Anatomy of a Tri-fold Leaflet

I have produced much eye-catching marketing literature over the years, and a question I often get asked, is:

What makes a good flier design?

Well here's the thing: is it the design or the content that makes a flier good?

I think it's a bit of both. Great content laid out badly won't get the message across. Nor will bad content in a well-considered design.

You've probably come across the acronym AIDA [Ah-EEE-dah]? It describes a series of engagement steps that a reader will take when viewing your marketing material that encourages them to do something you want them to do such as buy your product, pick up the phone, or support a campaign.

  • A = Attention. Calls out to your prospect with something to notice
  • I = Interest. Facts, information, benefits
  • D = Desire. Awakened in prospect to have this
  • A = Call to action. The behaviour you would like your prospect to carry out after reading it.

Using AIDA as a starting point for our humble tri-fold, you might organise your content in the following way.

Mocked up anatomy of a tri-fold leaflet. Image © Narjas Carrington

Mocked up anatomy of a tri-fold leaflet.
Image © Narjas Carrington

First, fold a sheet of paper to make a simple mockup of your leaflet that you can refer to as a page plan for your content. Your reader will read six numbered panels in the order in which they unfold, shown above. Here's how they work.

Outside Front Cover (1)

An attention grabber to capture the attention and invite someone to pick it up and awaken their curiosity. Less is more. It's a teaser not an essay. This could be as simple as:

  • an image
  • a key benefit
  • at-a-glance event information
  • a provocative question

Inside Front Cover (2)

This is the first panel that your reader will read. An important one that needs to create desire for your product or event or campaign, etc. It needs to appeal to the emotions.

One technique for persuasion is 'the Yes set'. This involves asking a number of questions that are designed to have 'yes' as response. After enough yesses have been answered, human nature means that the reader will be more inclined towards saying 'yes' to the final question you really wanted to ask them! For example:

  1. Are you fed up with queues of traffic?
  2. Has it crossed your mind to give up your vehicle?
  3. Do you envy riders who filter past at high speed?
  4. Wouldn't you like to own a bike yourself?

Of course, this method is a bit obvious and can insult your reader if used in this quick-succession manner. However, the principle works when interspersed with a benefit statement to soften the effect. For example:

  1. Are you fed up with queues of traffic?
  2. Do you envy riders who filter past at high speed?
  3. Stop-start driving can sap your energy before you even arrive at work to start your day. A refreshing start to your day with the added bonus of exercise can boost your immune system, and even enhances productivity.
  4. Imagine saving money, fuel and benefitting the environment while you keep moving!

People make buying decisions based on feelings. They rationalise their purchases after they've already decided. The reader needs to feel that the event or item cannot be missed. That your leaflet holds the answer to their needs.

You can also add a list of people who have done it before. Something that makes the reader go 'Oh that's me!' For example: others in a particular industry also bought this product, attended this event, etc. A bulleted list:

  • company employees
  • ride-to-work scheme users
  • fitness professionals
  • charity event participants

Inside Middle Panel (3)

This panel could appeal to the intellect. Facts, figures, and justifications work well here, as would a programme agenda. The science behind the attention-grabbers so far.

Inside Back Flap (4)

Can work together with three as both tend to get opened together. However, it is also a good place to hide administrative elements like order forms, or registration forms. Especially if they will be torn off and returned, as you won't want your reader to end up with two parts of a brochure that used the middle panel for its tear-off!

Outside Back Flap (5)

This is the second panel that a person sees when they open the leaflet, even though it is technically on the back! It's a great place for testimonials or other weight-adding info to the emotional inside front panel. Info you put on this flap forms the reverse of the tear-off form in (4), so make sure any dates or maps or venue info that you want your reader to keep, is NOT put here.

Outside Middle Panel (6)

This panel can be used for your logo and contact details, but needs to be as attractive as the front cover in generating interest. This is in case the leaflet is left lying face down.

Edge-to-edge word density across outer panels of a tri-fold. © Narjas Carrington

Edge-to-edge word density across outer panels of a tri-fold. © Narjas Carrington

Edge-to-edge word density across inner panels of a tri-fold leaflet. © Narjas Carrington

Edge-to-edge word density across inner panels of a tri-fold leaflet. © Narjas Carrington

A word on word count

Total word counts will vary depending on fonts used, and margins, and numbers of images.

How long is a piece of string?

Just because it is possible to pack over 1,000 words onto a tri-fold leaflet set in Arial font at 12pt, that doesn't mean you should do it.

Be kind to your reader. Brevity is key. Break up your content with imagery. I suggest at least halving this word count to aim for when writing your content. Then, cut it back by 30% at least. Three hundred and fifty? Let me know how you get on…

To conclude

The standard tri-fold can be hard work to put together properly. Planning your content around how your reader will read it, is key. The only question most readers want to know the answer to overall, is: "What's in it for me?"

When I consider the content versus design question… What came first, the chicken or the egg?