Regardless of response and beyond the postage savings, the slim jim has yielded at least one other key benefit: The format change forced Hodges Badge to address and upgrade the catalog’s creative, an area that had been more or less neglected for years. This was welcome news to Art Director Sue Brescia, whose department was often hamstrung by the company’s reticence to change the book’s creative.
Given the freedom to design the catalog as they saw fit, Brescia and her staff went to work. First on her agenda was conveying to customers the quality of Hodges’ products in the catalog. “We have the most beautiful products around,” Brescia says. “Our materials and how we produce these products … we really care about attention to detail.”
To convey this message, product photography shots were redone in an “up close and personal” style to highlight their detail and texture, particularly the medals. The company also updated the copy from its prior role of providing technical product specifications (e.g., “this rosette has a 4 inch rosette top with 2 by 9 inch streamers”) to more of an emotional pitch to customers. It resulted in a very clean book, according to Brescia, more so than in previous years. “Previously, there was no feeling to the catalog, and it didn’t convey the care that we put into the product or the quality of the product.”
Grazing on BlueSky
Hodges Badge’s Portsmouth neighbor BlueSky Brands was forced to close its doors this past March after failing to secure additional financing for its floundering operation, which included the Paragon Gifts, Bits and Pieces, National Wildlife Direct, and Winterthur catalogs. Hodges Badge seized the opportunity and brought in some of the now-defunct BlueSky’s higher-level talent, including Jean Giesmann (creative), who has since joined Uno Alla Volta full time; Gary Smith (marketing); and Eileen Houlihan (marketing) — all in freelance/advisory roles. In fact, Houlihan became the first freelance copywriter in the company’s history.