Computer and High-Tech Equipment and Software: Black Box Network Services, Crutchfield and Hewlett-Packard

Black Box Network Services, 35th Anniversary

Simply carrying Black Box’s 714-page catalog can seem a daunting task, so imagine what it must be like producing it. Factor in the technical nature of the offering — computer networking products and services and the visual monotony of most of the items, and you could go from daunting to dismaying. But not in this case.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: “They do a very, very good job of anticipating everything the target market might require or want,” one judge said. That extended beyond offering networking products from myriad manufacturers to include just about all the information one would need to make a purchasing decision: comparison charts, detailed product specs, installation advice, case studies and reminders that free tech support is available.

Services such as the “best price guarantee,” same-day shipping, first-time-buyer savings program, custom solutions, 45-day “no-risk” return policy, and “end-to-end services for all infrastructure types” were explained clearly in the opening spreads, selling readers on Black Box as a supplier before proceeding to sell Black Box’s products.

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD AWARD: Creatively, the cover “needs some love,” said one judge. “The product offering screams for color and energy as well as relevance.” Another panelist wished the shipping charges were included “so that you didn’t have to make a call to figure them out.” —

SILVER: Catalog Channel

Crutchfield, July/August 2010

Never underestimate the ‘wow’ factor,” said a judge, and consumer electronics merchant Crutchfield certainly didn’t with its July/August 2010 edition. The catalog’s entire front cover was a costly but attention-grabbing 3-D cardboard treatment to promote — what else? — 3-D televisions.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: “Make no mistake: This catalog has the visual appeal every cataloger and retailer should aspire to,” enthused one of the judges, and that visual appeal wasn’t limited to the cover. Although Crutchfield’s product line doesn’t lend itself to exciting graphics, as one panelist noted, the designers varied the layouts enough to create compelling spreads and pacing that directed readers throughout the book.

Editorial features throughout the book helped reinforce Crutchfield’s knowledge of all things electronic. “A real sense of authority and customer service is detailed throughout the presentation,” noted a judge. “Selling many detailed and technical product offerings requires a bit of hand-holding from a customer service perspective. Crutchfield takes the time and dedicates the space required to deliver topnotch service directives.”

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD AWARD: Especially after the fabulousness of the front cover, the judges were disappointed in Crutchfield’s lack of follow-through in the opening spread. (The merchandise offered on the cover wasn’t referenced until pages 6-7.) “Pages 2-3 are a real let-down,” said a panelist. “A blobby black letdown.” — SC

SILVER: Catalog Channel

Hewlett-Packard, HP Business, August 2010

By and large, computers are no longer a sexy purchase; they’re a necessity and a commodity, especially for the small businesses that Hewlett-Packard targets with its HP Business catalog. But while its August 2010 edition eschewed glamour and glitz, it managed to reap an impressive response and return — as well as a Silver Award.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: HP includes “good, better, best” charts on almost every spread, comparing the key benefits of three or four similar products and summarizing each — “rugged enough for your on-the-go business” or “perfect first server.” It does a good job of offering choice and the ability to compare the differences.

The catalog also effectively marketed add-ons on pertinent pages. For instance, a page selling desktop computers included info for additional memory and virtual-meeting software licenses; a page devoted to notebooks also provided info on batteries and docking stations. “Great presentation of upgrade offers and associated features,” said a judge.

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD AWARD: The catalog needed more basic ordering information upfront, such as shipping costs and options and, in some cases, product weights and dimensions, rather that relying on the phone reps to provide such details. — SC

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