Merchandise Spotlight: Power Grills
Product benefits and colorful food imagery are key ingredients to selling high-end “outdoor kitchens”
Grills have come a long way since the tiny, round burners of old. In fact, today’s large, high-tech grills are known as “outdoor kitchens,” and buyers are spending huge sums to provide their guests with the best cookout experience possible.
According to Jeff Ryan, a senior copywriter at Via and a 19-year veteran of L.L. Bean, today’s grill merchants need to point out benefits like stainless-steel construction, burner capacity and easy cleaning. To appeal to the modern grill market, Ryan says copywriters also should mention grill size; how many people can cook on the grill at once; the number of auxiliary burners; durability; and if the unit has an adjustable flame for cooking different kinds of foods at different temperatures.
All of these features may seem excessive to barbecue purists, but outdoor cooking has become a well-crafted artform. This is evidenced by catalogs like Frontgate, Williams-Sonoma and Preferred Living from Sporty’s—all of which included high-end grills in recent catalog editions. In addition to its regular summer catalog, Frontgate also mailed the Ultimate Grill 2001, a catalog devoted entirely to outdoor kitchens.
Following is a look at how these catalogers marketed high-end grills during this past summer.
Frontgate Summer 2001
Their headline: Frontgate brings the Viking gourmet kitchen outdoors
Their spin: Gourmet cooking is not just an indoor activity.
Price range: $2,995 to $5,295
A full-page spread touts the professionalism of the Viking gourmet grill. The copy includes dimensions on grilling surface and side shelves. The lead reads: “Outdoor cooking isn’t just about grilling any more.” Ryan says the second line is a buried lead that delivers a stronger benefit: “Viking Professional Grills ... allow you to prepare your secret barbecue sauce or saute mushrooms without leaving the grill (or your guests).” The spread offers the strongest copywriting in this product category, says Ryan. The copy also names stainless steel and mobility as benefits. But Frontgate’s choice to separate the lead copy from body copy could be confusing. And the lead copy (placed on the top left side of the spread) is centered, making reading difficult.
Frontgate: The Ultimate Grill 2001
Their headline: The Frontgate 24˝ Grill—Professional Results at a Great Value
Their spin: A nice, professional grill at a reasonable price.
In terms of layout and copy placement, this is the most effective design of the four catalogs noted here, says Ryan.
Frontgate dives into this grill’s benefits right away: “Our goal was to give you professional cooking results and the long-lasting beauty of stainless steel for under $1,000.” The copy mentions transverse burners that heat up fast and distribute heat evenly; the rotisserie feature; and the stationary side shelf.
Ryan says the “great value” headline is OK, but copywriters should’ve added the price, $995, to draw shoppers in.
Their headline: 30-inch Grill Cart
Their spin: It’s a commercial-quality grill while still being mobile and convenient to use.
Price range: $2,699 to $3,499
Copywriters at Williams-Sonoma used bullets to effectively highlight the grill’s benefits to buyers. For example: “A tray under the grilling area catches drippings and removes for easy cleanup.”
Says Ryan, “They’re specific benefits, not just a laundry list of features.” Other copy on the page denotes additional features: “Two 25,000 BTU burners and a 554 sq. in. grilling surface are just right, whether you’re cooking for the family or a crowd. Fold-down shelves are each fitted with a removable cutting board.”
Ryan says the choice to show the grill against a plain white background instead of in use in the outdoors is effective, because it allows shoppers to really focus on the product’s design. The shopper’s attention goes to the knobs and the rotisserie feature.
But Ryan says this layout could’ve been even stronger if there were some call-outs on the photo pointing to the features highlighted on the bulleted list.
Preferred Living from Sporty’s
Their headline: K60 Ultimate Outdoor Cooking Machine
Their spin: This is the epitome of outdoor grills.
In the Sporty’s copy, the point size is tiny and the lead copy is italicized, making for difficult reading. To make matters worse, the copy is in a dark screened (colored) box, making the type even tougher on the eyes.
It also is too short. “If I were going to pay $4,000 for a grill, I’d want more than a half-inch of copy,” notes Ryan.
Moreover, the copy placement could have been improved somewhat; notably, the lead paragraph should have received more prominence.
Says Ryan, “The copy is inaccessible, and even as a seasoned writer, I completely bypassed the lead copy. I just went straight to the headline for the grill and bypassed the lead copy, which actually had the most important selling point, which was the 10-year warranty.”
Also ineffective: Sporty’s doesn’t show food on this particular grill, making it less inviting. Colorful food items help people really envision their own barbecues.
Amanda Feingold is the former assistant editor of Catalog Success magazine.