Restoration Hardware, Holiday 1998

Sep 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

Forget everything you ever knew about designing a catalog cover. The cover of the Holiday 1998 edition of Restoration Hardware blows away our judging panel without an 800-number, a positioning line, a visual reference to the season, or even a hint as to where customers might find the featured martini shaker.

“The cover is dramatic, exciting, and different from every other book in the mail,” crows one panelist. Indeed, the copy for the penguin-shape martini shaker begins right on the cover: “Penguins, the ever-charming waddlers of land and sea, are perhaps the creatures most associated with the swank world of the 1930s, a time when tuxedos, martinis, and of course, the brisk chill of ice first found its way into our cocktail-drinking lives….” As another judge notes, “The wordy product story on the cover sets the tone for the rest of the catalog.”

In fact, the product descriptions meander at times, but the panelists love every word. “This narrative style is absolutely essential – without it, there would be no clear marketing position,” praises one judge, while another cheers, “The easy, conversational tone elevates this copy to supreme.” Take the headline “Is the word squeegee onomatopoetic?” Few catalogs would sell this straightforward household product so whimsically, dedicating the entire copy block to answering the headline’s question: “When I was a kid, there was a guy named Pete who…washed our storm windows (growing up near Lake Placid, one was wise to have storm windows)….Pete’s squeegee did, in fact, make that noise.”

Restoration Hardware’s stated mission is to “delight our customers.” Its remarkable sales suggest that customers are indeed delighted, both by the copy and by the eclectic merchandise, which ranges from leather furniture to cleaning solvents.

The refreshing design also wins high marks. Judges are particularly impressed by the subtle branding accomplished by Restoration Hardware’s use of its signature silver-sage color as a border around every spread and behind selected text blocks.

While Restoration Hardware’s friendly service, astute merchandising, and easy-on-the-eyes design are enough to create an efficient direct marketing vehicle, it’s the narrative voice that breathes life into this catalog. And whether it’s outlining delivery practices or apologizing for its smoked rainbow trout patA (“I know, you wish you’d caught the trout and smoked it yourself, but hey, this is the next best thing”), that voice makes Restoration Hardware a Gold Award winner.