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It's either orthodontics
or maybe brochure
My job was to make orthodontics sexy with a sexy brochure.

Back when I was in graduate school, people would  always be like, "Oh that's cool that you spend all day reading about dead people, but what exactly are you going to do with a Ph.D. in Native American literature." They spoke without question marks, because they weren't asking questions. They were communicating their bleak, dark pity. But if only—if only—if only they'd known that the divine gales of fate would soon cast my weathered ship upon the redemptive shores of cosmetic dentistry. What follows is not only a story about cosmetic dentistry, but a story about a brochure about cosmetic dentistry. Tighten your laces, folks.

Consumers throw away brochures only because advertisers think of brochures as throwaway objects.

Here's how this goes. Candid Co., a fast-moving oral wellness startup in New York City, was opening its first brick-and-mortar retail location just off Union Square in Manhattan. Candid sells custom-designed clear dental aligners (#sexy), and thanks to 3D printing and a direct-to-consumer distribution model, their product retails for a fraction of the cost of the aligners made by the folks over at Invisalign™™™™. Candid's new retail location was meant to streamline this distribution model even further by allowing customers to get on-the-spot laser scans of their teeth—a much faster way of getting started than the typical process of making dental impressions at home using a mail-order kit.

But this is still the e-commerce era. And in the e-commerce era, brick-and-mortar stores are more interested in curating brand experiences than they are in retail itself. That's why an advertising object as old-school as a brochure becomes so important. People simply aren't all that likely to impulse-purchase a $1,900 set of dental aligners, a product that not only rings in at a high price point (even if it is half the cost of other brands), but also requires customers to make meaningful lifestyle changes over the course of five or six months as their teeth align. Clear aligners are a calculated purchase. People need to sit with the thought for a while, and they need access to the resources that can help them conclude that, yes, straighter teeth are worth my time and my money. 

A brochure is designed to do exactly that. It's meant to continue the sale back at home, after the initial in-store experience has come and gone, and to make sure that the curiosity that propelled the consumer into the store in the first place doesn't have a chance to evaporate.

Magazines offer us a bigger promise—a promise about who we might become if we would just give them more of our attention. 

Brochures are a badly underestimated advertising tool. Consumers tend to throw them away only because advertisers think of brochures as throwaway objects. For advertisers, that's a huge mistake. Consumers, after all, are the same people who will spend months, even years, hanging on to back-issues of magazines—magazines they may have already read, or even magazines they have not intention of reading at all. 

That's because we take magazines seriously. And we take them seriously because they offer us a bigger promise about who we could be if we would just give them a little bit more of our time and attention. The power of a brochure is earned or lost in that same promise. They have to make a case for their own worth before they can make a case for the product they sell. They have to tell exactly the right story with exactly the right amount of effort while also being commensurate with the quality of a comparable in-store experience. And as print objects, they have to be beautiful and gently imposing, so they'll feel too valuable to be tossed in the trash.

For Candid, that claim to quality is especially important, since the product's basic value proposition is that it moves your teeth around inside of your head. That's some scary stuff. People need to know that they can trust this newcomer-brand with significant wellness decisions (and significant amounts of money). Being able to walk into a real building and talk to real people can be a huge help for most consumers, who might otherwise stay on the fence about this kind of decision.

In the e-commerce era, brick-and-mortar stores are more interested in curating brand experiences than they are in retail itself.

That's exactly why it was a good idea for Candid to put its first retail location in a high-traffic, high-tourist area. Candid needs to capture the incidental visitor—the passerby, the bored local, the curious shopper. And when that retail experience can't close the sale in the store itself, the brand needs to send the consumer home with a persuasive piece of proof. A story. A body of evidence about how a product and a person can and should go together. Here's the finished product: