Virginia Traditions, Volume 36

Sep 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

>From the succulent front cover photo of a platter of meats that “entices my appetite and demands I open the book and look further,” in the words of one judge, the Virginia Traditions catalog invites the consumer to its table. The cover provides further enticement by offering a free gift of Edwards Peppered, Sliced Bacon with orders of $70 or more.

Although ham is the company’s core product-in various sizes that can serve from 10 to 40 people-the catalog also offers a host of other foods such as barbecued beef, sausages, soups, and nuts. “Virginia Traditions has done a nice job of surrounding its core product with a wide assortment of other food products,” says one judge. “An excellent mix of premium food gifts,” lauds another.

Beyond presenting an appetizing merchandise mix, Virginia Traditions excels at “weaving family throughout a catalog,” says one judge. The hams, beefs, and other food items are positioned as centerpieces of a holiday family meal, and by sharing the family story behind the catalog, the book suggests to the readers that they, too, can live in a world where the security of family and tradition-not to mention big meals-looms large.

The catalog makes its heritage clear from the president’s letter on the first page: “Back in 1926, my grandfather S. Wallace Edwards started sharing his special smoked meat specialties with country stores and families across the Virginia Countryside….” Such tradition-steeped editorial makes customers more likely to trust the company. Overall, the judges appreciate the family voice of the catalog, with copy that’s a “unique blend of Southern folksy style with a hard-hitting ‘buy me’ message,” as one describes it. And headlines such as “The family-size ham for America’s smaller families” and “Guaranteed to draw plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at your table” effectively reinforce the family orientation of the catalog.

The catalog’s design doesn’t elicit the same level of praise as the copy, however, despite the catalog’s mouth-watering photography. One panelist describes the layout as “too boxy”; another points out that the design lacks a “wow factor.”

The judging panel showers its customer service with accolades, though. The judges describe the guarantee “you must be pleased, or your money back,” which appears on each spread, as “solid” and “customer friendly.” And the little sketch of the retail location on the order form again reinforces the down-home brand image.

But never mind such niceties. After poring over the crisp photography and tantalizing copy, one judge sums up his newfound devotion: “Who cares about cholesterol when you can get Edwards Peppered, Sliced Bacon as a free gift?”