Catalog of the Year: Backroads, Distinctive Active Vacations 2002-2003

It may seem an easy task to evaluate the finalists in the travel catalog category…to lose yourself in the lush photography and imagine yourself in the storylike, descriptive copy…but it’s actually a tough job.

After all, travel marketers expecting consumers to pay several thousand dollars via mail order know they have to make the trips look good in print as well as sound interesting and fun while providing all the vital details. So there’s no shortage of travel catalogers that consistently do a great job. But which is the best? This year, it’s Backroads. This edition scored so many perfect 10s in the judges’ evaluations that it not only took the Gold Award in the Travel category, it also nabbed Catalog of the Year.

A look at the front cover provides some indication of what Backroads is doing right. As one judge said, “The golden hue of the cover suggests the dawn of a new day. The simplicity of the back road image is inviting, as if an adventure were about to begin just over the horizon…” The catalog’s back cover deserves respect as well: “an excellent use of space,” proclaimed another panelist. The back cover highlights Backroads’ bicycling, walking, and multisport vacations, as well as its specialty trips, such as cooking classes and camping adventures, and promotes the company’s Website.

Inside the book, “first-class” design and “top-notch” production values help sell the vast selection of trips. “The focus of the pages is always the people in relation to the location, which gives the whole catalog a customer-focused tone,” a judge said. Color-coded thumbprint cutouts help the reader navigate through the book. “Copy is enticing, romantic, and very believable,” said another judge, who also cited the book’s use of ancillary headings, such as “Sunny Andalucía for tapas and Moorish delights” in describing a biking trip in Spain. A third judge added, “I particularly like the breakout section on accommodations. And the itineraries are nicely done.”

Service is sublime as well. “It’s a solid concept that is backed up by the continuous reminder of how easy it is to transact business,” a judge said. Each page has a call to action with the cataloger’s phone number (“Reserve your trip now”) or Website address (“Confirm your space 24 hours a day”). It’s also apparent that all trips are researched, developed, and operated by Backroads. “There’s a clear explanation of what you get for your money,” said another member of the judging panel.

In short, Backroads is about as good as it gets. The company positions itself as “the world’s #1 active travel company” on the front cover, noted one judge in conclusion, “and there’s nothing inside the catalog to convince the customer otherwise!”

Backroads
801 Cedar St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
510-527-1889
www.backroads.com

Company founded: 1979
Director/marketing director: Lee Micheaux
Designer: Nicole Watson (Nicole Watson Designs)
Production director: Jodie Harrington
Copywriter: Serena Lee
Printer/color separator/prepress provider: Overseas Printing Corp.
Cover paper: 250 GSM
Text paper: 100 GSM
Number of pages: 204
Trim size: 9″ × 12″

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