International B-to-B, Silver Award: IBM’s VSB Catalog, September 2000 (Switzerland)

Copy that’s “simple and to the point” may not sound like an award-winning trait, but when selling complicated computers and accessories to small businesses, brevity and simplicity are indeed key virtues. And in the case of IBM’s VSB catalog for Switzerland, the spare copy — along with stellar graphics and superior service — make this edition worthy of a Silver Award this year.

What’s special about this copy is that it gives all the details and necessary technical information that an informed consumer craves, yet it also uses headlines to sell. As one judge stated, “the headlines are not just there as a design element — they really work to help draw the customer into the description and sell the product.” Another panelist praised the callouts of IBM’s signature brand names such as Thinkpad, NetVista, and IntelliStation to ensure that the IBM brand is appropriately and unmistakeably leveraged in this European marketplace. But the copy about the company’s leasing program reads like a disclaimer, and such “fine print” is usually a turnoff to the customer, said the judge.

The judges found the catalog’s merchandising selection to be impressive — especially since the book uses only eight pages to showcase all the products. As one judge pointed out, “there are four different price levels so that IBM can appeal to a broad range within the SOHO niche” of small and home offices.

And if the comprehensive merchandising at a variety of price points doesn’t inspire Swiss SOHO customers to order, it’s likely that customer service will. The catalog clearly defines the support features and also explains how buyers can place an order “as simple as 1, 2, 3.” Also the image of the Website’s home page on the inside front cover reinforces the connection between the IBM site and catalog. “There is a strong customer service message on each page that leaps out at you and says ‘you can count on us,’” decreed another judge. Still, one panelist thought the book could use clearer explanations of its shipping and refund policies.

Overall, IBM’s VSB catalog entices the customer while taking away the apprehension that most buyers feel when trying to select a computer or related accessories.

IBM’s VSB Catalog
IBM Corp.
Route 100
Somers, NY 10589
Company founded: 1911
Catalog founded: 2000
Directors: Rene d’Ouvenou
(Switzerland), Audrey Moore (U.S.)
Designers: Chris Formisano,
Victoria Azarian
Production managers: Sandra Meissner
(Switzerland), Jay Orenstein (U.S.)
Copywriter: Kim Morton
Photographer: Kutlu Ertan
Marketing Manager: Doris Bröh,
Printer: Druckhaus Götz (Germany)
Color separator: Reprofessional
Cover/text paper: 135 GSM
Number of pages: 8
Trim size: 11-1/2″ × 8-1/4″

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