Etera, 1999 Perennial Guide

The Etera Perennial Guide gets off to a great start with its arresting cover. “Beautiful,” a judge says. “The eye-catching image just draws you in. It’s clean and simple,” says another.A third agrees – but then adds a qualifier: “OK, it’s not Jackson & Perkins, but it’s a close second.”

Etera, which tied for the Silver Award in the new business category, wisely uses the first four pages to introduce itself and explain its patented growing process and its unique biodegradable coconut fiber potting packages. Beyond these pages, however, the book shifts to a standard grid design of themed spreads, such as “Habitat Garden,” “English Accent,” and “Shady Oasis.” Each spread includes individual products and a garden design to help buyers arrange plants. “These suggested garden layouts are great!” a judge exclaims.

But another panelist is torn about the repetitive design of the book. “On one hand, I’m bored out of my mind with it, and on the other hand, I am very impressed with how much product the design accommodates.” And a third judge points out that on many pages, the overprinted knockout headines are almost unreadable. Still yet another says photos are consistently too dark.

But ah, what merchandising! The array of product is perfectly targeted to the audience of gardening centers and gardening enthusiasts who specifically request the book. “For a relatively slender catalog, it delivers a broad offering of perennials,” a panelist says. And the grid format, while perhaps not particularly attractive, “does allow for good product density,” the judge adds.

Copy gets high marks all around. “It makes me want to grab my spade and get started,” a panelist says. The same judge notes that the explanations of the different types of gardens on each spread “help sell the products.” For instance, in the section called “Easy Living, A Garden for Hot & Humid Climates,” Etera calls gardening in the South “a mixed blessing,” explaining its challenges and benefits, and then advising readers on how to pick a good location for their Southern posy patch. “The company is obviously really into this,” says a panelist.

Judges also compliment Etera’s use of icons to help the user pick the right plant for the right location. A cactus icon indicates a plant is suitable for dry soil, for instance. Etera also adds value by including indexes and a planting zone map.

In regard to service, the judges give Etera high ratings, taking particular note of the low S&H charges. All in all, “this is a hard-working book,” a judge declares.

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