L.L. Bean Home’s cover photo of violet hydrangea blossoms set beside an Adirondack chair is “warm, pleasing, and inviting,” said a judge, and draws the customer right into the book. The photo “sets excellent expectations for the content,” said another panelist, by evoking a feeling of outdoor living. That feeling continues with the opening spread, which features a large photo of an outdoor cedar dining table and chairs, along with shots of a hurricane lantern and a croquet set. The spread also highlights the company’s 100% guarantee and fast-delivery option — a great way to let consumers know the value that Bean places on service.
The catalog sells a broad range of casual outdoor products, including patio furniture, summer tableware, and bed linens. “Although I didn’t come across anything I felt was exclusive or that I couldn’t get anywhere else, the catalog’s selection of merchandise was comforting,” a judge said. “It was as though someone took all of the hard work out of getting ready for summer.”
The judges had a few quibbles with the catalog’s merchandising tactics, however. For example, the book uses two pages to sell a $28.50 watering can. And all of the judges agreed that the catalog could have benefited from a table of contents or some other form of organization for the book’s wide array of products. “I felt a bit lost browsing the pages and was flipping back and forth often to make comparisons,” said one judge.
The judges agreed on another point: the high quality of the deceptively simple, conversational copy. For example, the description of the Cedar Garden Bench begins: “Conversation. Relaxation. This bench has a gently curved seat for comfort.…” And product photos are flanked by additional informational tidbits, such as “One of the most appealing qualities of cedar is that it mellows with age.” In addition, the catalog’s use of quotes, such as Marcelene Cox’s “Weather means more when you have a garden,” evokes a homey sensibility. Other evocative and inviting touches include a recipe for Sun Tea and a phone number to order a travel guidebook for pet owners.
Judges also praised the book’s overall design, with its bounty of large feature photos and easily read fonts, and superlative production values. “The use of kids, dogs, and people throughout continues to reinforce the good time/summertime feeling that is consistent in the book,” said a panelist. “It sells a feeling as much as it sells a rug.”
Bean’s expertise and understanding of its product and market are also reflected in the service policies and ordering features. In the words of one judge, “This catalog goes beyond all the expected customer service offerings to raise the bar.” Its services include product swatches, monogramming, gift packaging, TTY service for ordering, and a 24-hour call center. And, as one judge said, “there aren’t many stronger guarantees in the business.” To quote another judge, L.L. Bean Home’s Summer 2000 edition is “Bean at its best.”
Freeport, ME 04033
Company founded: 1912
Catalog launched: 1985
General manager: Fran Philip
Senior art director: Leslie Wagner
Layout artist: Liz Patterson
Production manager: Jason Kendeigh
Merchandiser: Kim Filippone
Copywriter: Pam Foster
Photographers: Joe Standart, Eric Roth
Marketing manager: Mary Ann Bradford
Printer/color separator: Quad/Graphics
List broker/manager: Millard Group
Creative consultant: Pentagram Design
Cover paper: 60 lb.
Text paper: 38 lb.
Number of pages: 88
Trim size: 7-7/8″ × 10-1/2″