One Annual Catalog Awards judge sums up the panel’s overall reaction to Northwest River Supplies’ Silver Award-winning Spring 1998 catalog of paddlesports equipment this way: “If I were buying something for this sport, this is where I would buy it.”
That’s not to say that the judging panel agrees about all the elements of the NRS catalog. The cover, for instance, provokes debate. One judge compliments NRS’s “photographic combination of sporting equipment, the beauty of the outdoors, and the lifestyle implication.” Another judge, however, criticizes NRS’s cover for the absence of sporting apparel products (which dominate the first half of the catalog) from the cover photograph. Still another is disturbed that the cover image is a low-energy still shot, unlike the action-packed photography scattered inside the catalog.
There is also some disagreement about NRS’s customer service, with one judge asserting that “all the service elements are present,” and another noting that the policies “are just thrown into the opening spread with a lot of other copy.” Yet another judge adds that there is no clear statement of NRS’s guarantee.
But these disputes fade once the judges begin discussing NRS’s product presentation and selection. “What I was hoping for on the cover is evident throughout the catalog,” one panelist comments, pointing out the dynamic in-use product photography. Several judges also compliment the way NRS consistently highlights its new products with a black, red, and yellow icon. As for the merchandising itself, one judge terms it “an excellent expanse of product for the paddlesport enthusiast.” Another adds that NRS “certainly has the breadth of product to support its positioning of being the authority in this area.”
The benefit-driven and occasionally technical product copy sounds appropriately authoritative as well, the judges agree. “Not having done whitewater rafting for 20 years or so,” one judge says, “I’m no authority. But the copy sounds like a patient expert talking to both the very experienced and the minimally experienced user.”
The consensus? NRS establishes itself as the definitive rafting authority and demonstrates a superior knowledge of its target customers. As a result, one judge declares, NRS “has cornered the paddlesports equipment market.”