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

GOLD: Catalog Channel

L.L. Bean, Christmas 2010

If it’s a best practice, chances are L.L. Bean implemented it in its Christmas 2010 catalog. A wide-ranging merchandise mix that was, as one judge put it, “true to their marketing concept”? Check. Wonderful photographs and pristine color reproduction? Got it. Friendly, clear copy that promotes both technical information and benefits? Got that too.

WHY IT WON A GOLD AWARD: The accolades began with the front cover, which highlighted its offer of free shipping, regardless of order size, and a $10 gift card with purchase. “It’s a great way to get folks to open the book,” a judge said succinctly.

The opening spread followed up these offers by detailing Bean’s long history, tradition of exceptional quality, and stellar unconditional guarantee. The panelists agreed that using the prime catalog real estate in this way helped to differentiate Bean from the myriad other gifts catalogs competing for customers’ attention. They also praised Bean’s comprehensive order form in the center of the catalog, which provided information about monogramming, special offers, sizing and just about anything else a shopper might need to know.

IDEA TO STEAL: Bean arguably has the strongest guarantee in the business (“Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise…”). And Bean reminds readers of it continually and consistently throughout the catalog. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. — SC

SILVER: Catalog Channel

The Orvis Co., Gifts for Men, Holiday 2010

Unique is what it’s all about at holiday time,” a judge explained, “and Orvis understands this from the opening spread.” Orvis made a point of mixing value-priced items with “fantasy” gifts, offering the proverbial something for almost everyone. And while that tactic can often prove disastrous, Orvis succeeded by interpreting “everyone” to mean “every male who falls within Orvis’s target audience.”

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: If a product would appeal to affluent or aspirational men with a preference for the classic over the trendy, it appears the catalog sold it. “The merchandise selection is extraordinary,” enthused a panelist. “Upon opening the book, a prospect would immediately understand the brand and the aspirational value that Orvis offers.”

Orvis made a point of selling its service as much as its product. Judges praised the two-page order form for detailing necessities and luxuries such as shipping and personalization options. “Orvis does a brilliant job of giving the perception of excellent service,” summed up one judge. “The order form is clear and it’s in the middle, where customers would look for it. And all the questions customers might have are clearly articulated.”

The product copy also clearly articulated the features and benefits of each item. In particular, said a judge, “the callouts truly help explain product value and unique selling features.” Several others singled out the catchy yet informative headlines as worthy of emulation.

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD AWARD: One panelist strongly felt that “the catalog seemed too dense with not enough room to convey the prestige, quality and uniqueness of the products.” And several agreed that the covers were weak. — SC

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