Put Dates on Product Literature

The following was first published nearly 20 years ago. While it addresses printed product literature, the same recommendations apply to online product literature.

When I asked an architect friend to critique my product literature, he said I should mark each piece with a date of issue. Since no one ever told me this before, I would like your opinion. -S.K., President

If your friend's experience is like mine, he is deluged with new catalogs every year. It is frustrating to have two slightly different versions of a catalog and not know which is more recent. Building-product literature should clearly indicate the date it is issued.

Some manufacturers mark literature with a form number indicating an issue date in code. However, you cannot depend on the specifier or contractor to translate your code. It is better to identify the month and year clearly in a prominent location such as the bottom of a data sheet. It may even be appropriate to state the date of superseded issues, for instance: "Effective May 1991 (supersedes August 1989)."

Some manufacturers fear that dating their literature will out-date it more quickly. But without an issue date, a specifier is likely to assume that your product is old until proven recent. When this happens he may call you -- or may select another product with more reliable dating. In either case, you have increased his uncertainty about your product.

Dating literature also helps your product liability management. By alerting a specifier to the date of publication, you are sharing responsibility with your customer to determine whether or not a piece of literature is acceptably current. When you do not provide that information, you may have increased liability for conforming to claims made in old product literature.

Copyright dates alone do not provide sufficient information to establish issue date. That's because several versions of the same document can be issued in a single year. Also, literature may he issued in preparation for a change that may not take effect until the following year.

Clearly dated literature makes it easier to discuss products over the telephone and to verify that each party is referring to the same data sheet. Dates also make it easier to refer to specific pieces of literature in a specification, contract, or shop drawing submittal. A dating program should be implemented during the normal revision or reprinting process.

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By Michael Chusid
Originally published in Construction Marketing Today, Copyright © 1992