Black Box, Autumn 1999 (U.K.)

When customers buy computer networking equipment, they need reliability and technical know-how as much as they need the hardware itself. From its cover to its copy, Black Box U.K.’s fall catalog lets buyers know that the company can deliver on all fronts.

The judges agreed that the front cover’s bold graphics and powerful tag line, “The World’s Source for Cabling and Network Connectivity,” position Black Box as an authority. Though one judge complained that “a date on the cover would have been helpful,” the panelists concurred that the cover conveys “a feeling of strength and confidence.”

Inside the book, Black Box’s fantastic range of merchandise makes it “easy to see why it’s a leader in its field,” commented a panelist. Products range from basic computer cables and connectors to more-complicated hardware such as routers and servers. “What doesn’t Black Box sell?” asked one impressed judge.

The catalog’s copy serves the merchandise well. “This is an example of truly solid copy,” said one judge. “It’s perfect for its market of computer networking professionals.” Product descriptions cut to the chase but are easy to understand – even by networking novices. For instance, the copy block for the Opto-Isolator power and surge protector reads: “When you link two devices powered by separate AC sources, you create the potential for a ground-loop surge that can destroy your computer and wipe out data.” Should a customer be on the fence about a purchase, noted one judge, “Black Box would manage to make a convincing argument for its product.”

Another panelist praised the catalog for “keeping the customer in mind at all times.” The copy blocks are positioned directly next to the corresponding product photos, and “the nice balance of negative space” leaves the pages looking clean. “There’s no room for confusion,” enthused another judge. “This book knows what its selling and to whom.”

The judges were disappointed, however, that the catalog doesn’t list prices; prospective buyers have to call the company for pricing information. “Needless to say, this is inconvenient,” said one judge.

But Black Box’s unlimited return policies and support services almost make up for that shortcoming. “Free technical support and risk-free purchasing are excellent incentives,” said a panelist. Another judge proclaimed: “It’s an industry bible.”

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