Gold Award, Informational Services: Don Johnston, Reading and Writing Solutions for Struggling Students, 2002

Not to be confused with the actor most famous for playing a Florida vice cop, Don Johnston is a catalog provider of learning intervention resources. It’s also a winner of two Gold Awards in the informational services category.

The company’s Reading and Writing Solutions for Struggling Students title hits all of the key elements of successful catalog marketing, going above and beyond to differentiate itself and genuinely appeal to its audience of educators. For starters, it has “what is probably the most heartwarming institutional letter I have ever read,” declared one judge. Indeed, the judging panel agreed that one distinctive trait of this catalog is the sincerity of the founder — who admits to not reading his first book until the ninth grade. “The letter serves to inspire the target audience and instills confidence in the company,” said a panelist.

Aside from selling educational products, the company sells inspiration. But the Solutions for Struggling Students catalog goes beyond a simple tug at the heartstrings. The “superb” cover, depicting lifestyle photos of happy kids learning to read, “gets you excited about the products and makes you feel optimistic,” said a judge.

Helpful opening spreads and a well-appointed table of contents ease readers into the vast selection of products. “This great assortment, with the literature and tapes pictured, creates strong density,” said a panelist. Many of the catalog’s products are books, and the organization makes it easy for customers to find the items they’re looking for. As one judge put it, “Space is needed to sell complicated product, so the organization and sectioning becomes paramount.”

Other strong assets include the “easy-to read-charts and the boxes that serve as callouts for key product benefits.” In addition to the benefit boxes, effective bullets and headlines help organize and manage the array of products. And the catalog received a nearly perfect score when it came to copy. While the descriptions were fairly long, the judges agreed, the length is appropriate for the target audience.

Bright, vivid colors that complement the product photos imbue the catalog with energy and enthusiasm. Judges also liked the catalog’s unlikely trim size — 10-7/8″ × 8-1/2″, which not only enables it to stand out in the mailbox but also makes it easy for teachers to put the book into a folder or binder for access at a later date.

The Reading and Writing Solutions for Struggling Students catalog from Don Johnston excels in knowing its audience and catering to it. The catalog maintains a light tone and injects fun without compromising its mission. It was clear to the judges what many educators no doubt already know: that Don Johnston delivers on its promise to become an information and solution provider.

Don Johnston
26799 W. Commerce Dr.
Volo, IL 60073

Company founded: 1980
Director: Barbara Sistak
Designer: Medicine Man
Merchandisers/copywriters/photographers: inhouse team
Marketing director: Lynne Hagan
Printer/color separator/prepress provider: Berlin Industries
Consultant: Tina Ruppelt
Cover/text paper: 60 lb.
Number of pages: 60
Trim size: 10-7/8″ × 8-1/2″

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