Patagonia, Winter 1998

When a marketer has won as many Annual Catalog Awards as Patagonia has over the past decade, it’s hard to come up with original words to describe this latest Award-winning catalog of outdoor gear and apparel. “Stunning,” “beautifully executed,” and “incredible” are just a few of the descriptions offered by this year’s judging panel.

Even if you’re not a triathlete or a big fan of the great outdoors, “this catalog is hard to put down,” raves one judge. Vivid photographs, which include an agile climber wedged between two rocks, a sea kayaker navigating whitecaps, and a chocolate Labrador gnawing a stick (while his Patagonia-fleece-clad owners enjoy a day at the beach), captivate and draw in the reader.

Patagonia is about much more than pretty pictures, however. “Fantastic benefit copy keeps its active customers’ interest in the foreground,” a judge says. The copy is also just plain fun at times. For instance, a description of a plaid fleece overshirt begins: “Lumberjacks in hairy wool probably looked the way they did – ready to split a cord of fir with their foreheads – because they itched like crazy. Fleece has changed the way we work and play….”

The product is always the hero for Patagonia. “Merchandising has a very tight focus – every product seems to have a purpose and has been selected with the customer in mind,” a judge says. But the cataloger could devote more space and effort to promoting the products, another judge points out: “I would like to see the catalog better address the texture of the fabrics, as well as any new products.”

This particular catalog has to wear a lot of hats, since Patagonia sends the same version to consumers, retailers, and wholesalers. “It’s hard to design one catalog that offers services for mail order, stores, and wholesale alike. Patagonia makes a strong effort,” a judge comments. Patagonia demonstrates a commitment to customer service, but because the catalog addresses three marketing channels, “it can’t offer mail-order-competitive services,” the judge says. And the services the company does promote “could be presented a little more creatively,” another judge says.

Still, Patagonia is considered a leader in the catalog/retail category, and this Silver Award-winning edition illustrates why. “Branding is key to its success, and is evident in everything it does,” a judge concludes.