Gold Award, Informational Services: Don Johnston, Solutions for Students with Disabilities, 2002

Even without the name “Solutions for Students with Diabilities” in large, bold type, the cover of this Don Johnston catalog would give recipients a good idea of what the book sells. The jumbo image of a computer mouse divided into sections labeled “reading comprehension,” “writing,” “word study,” and “self-selected reading,” combined with photos showing students and teachers using the products, is “colorful and lively while conveying exactly what’s inside,” said a judge.

Don Johnston also uses the cover to promote its guarantee, inviting special-education teachers to “Try any Don Johnston product for 30 days free!” On the back cover, a “route to” checklist also provides page numbers for specific products. “What a great and practical idea!” a panelist said.

Inside, products are organized by grade and interest level to make the catalog easy to shop. One judge said that the catalog’s attention to ease of use makes it like a reference book. A strong brand identity further reinforces the catalog’s effectiveness.

Don Johnston opens with an inspired and inspirational founder’s letter that at least two judges agreed was a “phenomenal story.” The letter, which begins “Do you remember the first time you helped a student break through the barriers of her disability and make a real connection with learning?” adds to “the genuine feeling you get from this catalog,” said a panelist.

Other signs of authencity include dedication to product development. “Offering exclusives is a great way to inspire customer loyalty,” noted one judge. Another added, “If a company is focused on creating its own products, you know it has a pulse on its audience and is invested in catering to it.”

Then there’s the “more than complete” copy. “You get a picture of the product simply from reading the copy,” praised a panelist. For certain, the copy is informative, but “bullets and benefits heads coupled with a table of contents help you drill down to the right product,” a judge said.

In summing up the catalog, the panelists agreed that Don Johnston serves its target market flawlessly. “The marketing concept is so obvious from a single glance at the book, and it never strays from that mission,” said one judge. Another member of the panel enthused about the company’s dedication to offering such a wide variety of solutions in such a specific niche.

Don Johnston builds upon the basics of direct marketing with market-specific copy and perfectly selected merchandise to make shopping effortless and enjoyable. This catalog is right on in terms of hitting all the marks that make a catalog great; it also displays a cozy, caring ambience that only a company that truly cares about its audience could provide.

Don Johnston
26799 W. Commerce Dr.
Volo, IL 60073

Company founded: 1980
Director: Barbara Sistak
Designer: Medicine Man
Merchandisers/copywriters/photographers: inhouse team
Marketing director: Roxanne Butterfield
Printer/color separator/prepress provider: Berlin Industries
Consultant: Tina Ruppelt
Cover/text paper: 60 lb.
Number of pages: 80
Trim size: 10-7/8″ × 8-1/2″