Orvis spruces up, launches spin-off

Having been around since 1856, Manchester, VT-based Orvis could qualify as an antique. But to prove that it’s anything but dusty and dated, the cataloger/retailer has spruced up its catalogs and even launched a spin-off, The Dog Book.

The cataloger/retailer, which sells outdoor sporting gear, apparel, and home decor, “has always done well with dog products,” says vice president of mail order Tom Rosenbauer. In fact, during the past 15 years, one of its best-sellers has been its Dog Nest beds. So the debut edition of The Dog Book dropped in mid-October to an undisclosed number of house file and rented names. A smaller drop mailed the following month. In addition to devoting nearly three spreads to its Dog Nests, the 44-page book sells training aids, food bowls, grooming kits, and dog treats. For the canines’ companions, the catalog includes decorative accessories and apparel adorned with dogs.

Although Rosenbauer won’t disclose results, he says that Orvis is “extremely pleased” with The Dog Book’s performance. The next edition will mail in the fall.

The Dog Book sports a single photo on the cover, above which the Orvis logo and tagline (“Sporting Traditions Since 1856”) stand out against a pristine white background. Inside, the pages follow a subtle grid accented with unobtrusive rules. This design is now used for all of Orvis’s catalogs, which include Men’s Clothing, Fly Fishing, Women’s Clothing, and Gift & Home.

The goal behind redesigning all its catalogs was “to unite our entire organization–across all product categories, distribution channels, and customer touchpoints–to convey a singular brand message,” says director of advertising Bill Eyre. “Growing in a niche market is all about striking a unique yet familiar chord that resonates with your customers and builds a relationship. It’s about consistently delivering on a promise, and that promise is your brand.”

So last year Orvis hired Concord, MA-based Toth Brand Imaging to “reveal the brand Orvis already is,” Eyre says. Hence the single lifestyle image on the cover and more lifestyle photography within as well; the prominence of the tagline, and larger photos bleeding off the inside pages. Orvis began testing the new design of its catalogs in the fall and found that they were outperforming the old-design catalogs that had dropped at the same time, Rosenbauer says. The spring 2002 editions of all the Orvis books feature the new design.