Apparel, Sales Over $20 Million: L.L. Bean and Orvis

GOLD: Catalog Channel

L.L. Bean, Christmas Gifts 2010

Sublime copy, focused merchandise selection and topnotch catalog design all guided by an eye on customer service translates to one undeniable conclusion: L.L. Bean once again goes home with the Gold award.

WHY IT WON A GOLD AWARD: Great copy goes a long way not only in selling product, but in engaging readers emotionally, one judge said. “L.L. Bean does a superb job of using every copy technique to do just that. And they take advantage of the great copy by making it as visual as possible with large spread headlines and editorial sidebars.”

Another judge added: “By far the best copy I’ve read in this judging category.” What’s more, judges loved the readable type in the book because that makes a catalog “much more shoppable!”

Products are heroes on the page and everything else is used to answer customers’ questions. This is, one judge said, “one of the best examples of designing a catalog knowing the customer is shopping from the page. Everything on the pages helps customers.”

The entire catalog screams customer service. “They bring in online customer reviews and engage the reader with videos and other content found online,” one judge said.

IDEA TO STEAL: Let your customers help you sell. Not only does L.L. Bean effectively pull online reviews into the print catalog, “I especially like the way they refer to customer favorites rather than best sellers,” noted one judge.— Tim Parry

SILVER: Catalog Channel

The Orvis Co., The Sporting Tradition, Fall 2010

Being an authority in a particular category is something the MCM Awards judges value highly. A perfect example of this is the Orvis Sporting Tradition title. One judge praised the wonderful photography and merchandise, combined with expert copy that is “tremendously respectful of the customer’s intelligence.”

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: Judges applauded the book’s “superior eyeflow” on virtually every spread, and its use of features, subfeatures and editorial spots.

This catalog reflects a company that knows its customers, and understands how to present an offering they’ll respond to. “Editorial shots are a great way to add credibility to the product — showing it worn by real people — and add an element of humanity, which is important when a catalog doesn’t use models,” one judge said.

In this case, the copy is used like a “selling agent,” one judge remarked, because it is well written and speaks in a friendly voice. What’s more, its use of straightforward headlines — “The finest cashmere we’ve ever found” — pulls the customer in with a key message.

Bottom line for the judges: Everything fits behind a tight brand filter and readers understand the aspirational lifestyle that is being presented.

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD AWARD: The front cover lacks the drama you want from a cover shot, one judge said. And the back cover product (a gym bag) is virtually impossible to understand and, as another panelist put it, “Why would they choose a $298 product that is appealing to such a small percentage of their customers?” — JT

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