**Simply the Best

Sep 01, 2001 9:30 PM  By

What makes a superlative catalog? It depends whom you ask. Designers will praise a catalog’s lush photography and logical layouts, while copywriters will admire a book’s clever turn of phrase or supreme salesmanship. Merchandisers know how to spot hard-to-find product and “how did they negotiate that?” price points, not to mention innovative cross-sell and upsell strategies. And to the operations pro, a cataloger’s guarantee, returns policy, order delivery speed, and special services — and how well these services are promoted in the book — are what distinguish a star catalog.

But in the end, the customer is the true arbiter of what makes a winning catalog: If any or all of the above elements inspire the customer to place an order, you’ve done your job. To be successful and a true winner, a catalog must be a viable marketing vehicle. In other words, it’s got to make money.

Finding a catalog that excels in all of these areas is about as easy as locating a four-leaf clover in an overgrown meadow. Nonetheless, from a field of more than 300 Annual Catalog Award entries, our judging panel of industry leaders found several dozen that meet the ideal of cataloging, or come pretty darn close. And because there’s no better way to learn than by example, we’re proud to profile the Gold and Silver Award winners, detailing the features that propelled them ahead of other catalogers.

You’ll notice that there isn’t a Gold or Silver winner in every category. Entries had to score an average of 7 to 8.9 (on a scale of 1-10) to win a Silver Award; for a Gold, they had to average at least a 9. Judging the catalogs in this manner ensures that the winners aren’t just the best compared with the others in the category. They’re the best, period.