According to advertisements for the spring film Godzilla, “size does count.” On that score alone, the January 1998 edition of the Lab Safety Supply catalog would be a winner; it weighs in at 1,536 pages. But this Silver Award-winning catalog of laboratory and facility supplies has more than size going for it. “This is the third time I’ve judged this catalog, and I tell you, it gets better every time,” raves a panelist. “One hundred pages of new product, selection galore, quality choices, price choices. I can’t find anything wrong!” To give you an idea of just how many choices, consider that the catalog offers 35 pages of eye wash and shower station products alone.
Aware that such a wealth of options can be overwhelming, Lab Safety takes pains to simplify navigation, including a 20-page index, a separate index devoted to new products, an abbreviated table of contents on the inside cover, page tabs color-coded by category, and Post-it Flags so that users can mark pages they wish to refer to.
Lab Safety’s desire to make shopping easier is also reflected in its service extras. A bind-in calls attention to its free fax-back service: Customers can call an 800-number to request free faxes of information on subjects as diverse as welding safety and working with mercury. The cataloger also accepts online orders and offers a toll-free fax ordering line and a 100% guaranteed return policy. “Every detail, from the benefits-oriented opening section detailing the delivery, technical support, and service options to the step-by-step ordering instructions, is designed with the customers’ needs in mind,” says a judge.
The judges give the copy the same high praise. “The copy is concise, informative, benefit-oriented-almost too good to be true!” By supplying detailed specs, Lab Safety helps customers choose from, say, 13 wrist supports. Likewise, easy-to-read charts simplify selection of storage cans for solvents.
But at least one judge feels that the catalog’s design falls short. Many pages look the same-perhaps inevitable for a 1,536-page book-and the front and back covers “aren’t quite as creatively appealing as usual.” Then again, even this panelist says that “the catalog is an icon for the industry, a phenomenal production job sure to impress.”
So why didn’t this “icon” win a Gold? Because Lab Safety didn’t include enough results information on its entry form. Without knowing response and sales figures, the judges can’t determine the effectiveness of the catalog’s sterling attributes. And even the most iconic catalog is only a winner if it moves merchandise.