Crutchfield, Winter/Spring 1999

Inside! Sonic knockouts. Car audio that’ll rock your world.” With these cover lines, Crutchfield wastes no time positioning its catalog of consumer electronics as an enthusiast’s paradise. Judges agree that Crutchfield’s cover draws readers in with a powerful central image of its high-tech gear to back up its strong headlines. And once the readers are inside the catalog, they’ll have to struggle to put the book down without buying something.

First, Crutchfield dazzles with its merchandise. “This catalog has the feel of a category killer,” says one judge. Another concurs: “It would seem that Crutchfield is the source for car stereo and home audio. What a superb selection!”

Showing page after page of stereos – with most spreads displaying as many as a dozen products – presents a design challenge. But Crutchfield “does a great job managing products that look alike,” applauds one panelist. “Products are well organized; charts, diagrams, and sizing guides are easy to use; and even the volumes of copy are clean and readable.”

These “volumes of copy” are Crutchfield’s greatest strength. Because the products typically offer similar features, the onus of differentiating them falls almost entirely upon the copywriter. “The tone is conversational, but the emphasis is on benefits first, features second – perfect selling copy,” says one judge. Crutchfield also guides readers’ purchase decisions with discussions of ideal stereo performance, introductions to each product line, and glossaries to define technical terms. And the first six pages of this catalog are dedicated to building the Crutchfield brand and bolstering confidence in the company. This section gets right to the point, opening with the headline “Why shop Crutchfield?”

By investing so much valuable space in the education of prospects, Crutchfield earns their trust and cements its position of authority. But to complete the sale, Crutchfield must make readers comfortable enough to order expensive, complex merchandise by catalog. Its “Easy-fit Guide” does just that; what’s more, the catalog offers buyers custom instructions, a free installation guide, free mounting and wiring kits, and a toll-free help line. Crutchfield even offers to pay return shipping.

Then there are delivery options, from same-day overnight shipping to “Fast 2-Day Shipping”; an installment payment plan; a toll-free, keypad-operated real-time inventory and price confirmation system; and a promise of “free lifetime technical support” for any Crutchfield product.

Readers find themselves confronted with a dizzying, ever-mounting number of reasons to buy from Crutchfield. Few catalogs create a stronger sense of authority. As one judge concludes, “Crutchfield understands this market, provides customers with informed choices, and never, ever stops selling.”

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