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The use of a color band works as a design tool when it ties in copy and photo for a quick read for the customer. But on pg. 45, the vertical color band actually confuses the issue. It contains a headline for cocoa, cookies and coffee, but the photo is for marshmallows, which are sold on the opposite page. More confusion: The copy beneath the marshmallows is the Winter Essentials Gift (photographed in the right-hand corner). The copy beneath Winter Essentials is for a mug. Direct mail ordering is to be quick and hassle free, not a puzzle.
There are numerous examples throughout this catalog where the art and copy aren’t together, forcing the reader to hunt. It appears that the designer is designing from a sense of space — but not with a sense of the products or how to communicate the stories clearly to the consumer.
The Coffee of the Month Tour, on pg. 40, could be stronger in its execution. Here’s a case where I think the merchandising and marketing arm should be working closer with the designer. It’s easy to ignore this spread because it’s not clear exactly what’s being sold. Adding a calendar to underline that this is a monthly gift would aid in communicating the promotion.
Price-wise, bundling is a great incentive for multiple purchasing, and its use is perfect in the coffee by the pound section. But there appears to be some confusion on “if purchased separately” pricing and the bundling of those items. For instance, on pg. 27, dark roast signature coffee trio adds up to $20.67 if purchased separately, but in the sampler they’re $24.95. That misalignment also appears on pg. 31 with the Kenya AA, Estate Java and Guatemalan Finca Dos Marias. The total is $25.87 if purchased separately, but bundled for $25.95.
The merchandise selling copy is warm, conversational and persuasive, though it could be edited more tightly for a quicker read. The copy has a sense of authority, which works well in describing The Fair Trade Organics certification as well as the various coffee origins and the global networking of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.
The community-friendly statements on the left side of each spread are informative and brand sensitive. Testimonials throughout the catalog are believable and bring a sense of community involvement to the catalog.
A third copy style, seen on the back cover and pg. 7 regarding Café Express reads like an ad within a catalog, using bulleted text to tell the story. That style, with its sense of urgency and special offer, definitely works on the back cover but is jolting when part of a spread as on pgs. 6 and 7.
On pg. 36, Tom and Sally Hazelnut candies are listed for $7.99, but no ounces are given.
And on pg. 44, a reference to the Mighty Marshmallows brings the memory of campfire s’mores indoors. S’mores are graham crackers with chocolate and marshmallows. These are just the chocolate and marshmallow part — but no graham crackers.
Beyond coffee and coffee-related food products, the merchandise is unique, playing up the global positioning of the company from Indonesian masks to Zulugrass Necklaces. Cross referencing to the Web for more details on the Coffee Tours broadens the company’s offerings. Cross referencing products as it does on pgs. 37 and 44 is a great way to get double exposure for the mugs.
Photography and Styling
On the whole, the photographs showcase the products well, highlighting their features. I’m assuming the budget is tight and the collection of photographs is a collection of new and pick-up photography. Going forward, I’d suggest redesigning some spreads and reshooting some of the features with more attention paid to styling and dramatic lighting to showcase the food especially.
One of the strongest criticisms I have of this catalog is the styling. Good styling really can help sell a product. By adding just the right props the stylist can suggest a product’s intended use or its size. The stylist can showcase product features by placing it on just the right reflective or mat surface. The crates, samplers and baskets all could be improved in more emotional lifestyle shots.
Some examples of styling problems in this catalog:
$ On pg. 4, the size of the baked bread overwhelms the package. Baking the bread in two small loaf tins might have made for a more appealing photo. Also, the package looks dingy. It’s a brown paper bag with a label — easy to recreate just for the photo.
$ On pg. 5, the Coffee and Donuts Gift Box black filler camouflages the stainless steel donut cutter.
$ On pg. 43, it’s difficult to separate the Ann Clark Gingerbread Cookie Mix product from its props and the surface top.
$ World Music Bag inset on pg. 42 should be a cleaner representation of the product; not a different crop of the main shot. The images of the two chairs in two sizes look unprofessional.
$ Also on pg. 42, the child model, though a bit disheveled, is charming if not for the worn off dark nail polish. The Band-Aid on her finger isn’t a pleasant sight and could make the reader wonder about the safety issue of the toy.
Overall, this catalog is a beautiful, smart representation. Its mission is obvious. But even greats could benefit from some well-executed tweaks.
* * * For the published half of the story, see “Mountain Sticks to its Green Word” in the April issue of Catalog Success.
Sandra Cooper is vice president, creative/account services at Marke Communications, a full service direct marketing agency. She works in partnership with a client and an account team to analyze issues and execute creative solutions backed by a solid marketing strategy. You can reach her at (212) 201-0618 or email@example.com.