The Cottura Catalog, 1997/98 Edition

Each year, The Cottura Catalog seems to get better. This year, judges are wowed right off the bat by the odd shape and the imaginative cover of this Silver Award-winning edition. “It’s great! It does what a cover should do: It grabs your attention and draws you in,” one judge opines. Another calls it “involving and bright.” Most note, however, that the name of the catalog and the positioning line-“ceramic art imports”-are too small, getting lost on the page.

But the real strength of The Cottura Catalog, the judges say, is its merchandising. The book stays true to its product positioning throughout. “It sells only what it claims to-Italian maiolica ceramics-and never stretches its concept the way so many other catalogers do,” one panelist declares. Another sums up, “For what Cottura does, it dominates.” Judges who had evaluated Cottura before also felt that the company had made noticeable improvements this year, such as expanding the product price points to make the merchandise line more attractive to a wider segment of the customer audience.

Cottura writes informative catalog copy to go along with its high-quality, unique line of product. Plus, “it’s very friendly and reflective of Italy,” one judge notes, pointing out the use of Italian in the headlines. While individual product copy is spare, Cottura shines in introducing “types” of merchandise, such as this description of its urn collection: “Urns were originally used for the storage of grain, wine, olives or oil. Capturing the essence of Italian tradition, our country urns turn a garden into a sanctuary.” But another panelist, while agreeing that much of the copy is well done, says that some of it “could use more benefits.” Still another, however, chimes in that the catalog “doesn’t really need more benefit. It puts all the important stuff at the top of each page.”

Cottura’s design and production are both strong, the judges agree. “This is a nice-looking catalog,” notes one panelist. “Even the spreads with a lot of products are typically well laid out and not too busy.”

The only significant fault found with this Silver winner is that service should be stronger. While the special customer requests service is “fabulous,” the firm’s claim of making big improvements to service isn’t sufficiently backed up. As one judge notes, “The returns policy comes across like a warning-it’s not friendly.”

But there’s nothing wrong with bringing home the Silver, Cottura. And we’re sure you’ll get even better by next year’s Awards competition! 1.

The Cottura Catalog, 1997/98 Edition

>From Tuscan tiles to Florentine fruit-patterned dinnerware, Cottura has the world of fine Italian ceramics covered. And the cataloger/ retailer’s comprehensive merchandising, strong design and production values, and informative, educational copy have earned Cottura two Catalog Awards this year, including a Silver in the retail category.

The cover of the catalog sets the stage for what you’ll find inside by depicting an exclusive tile design that illustrates the steps in creating maiolica, a ceramic art of the Italian Renaissance. Simply put by one judge, “It’s a vibrant storyteller.” The close-up of the tile “grabs your eye and holds on,” another judge remarks. But more than one panelist points out that the Cottura logo is too small and the white type hard to read.

The vast merchandise selection inside is so impressive it’s “almost overwhelming,” a judge says. One of the cataloger’s stated goals with this edition was to highlight some of the lower-priced products on the covers and inside spreads and to offer more moderately priced goods in the gift section inside. Mission accomplished, say our judges, with merchandise selling for as little as $15 and many gift items available for less than $100. Promoting the lower-priced items and upping the number of moderately priced items, says a judge, “provides a nice balance with the other merchandise,” which costs as much as $950.

Cottura uses crisp, clear photography to bring out the vivid colors in the ceramics and a well-organized design format to keep products and copy blocks straight. The copy is what really sells the goods, however, using a romantic, educational editorial approach. For example, the description for Raffaellesco ceramics reads: “Inspired by the 16th-century frescoes of Raphael, we present the classical design. Our Raffaellesco is made by a factory whose roots date back over 200 years and is expertly painted with the famed double dragons.” A letter from the owners on the opening spread “discusses the handmade nature of the ceramics and gives the feeling of upscale and special merchandise,” adds one of the judges. One caveat about the copy: It’s hard to read in a 10-point font size, as one judge notes.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this edition is that Cottura cut paper, mailing, and color separation costs by using lighter paper stock for the inside pages, using more digital photography, and printing direct to plate-without sacrificing the lushness of the catalog. “Cottura significantly lowered costs while maintaining a high quality,” marvels one judge. Now that’s an Award-winning accomplishment.