The tag line of Conney Safety Products’ fall 1998 catalog reads “Complete Head-to-Toe Protection,” and boy, does Conney mean complete. Selling everything from safety goggles to noise control barriers, from wheelchairs to biohazard control trays, the catalog, says one judge, “provides one-stop shopping for all safety and first-aid needs. It’s a sound marketing strategy, delivering an easy solution to an obvious need.”
Not only is the range of merchandise “wide and deep,” to quote another judge, but the book is well organized too. The table of contents, which takes up all of page 3, lists product categories and then groups of products (“Respirators,” “Safety Signs”) within the categories. Even more detailed is the eight-page index in the back of the book.
The “clean and uncluttered” design, notes a panelist, also helps keep the catalog organized and easy to shop from. “Brand logos are not obtrusive; type treatment is consistent. Photos are interesting, providing a good mix of product and user shots,” the judge adds.
The judges also applaud such service niceties as the toll-free technical support line, the “100% satisfaction guarantee,” and the availability of electronic data interchange (EDI) services for customers who want to order via computer. But “the excellent customer service practices are buried,” says a judge, noting that these policies are referred to only on the inside front cover and the order form, rather than throughout the catalog. “Although the guarantee is good,” agrees another panelist, “it isn’t given special treatment and therefore blends into the rest of the catalog.”
The lack of special treatment – not only of the guarantee but also of the catalog’s new products, top sellers, and special offers – is in fact what prevents Conney from earning a Gold Award. One judge even describes the catalog as “dull,” adding that “the copy is presented in a very straightforward style, without any clever embellishments. This bland approach is carried through on the headlines. All selling words have been edited out.” Another panelist concurs that the catalog “lacks energy and excitement.”
Then again, one could argue that reference books often lack excitement – and with its encyclopedic product range, Conney certainly resembles just such a tome. Indeed, the catalog is a keeper, one of the panelists concludes: “I’d keep it ready on the shelf as a reference guide.”