Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Best and Worst Catalog Copy of 2013

Dec 16, 2013 12:34 PM  By

The Best

Best, No. 1:  Healthy Living

[Click to enlarge] This is the Sobakawa Cloud Pillow page from the Healthy Living (AmeriMark) online catalog. Copy typifies that of Healthy Living – clear and bright, always within the reader’s experiential background. But where is any reference to the parent name, Healthy Living?

[Click to enlarge] This is the Sobakawa Cloud Pillow page from the Healthy Living (AmeriMark) online catalog. Copy typifies that of Healthy Living – clear and bright, always within the reader’s experiential background. But where is any reference to the parent name, Healthy Living?

(Note: The online version comes up as AmeriMark, with no “Healthy Living” reference. Some may and probably do think they’ve landed on the wrong site. C’mon, guys. Our job is to simplify, not complicate. Nonetheless…)

Who can bypass a heading worded “Never Buy Another Pillow Again”? Purists would attack this one because of course the pitch is to buy a pillow. It begins: “This amazing Sobakawa® Cloud Pillow™ is filled with millions of air beads that make you feel like you’re resting on a virtual sea of clouds! As you move, the beads move with you, maintaining continuous comfort and support….”

Best, No. 2: FeelGoodStore and FeelGoodStore.com

I’m a fan of this marketer’s printed catalog, which I admit adds a UV coating onto my positive reaction to the website, where…click: Here’s a diverse group of items on the home page, each one emphasizing a price advantage and providing an easy sub-click to “Details.”

Web copy generally matches the printed version. Here’s the description of an item I certainly could use, a Detangling Brush:

“Easy, pain-free detangling
Gently detangle your hair in just seconds. International hair stylist Michel Mercier designed the ultimate detangling brush. The secret is its 428 bristles of varying heights which disperse pressure during brushing, resulting in easier detangling, reduced hair loss and less breakage. 8¼”L”

Everybody and his brother seem to be selling a hearing amplifier (the FDA would have an attack or launch one if they called it a hearing aid) for $29.99. FeelGoodStore drives home the sales argument with a benefit-heading, “Hear what you’ve been missing.” The text immediately launches into specifics someone interested in a thirty-dollar hearing device wants to read: “MSA 30X™ Sound Amplifier makes everything louder and clearer, while reducing background noise.”

Best, No.3: Sahalie

I cheerfully admit (or boast) that I personally have no desire to buy anything for myself from this sharply written fashion catalog, whose subtitle is “Getting off the beaten path…since 1972.” A touch of antiquity there, but nobody can say that about the copy. A fast example is a display of tank dresses, one of which sports this super-catchy headline: “Elastic waist? Check. Packable? Check. Easy to walk in? Check!!!”

Text checks right in behind, perfectly maintaining the breeziness:

“NEW! This day/night maxi features a front slit, letting you stride and step with ease. In crinkly rayon, it’s scrunchable and wrinkle-proof. Tiered ruffle above, crocheted band below. Washable. Imported. Color: blue. Reg. S-XL.”

Best, No. 4: Pottery Barn and potterybarn.com

[Click to enlarge] Pottery Barn uses half of a two-page spread (usually the left) to set a receptive mood for all descriptions that follow. Pre-generating an attitude is 21st century catalog copywriting at its sharpest.

[Click to enlarge] Pottery Barn uses half of a two-page spread (usually the left) to set a receptive mood for all descriptions that follow. Pre-generating an attitude is 21st century catalog copywriting at its sharpest.

Seems to me I didn’t rank Pottery Barn very high on this list last year. I was tempted to downgrade again because of what I decided was my own unreasonable reaction to what first hits the eye when a visitor sees the home page—a 10% discount on the next order, but only to new customers. I have an old-fashioned objection to treating newcomers better than loyalists.

That prejudice aside, here is a catalog that sets a neat pace for cover-to-cover print and page-to-page online copy excellence. The company’s acquisition by Williams-Sonoma may have contributed to its careful attention to wordsmithy.

Little bits and pieces that combine technical specifics with romance may pass unnoticed because they’re everywhere … such as, for “Wonders of the Sea”—“Our impressive collection of intricately designed cast resin coral and other sea creatures meshes seamlessly with our real shells to create a beach-worthy bounty that will look like you scavenged them all yourself.”

Best, No. 5: body belle

The headlines in this sprightly catalog are not only smile-inducers but incentives to keep reading. One example: “Chin up: your neck can look younger.” Another: “Fear a frozen face? This lift looks fluid.”

Body copy maintains the pace, blending entertaining reading with benefit-specificity. For the “Frozen face” anti-wrinkle cream: “Hollywood is buzzing, giving up Botox and smiling again! From the first use, lines near lips, forehead and eyes are visibly reduced. Much like Botox, it prevents wrinkle-causing muscles from contracting…yet without frozen smiles, toxins, or doctor’s visits. USA.”

[Next Page: The Worst of 2013]