Should you use logic or hedonic messages in your brochure, and which colours are best to choose?

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Brochures are one way to get a company noticed, and though it may seem simple enough, it actually has two basic models through which people process information. The point of a brochure is to be convenient and convince a customer to take action. The challenge now is that studies have found that the coronavirus can survive even on inanimate objects like paper, so how else can information be shared that isn’t on a website, a tweet, a Facebook or social media post, but is a longer-form piece of information that’s carrying the public relations messages, the sales messages, and the functional information about what the organisation or the company is doing? 

If people have already read about a company or organisation, the brochure could well be the next piece of information they receive, or if they are going into a venue for example, the brochure fulfills all the point of sale information exchanged between the company and that person. Therefore, it’s mission critical that having spent all that time and effort to get somebody to the venue, to the company, or to the restaurant that the brochure communicates the next stage of information that the company needs in order to get the potential partner, customer, or employee from a stage of being ignorant to being aware to being engaged and then to becoming a participant with that company. 

The two models

Of the two basic models around how individuals process information, one is called the consumer processing model or CPM, and the other is the hedonic experiential model. The former focuses on rational thinking, while the latter is the feeling or emotional model, and deciding which model to use is an important consideration. When writing press releases, the common route would be to talk about the product or the service being marketed. If done through a filter or a journalist, the press release could appeal to the journalist’s emotional side, but they will take a cold hard look at that press release to see whether it’s really news or not. On the other hand, with a brochure, it’s going straight into the hands of a possible customer, partner, or member of staff, so it’s definitely a great place to start.

Photo from CoSchedule

With the two approaches, it doesn’t mean that one can use only one or the other. Companies can use them both at different times for different reasons. The CPM or the logic-based model can be used for product details, product brochures, product catalogues, or menus. If the aim is to give people direct information, features, benefits, or advantages of a product, CPM is the way to go. The CPM needs to align with the brand voice and the target audience, of course, and one method or approach is to look at the logic-based content. This can also then apply to the training, as with what is being done for the SPEAK|pr Mastermind.

The second model is the hedonic experiential model, and it’s based around building an emotional response. There was a report in 2016 by Nielsen, a market research company, suggesting that ads that generated emotional response got a 23% uplift in sales volume. One would assume that if that’s for advertising, that’s also working for brochures. Psychologists have classified the main emotions as as humour or making people laugh, making people afraid, giving people a sense of excitement, or giving people a sense of sadness. 

Once the emotion to drive the reader to has been identified, then that dictates the nature of the brochure, because it determines the images that are shown, the text that’s used, and even the structure. For instance, brochures on Valentine’s Day are in the shape of a heart. For a locksmith, brochures could be in the shape of a key. Clearly, form and function are decided by the emotion to be elicited, and of them all, humour elicits the greatest memorability. There’s also the fear advert, which can be a bit more tricky and could turn people off, as seen in insurance or anti-smoking campaigns. Then there’s excitement, which is obviously one of the main ones people play on, like when it comes travel, thrills, and cars. The next emotion is sadness or pulling on the heartstrings, and this is prominent around Christmas time or charity events, where there is the information being shared about what would happen to these people if they were not helped. Also, one can even pair emotions together. So, the main point is figuring out what emotions people should feel upon reading the brochure and how to address that or make it happen.

The next dimension that we can think about is the colour of the brochure, the images, and the font of the brochure’s text. As a general rule, blue creates the sense of tranquility, security, integrity, peace, and loyalty. Silver is glamour and high tech, probably why Mercedes cars are always displayed in silver. Tan, interestingly enough, is seen to be dependable, flexible, crisp, and conservative. There’s a whole scope that we can think about both for the logo but also for the brochure backgrounds and for the images. So, the kind of emotions that we want to elicit from people will be impacted not only by the text that we write, but also the background of the colours. 

Emotions and other aspects of making a brochure

There is an emotion map created by a chap named Cugelman, and it has four quadrants wherein one is trying to position the reader. The first one is ‘insecure,’ to put that person in a place of high arousal, but with painful emotions. They suggest red as a colour to use in those situations. For high arousal, the SPEAK|pr Mastermind is in red with grey as a counterpoint. The second quadrant Cugelman talks about is ‘optimistic,’ where the reader is in a state of high arousal and thinking about pleasurable emotions. Green is the colour of optimism, which makes sense because it’s the colour of nature. Then there’s the ‘pessimistic’ quadrant: low arousal, painful emotions, the use of black and grey. It’s interesting when people use, for example, a black background with gold lettering, because that’s a low arousal possibly painful emotion with the sense of exclusivity blended in. The fourth quadrant is ‘security,’ low arousal, but pleasurable emotions, and that’s the colour blue. That’s why so many logos are in blue. 

Photo from Alter Spark

After discussing the emotional aspects come the more practical physical elements, such as identifying who the reader is going to be, where they will be reading it from, and on what medium or device they are going to be reading it on. In the old days, A4- or A5-sized brochures were made with matte lamination or vinyl to bring out certain elements that people could see on the homepage. The third page would be the primary position in the brochure, and a double-page spread displayed a picture of a large piece across two pages. That still exists, but not quite with the same tactile feeling as with print. Next, look for templates on platforms like Canva or Visme. There are no end of templates that are application-specific now. One can find templates for restaurants, for home cleaners, for the vet. You get the idea. After the template, the content, and the audience are fulfilled, then look at the application. Is it going to be handed out or is it going to be used as a workbook? Is it going to be shared or is it going to be private? Nowadays, people click a link to fill out an online form, so the trick is brochures having a call to action in order to justify its existence. After that, the next crucial step is the content. The heading should be able to catch people’s attention and make them want to continue reading the contents of the brochure. It would help if it links the outside world into the good or service being spoken about in the brochure.

Companies do have great brochures, and they really expect them to be almost like a coffee book, because people are going to take the brochure and hopefully share it with their friends and their family. Other brochures are pretty much disposable or have a coupon within them offering a discount or a promotion. Creating a brochure boils down to the function it is going to fulfill, the format it is going to be in, and how it is going to be delivered, whether as a point of sale, something that goes out through direct mail, as a carry-along with another product, or as an insert inside a magazine. How people are going to receive this brochure creates another level of complexity and excitement.

While somebody may have read about or seen the organisation online or in the media, when they want to ask for more information, a brochure can provide that. They may or may not go to the company website for it, but on average, viewing a website takes only a minute to a minute and a half and then people leave. So, a brochure is the opportunity to share more of the solution in a more significant way using either the CPM model, which is this cognitive model, or this HEM or emotional model. With that, have a think about which way you are going to be able to best share the value you’re offering to potential customers.


This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Adobe Support

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