Williamsburg, Autumn 1999

Sep 01, 2000 9:30 PM  By

Even though America’s rather solemn forefathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are part of Williamsburg’s heritage, the 18th-century-inspired gifts and home decor cataloger never gets stuffy. The catalog manages to convey a warm, friendly tone without stepping out of the Williamsburg character – and that’s just one reason the company takes the Gold Award this year.

Williamsburg’s cover, featuring a dramatic photo of a bedroom in the Governor’s Palace at Williamsburg – a colonial village in Virginia – is yet another reason this book scored high with the judges. “There’s something charming in the simplicity of the single canopy bed, which dominates the cover,” said one judge. The intriguing cover line, “Things you can’t see, feel, touch, or be touched by, anywhere else,” and the simple yet distinctive Williamsburg logo create an ideal opener. A subtle mention of the front cover on the back cover, with the phrase “If you’d like to achieve this effect,” also won points.

The copy was proclaimed “outstanding” by at least one judge. “I was intrigued by the copywriter’s ability to retain traditional colonial Williamsburg thoughts yet add plenty of clever, modern-day touches,” the judge said. For instance, copy for stainless-steel antique flatware replicas begins “The first thing Jefferson bought in Paris? Two dozen silver forks and spoons. (Well, maybe the second thing.) When he went home to Virginia, he had them with him. Now we have them….”

The catalog has a vast selection of merchandise, encompassing glassware, tabletop items, linens, rugs, children’s products, and much more. Catalog copy also encourages customers to contact Williamsburg to find out about other items in which they may be interested.

Judges raved about Williamsburg’s service. Copy on the back of the company’s complete order form “provides the promise of outstanding customer service and does it in a friendly, charming manner,” one judge said.

In all, judges felt that Williamsburg’s catalog effort was superb. When a catalog is based on a widely known institution – in this case, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and historic village – “you need to keep everything from product selection to copy and design in character,” said one judge. The Williamsburg catalog does this flawlessly. Even Jefferson would be proud.


Williamsburg, Autumn 1999

Sep 01, 2000 9:30 PM  By

This Gold Award winner clearly has a pulse on its audience. As one judge noted, “The merchandise is fully consistent with the market identity.” In other words, the Williamsburg catalog offers a wealth of gifts, decor, and furniture, but it also keeps its focus on the colonial America theme.

Williamsburg manages to keep a tight hold on its mission without appearing stodgy. The often-humorous copy makes a point of addressing readers who may fear that the stately merchandise is out of their price range. For example, copy describing a delft trivet declares, “Wait a minute, did you say $9? Don’t you mean $39? Yes, $9. Our way of seducing you into a really good thing.”

Another copy block says, “There are so many ways to remember Williamsburg and also intrigue those who haven’t been there,” and the catalog backs up this boast by offering everything from cookbooks to clocks. The wide range of products at a variety of price points helps establish the catalog as destination for gift-givers, home decorators, and the sentimental.

Although the Williamsburg theme focuses on days gone by, the catalog is actually quite forward-thinking. The book sells buyers on the enduring style of the merchandise, while promising that the products will last, according to page 7, until the year 2099 at the very least. This is great customer service. So is promoting such extras as free swatches, free decorating advice, and gift wrapping. Williamsburg also introduces a character named Mr. Nobody, who will ensure customer satisfaction; after all, as the copy says, “Nobody knows everything you need to know.”

If the Annual Catalog Awards were based solely on esthetics, Williamsburg may well have still walked away with the Gold. But what distinguishes this catalog as a Gold Winner is its ability to reach beyond stately beauty and show its customers the true advantages of shopping from Williamsburg. Interestingly, the catalog could be describing itself with the text on page 43 that declares “A classic is something that’s always new.”