International B-to-B, Silver Award: Black Box, Autumn 2000 (U.K.)

“With a catalog this size, it doesn’t make sense to try to pick a few representative products for the cover — so Black Box doesn’t,” said one judge about the 1,216-page U.K. edition of its catalog. Instead, a glowing cityscape against a purple-blue background with the tagline “The World’s Best Network Services Company” says it all. Still, one judge felt that the cover was “nice but uninspired” from a design perspective.

Once you open this book, it’s clear that Black Box lives up to its tagline. The merchandising is “simply phenomenal,” said one judge. Another panelist noted that this catalog has “unbelievable breadth and depth of product offering, entirely consistent with the goal of being the best technical resource for the networking industry in the U.K.” The judges were hard pressed to find fault with any aspect of this catalog’s merchandising.

The same held true for the copy. “Since the goal of Black Box is to be the best technical resource, the copy is 100% on the money,” said one of the panelists. And the copy goes beyond the product descriptions. “I really appreciate the editorial about technologies in general,” said a judge. “For example, ‘What Is a Firewall and How Does It Work?’” The catalog answers this and other questions so that even smaller companies looking to upgrade to more technologically savvy solutions can understand the jargon.

Most of the judges felt that the design and production elements were above par, but there was some discussion about certain graphics looking rather dated — not a good trait for a cataloger that depends on promoting its products as the latest and greatest in a high-tech industry. Still, one panelist said that “the layout and flow of the pages is excellent, and product shots adequately display diagrams which illuminate details about how each part works and can be integrated into a network solution.”

If the explicit copy and product dissections don’t field all of a customer’s questions, certainly the customer service will. “As hard as Black Box works to answer all possible questions by presenting an organized, well-designed, well-written book so that customers will not need assistance, it works just as hard to ensure that employees are available to help,” a judge said. In addition to offering 24-hour service, Black Box will custom-build solutions. And it touts its unlimited return policy throughout the book. “When catalogers promote their guarantee over and over again, it’s a sure sign that the quality is so superior that they don’t often have to honor it,” noted one judge.

The Black Box catalog really leverages its expertise among every element in its catalog. For customers it means complete satisfaction from browsing to ordering to installation and use. For our panel it is, to quote a judge, “a textbook example of cataloging best practices.”

Black Box U.K.
464 Basingstoke Rd.
Reading, U.K., RG2 OBG
0118 965 5228
Company founded: 1976
Catalog founded: 1988
Director: Prudence G. Harris
Marketing manager: Julie Smith
Printer: Perry Judd’s
Cover paper: 8 pt.
Text paper: 32 lb.
Number of pages: 1,216
Trim size: 8-3/8″ × 10-7/8″

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