Marketing Matters: Are We Beyond Brochures?

by Steve Cony

There is no question about the value of new media such as a Web site to spread your camp’s marketing message. In fact, Web sites are so widely accepted that without one your camp could be perceived as outdated or lacking legitimacy. The state of the art in video production continues to progress as well.

Print Demand Won’t Decline

Where does this leave that staple of the camp marketing package, the print brochure? American Printer magazine estimates that demand for printing services — despite the onslaught of alternative electronic media — will remain equal in 1999 to the previous year. And, believe it or not, the most advanced industries are predicted to be the heaviest users of printed materials; telecommunications equipment/services and computer software are among the top ten prospect categories.

Benefits of the Printed Message

These industries are not forsaking the benefits of the print brochure to market their products because they understand the advantages of the printed message.

Total portability
Your prospects can access the pages of a printed brochure from anywhere and at any time with no need to be online or even near a computer or VCR. A brochure can even be photocopied and given to a friend. Particularly for the camp marketing process, which relies heavily on word of mouth, it is important to produce a message that can be shared very easily.

High-quality reproduction
Printed brochures enable your prospects to view your message clearly. Important visual images, when printed well, lose no quality of color or definition as they might via an electronic translation such as a poorly adjusted monitor.

Fulfilling a convenience role
Given the more pulse-pounding media environment in which the brochure now exists, you should recognize how the brochure is likely to be used.

Family members who claim they may have no time or patience to browse through the pages of a brochure may prefer to have the information spoon-fed via video or the more flexible medium of the Internet. On the other hand, that same impatience can be expressed as a disinterest in sitting through a video presentation or having to log on and then navigate your Web site. As in this latter case, your brochure still fills a convenience role for some temperaments.

Pleasing the Modern Market

However, in our fast-paced society, even the nature of reading has changed as people feel the need for briefer and more targeted messages. The following suggestions can help you develop and produce a brochure for the beyond-1999 reader.

Create multilevel messages
Use headlines, subheads, and photos that tell strong stories on every page for the readers who will not read the paragraphs of text. Body copy should be kept as short as possible, and the brochure should not require the reader to wade through administrative detail as part of the overall camp story. Rates, dates, and requirements should be separated into another part of the marketing package or at least be separate, identifiable pages of the brochure.

Consider a modernized image
Re-evaluate marketing your camp’s traditions. In a society that values the newest and the latest, many messages about what used to be and what has been done the same year after year simply don’t fit comfortably into the competitive marketplace. Traditions are fine, but you must consider carefully whether your camp traditions have sufficient meaning for someone who has yet to attend.

Refrain from becoming too modern
This is not a contradiction of the previous suggestion. Instead, it is a reminder not to become carried away with the latest jargon. A good exampwith the trend and abbreviate frequently asked questions to “FAQs.” Camp should never become so trendy that it looks like we have abandoned all traditionalism and sense of longevity — unless, of course, yours is a computer camp.

Communicate to children
A camp brochure that is directed solely at the parent is missing at least half the target audience. As children play an ever-increasing role in the camp decision process, you must have them as well as their parents on your side in order to close with a registration. Children must understand the value of a camp experience and then what makes the experience at your camp so special.

Invest in the value of color
Children of the 1990s may have never seen a black-and-white television. They live in a world of color and getting an excited response to black-and-white photos is a daunting task. You need to develop a message so strong and so permanent that it can be used for several years without revision. If you are structured so that it is important to have the brochure communicate rates and dates, prepare the specifics on an insert and have it bound inside the color pages each year.

Relate the brochure to your entire package
You might refer your readers to scenes in the brochure that can also be viewed in the video or on the pages of your Web site. Anything you can do to make the elements of your total package look and sound unified contributes to an overall image of organization and preplanning at your camp. If your marketing package — the first contact between you and your prospects — looks coordinated, it starts your interaction off with a good first impression.

Be patient with your materials
As with all your marketing tools, you will become bored with your brochure long before your prospects. In fact, your prospects — year after year — will be interested. Everything in your marketing package will be new to them. As is the case with every product or service in the marketplace, the marketer who distributes the message becomes impatient and wants to make changes long before the message has outlived its usefulness.

Look through a child’s eyes
Camp literature is filled with photos and descriptions of activities that have to be tried to be appreciated. Often images that are meant to look interesting don’t. It is increasingly difficult to get blood pressure rising and pupils dilating over nature study photos. While you can certainly make these activities very stimulating for children, you must re-evaluate their role in materials that are often sent to people who are uninitiated in everything that is camp.

Despite the rapid advancements in digital photography, Web site development, video techniques, and even interactive CD-ROM, your print brochure can and should continue to be a strong asset to your camp’s marketing package.

Steve Cony is a marketing consultant who assists children's camps with the development of strategic plans and the execution of marketing materials. Camp directors may contact home at 914-271-8482.

Originally published in the 1999 May/June issue of Camping Magazine.