Consumer Specialty Products, Sales Over $20 Million: Musician’s Friend and Orvis

GOLD: Catalog Channel

Musician’s Friend, Holiday Gift Guide, November 2010

The Musician’s Friend catalog hits all the right notes: a product selection that’s broad and deep, copy targeted to its audience, and a plethora of customer service niceties such as a lowest-price guarantee and free shipping on most products. As one judge said, “Any professional or amateur musician would spend a lot of time with this catalog.”

WHY IT WON A GOLD AWARD: Merchandising, the judges agreed, was the strongest of Musician’s Friend’s strong points. The catalog sells everything from acoustic guitars to recording equipment from seemingly every major, and scores of minor, manufacturers. “The magnitude of the offering alone is enough to increase order size,” enthused a panelist. Added another, “Paginating by instrument is very logical and makes the book easy to shop from” — no small accomplishment, given the density of the pages.

“Most professional musicians are starved for cash and are constantly looking to upgrade to new equipment,” noted a judge. The company speaks to target customers in their language “and offers services that they want and need that are hard to find elsewhere.”

IDEA TO STEAL: Musician’s Friend’s catalog provides plenty of reasons to visit its website. On the inside front cover, for instance, it offers a list of features available online: a larger product selection, customer reviews, buying guides and how-to videos. — SC

SILVER: Catalog Channel

The Orvis Co., The Dog Book, Fall 2010

Adorable equals sales,” in the opinion of one judge. If indeed that’s true, then Orvis must have sold out of its dog beds, grooming tools, collars — and other canine-related products within hours of its Fall Dog 2010 catalog arriving in mailboxes. Of course, it takes much more than cuteness to win a Silver Award, which this catalog did with ease.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: The front cover is a gatefold showing the winners and finalists of Orvis’s Cover Dog Photo Contest. Page 3 also prominently promotes the 2011 contest — not just how to enter, but also how to vote. The sense of two-way communication and customer involvement continues throughout the catalog, with the generous use of testimonials and ratings. “Customer reviews and testimonials add to the satisfaction and believability,” explained a judge.

The product copy is as engaging as the user-generated content. The differentiating features of each dog bed, for instance, were thoroughly delineated in entertaining and informative text. One panelist in particular was enamored of headlines such as “They’ll sink to new levels of comfort,” declaring, “The copywriters should receive special recognition, à la screenwriters in Hollywood.”

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD AWARD: The production was disappointing, said several judges. Blacks, browns and beiges were particularly muddy, they noted, which — given the colors of many of the featured dogs — led to some dark, uninspiring spreads. Another panelist added that “Orvis might have selected a little better grade of paper.” — SC

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