Theme: Brochures – When the Kitty Was Purring

Jaguar’s XJ6 saloon was a landmark car. Its marketing did it justice.

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Collecting brochures is, in the grander scheme of things, a rather sad pastime. One goes to great lengths to get one’s hands onto something that was supposed to have, at best, a short-term effect and be forgotten immediately afterwards.

Do people who buy a car usually keep the brochures? No, they don’t, even though they played a role in the process of parting with significant sums of cash in exchange for some mere consumer good.

Being on the hunt for old brochures is therefore similar to chasing after other people’s breadcrumbs. Which makes it all the more lamentable that I had such a fine time trying to complete my own collection of late 1960s/early ’70s Jaguar brochures.

It had all started when I stumbled across a brochure (though probably more of a press kit) presenting Jaguar’s then-new V12 engine in great detail. I simply adored the almost witty writing, the typography and layout, not to mention the almost surreal design of its cover and backside.

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With my appetite thus whetted, I began looking for brochures of the Jaguar XJ4 on eBay and at classic car shows. Luckily, I was soon rewarded by coming across this specimen of the breed, the original XJ6’s sales brochure.

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Again, the writing was effortlessly classy, but the layout and typography (the same as Vogue’s) were even better! Being a quadringual publication, the challenging task of keeping it legible was carried out with some panache by using a different kind of paper, in a different size, for the copy, and larger sheets for the photos.

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Although anything but humble, the brochure manages to exude an air of confidence, rather than boastfulness. This is also helped by the fact that the gentleman whose mind this was unquestionably supposed to tickle wasn’t represented in the photos in some blunt fashion. Instead, the photography focuses entirely on the lady in the passenger seat.

This is how it’s done.

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Unlike today’s deserted CGI landscapes/yacht clubs/modernist bungalow driveways, the XJ6 was part of the real world, albeit a slightly heightened version of it, in which the gentleman kept his fags visibly on the centre console – and where the lady demonstrated the Jaguar’s sublime ride quality by nonchalantly painting her fingernails while on the move.

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In an age before branded accessories became the norm, the only sensible thing for Jaguar’s marketing folks appeared to be to demonstrate the XJ’s load capacity by filling it to the brim with Gucci bags. As you do.

It is striking to see the similarities between the car and how it was marketed. In both cases, the style and content betrayed an astonishing level of confidence. Even though the XJ’s development was anything but straightforward and trouble-free, the resultant car would prove to be the defining Jaguar. Safe in the knowledge that the car didn’t need any kind of undue embellishment, this very brochure doesn’t distract from the product, but illustrates it in stylised, but still utterly appropriate a fashion.

Now, where can I get that luggage set?

Author: Christopher Butt

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19 thoughts on “Theme: Brochures – When the Kitty Was Purring”

  1. Interesting article. We have it drummed into us now that advertisers, not least those hawking cars, sell a lifestyle rather than a product. I think this brochure sells a very appealing lifestyle in a way that seems almost effortless and off the cuff, with an almost documentary style to some of the photos. It does this without looking all try-hard and serious like a modern brochure.

    It probably helps that the product itself is so appealing.

    1. The brochure is unquestionably dated, but not in silly way. Most brochures are silly starting the day they are bring printed.

  2. I’m a sucker for a classy brochure but the only criticism of this, and many other narrative type ads and brochures, is that the conceit is spoilt by the fact that the number plate reads “Jaguar” whereas it would be so much more convincing if it comprised, say, a Swiss Bern registration.

    1. I’ve always craved a Swiss registration plate. GE is a bit obvious and maybe a bit too playboy. There’s ZH of course, but I’ve always felt that BE is more business like, yet you get the nifty bear canton shield.

  3. “Genesis of the Jaguar V12” is a fabulous thing, with its multiple layers printed on acetate to show the engine in just about every aspect. More of an engineering textbook than a piece of sales material.

  4. That is a remarkable piece of cultural jetsam. All of it is historic now. There’s a humour to the brochure together with the assumption of intelligence I don’t see in sales material now. I bet the authors had first in Eng Lit from a Oxford college.

    1. The true crowning glory is the draughtsmanship. Given that it was the early ’70s, it would have been painstaking drawing board work by men in smocks with their trusty Rotring pens and Embassy Regals, to whom pixels and rasters would mean nothing.

  5. Sean: a Basel plate gets you a basilisk/fleur-de-lys emblem. It says: business, arts and a German, Swiss, French cosmopolitanism. I’d like one of those please. We ought to be free to register our cars anywhere.

    1. Jaguar obviously shared your opinion as regards Swiss registration numbers…

    2. Old, small Italian plates also possess quite a bit of charm. And that’s not just because they’d render any luxury car even more exclusive due to Italy’s taxation laws, but because, y’know, Italians are supposed to know a thing or two about style. Even though they luuurve the BMW X6…

    1. I do have a set of German Baden-Baden export plates left from a vehicle I bought. For a month I drove around with BAD 1 E on my vehicle, though, any possibility of me looking the least bit cool were diffused by the fact it was a motorhome.

    2. The margrave of Baden (not the most pleasant of chaps, I’ve got to say), used to be chauffeured around in a W140 S-class sporting the plates BAD-EN 1. Tells you all you’d need to know, really.

  6. Regular readers will be aware of the author’s fine website – auto-didakt.com. Previously a German language-only site, it is now in the process of migrating to an English language platform. So for those non-German speakers who could previously only enjoy the superb photography, you will soon be able to appreciate Kris’ finely crafted words as well.

  7. What terrific brochures! Very interesting from a print production angle too. Different size pages would have added significant cost to the collation and binding. The sad truth is that these days, unless a high end marque was involved, no manufacturer would sink that much cost into a brochure. A shame.

    Incidentally, the V12 brochure was indeed a press pack, as the acetates would have been used by papers and magazines to create layouts, back when such things were produced by cut and paste. Nowadays press materials are mostly distributed as digital downloads via FTP; not even a company-branded memory stick for a lowly artworker to steal afterwards. Half the time the press photos are not even supplied files with alpha channels or clipping paths, which can be a real boon for a DTP operator on a deadline. Sad.

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