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

Dec 16, 2013 12:34 PM  By

The Worst

Enough happy talk. It’s time for annual morphing from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde and looking at some catalogs that might (opinion) have had more octane in their copy.

Are any of the next five unprofessional or amateurish or substandard? Oh, no. If any of them were, I’d ignore them as unworthy of membership in our exclusive creative club. Only comparatively are they in this secondary stack.

Worst, No. 1: Thecompanystore.com

Why does this home page principal copy bother me?

“The Company Store is your bedding authority.

Since 1911, when we opened our doors as the La Crosse Garment Company, we have been manufacturing quality comforters, bed sheets, and pillows that are as beautiful as they are comfortable. For six generations and 100+ years we’ve used natural cotton and large-cluster European down to create quality bedding that’s built to last.

Our products have expanded over the years to include not only top quality down comforters, but also a large selection of quilts, bath towels, home décor, kids’ bedding, and other bed essentials—but our message remains the same: The Company Store—We’re All About Comfort.”

Adjacent to this text is a black-and-white photo of an ancient building, with an ancient automobile parked in front. Somehow, that affects the already antique effect of the copy.

A parenthetical note: I haven’t forgiven The Company Store for a grammatical flub in its printed catalog. The heading for Supima cotton bedding: “America’s finest cotton famous for it’s quality, softness and long lasting color.” Proofreader, anyone?

Worst, No. 2: Tiger Direct

It’s a printed catalog, but the title on the cover is TigerDirect.com. The descriptions, for a company I very well know is an aggressive and alertly competitive marketer, are strangely blah. Typical is copy for a Lenovo ThinkPad T430u Ultrabook on the inside cover. It begins:

“Experience reliable computing for less with the Lenovo ThinkPad T430u Ultrabook. This Ultrabook delivers a dependable computing performance to handle your daily tasks….”

Come on, guys, a clerk in one of your stores wouldn’t dribble out his pitch with such clichés.

Worst, No. 3: Lafayette 148

Shouldn’t a high-fashion catalog use high-fashion terminology and sell with upscale rhetoric? This catalog apparently doesn’t think so. For example, here is the entire description of “Nova Shantung Hoda Jacket,” priced at $498 ($598 for plus-size). Clinical, isn’t it?

“Wing collar. Dolman three-quarter sleeves. Seam pockets. Hook and eye closure. Hits at high hip. Lined. Cotton/silk. Both jacket and pant shown in Dragonfruit. Imported.”

The web presence of this company is baffling. Key copy for the home page:

“OUTFITS

“We’ve styled these looks from head-to-toe to make looking chic—for every occasion—effortless.”

Huh?

Worst, No. 4: Neiman Marcus EssentialStyle

Total copy on the inside cover (theirs is all caps):

“This season, clothes are adopting an easygoing attitude with soft silhouettes and breezy fabrics.” Then, again all caps: “Essential: Relaxed chic.”

Does the key word, “clothes,” suggest upscale to you? If so, you aren’t a classic Neiman Marcus customer. An argument might be mounted for Neiman’s traditional dependence on photographs rather than copy to sell; but we’re in a laboratory setting here, where copy is a crucial element.

Worst, No. 5: eatonofficesupply.com

Yikes. Here’s that “it’s”again. In a revolving but unexciting home page panel we see: “MPS is a solution that provides everything a company needs to manage it’s printing needs.” After that flat and non-motivational generalization, copy marches stolidly in place. The next panel continues the studious avoidance of any impression of uniqueness: “Eaton Office Supply is an authorized distributor of the Keurig One Cup Coffee System and Premium Green Mountain Coffee.”

Ongoing copy seems tired and uninspired: “By switching to paperless invoicing you can save yourself time and money while at the same time working to save thousands of trees!” Any speech at a catalog conference would point out the negative impact of the word “work.”

[Next Page: Honorable Mentions]