessary visual noise to a minimum.

Ensure it’s integrated. A recent Retail Council of Canada study found that 59% of consumers read both the digital and print flyer. Those customers should find navigation between the two channels seamless and familiar. In fact, all graphics and language used in the flyer should be consistent with what appears in other marketing mediums and signage in the store.

Beyond the five principles outlined above, there are many other factors that can compromise flyer engagement: small text that’s hard to read and cumbersome formats being at the top of the list. And of course, measurement is king; best in class retailers routinely conduct consumer research to understand the likes, dislikes and browsing habits of their customers.

To sum up, the printed flyer should not be regarded as simply a promotional vehicle; it’s one of the most powerful expressions of a retailer’s brand. Following these basic principles will improve consumer engagement and ultimately develop relationships with the target audience that go beyond item and price.

Patrick Rodmell is president of Rodmell & Company, an integrated retail agency based in Toronto that provides consulting, branding and consumer engagement support to retailers worldwide. He’s also chairman of the Canadian Marketing Association’s Retail Leadership Committee.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds