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Read any good catalogues lately?

Ad-libs
by John Foust
Newspaper Advertising Trainer – Raleigh, NC

Over the years, I’ve heard ad professionals talk about the outstanding copywriting that can be found in catalogues. Of course, there are other approaches to advertising creativity, but catalogues excel when it comes to descriptions of product features and benefits.

Some of the best examples can be found in L.L. Bean catalogues. Let’s take a look at a two-page spread featuring their famous snow boots. Even if you live in an area which doesn’t have snowy winters, it’s easy to appreciate this well-crafted concept.

A color photograph occupies the entire left page and half of the right page. The close-up photo shows the boots being worn in the snow. The tops of the boots are just below the cuffed jeans, demonstrating the ankle height of one of the styles. Although there is snow on the boots, it is clearly not soaking through. The headline reads, “Bean Boots for the Snow.” (

The sub-headline reads, “Presenting our limited-edition waterproof Bean Boots, with 400 grams of toasty PrimaLoft insulation and a breathable Gore-Tex lining to keep your feet dry and comfortable in extreme wet weather.” The PrimaLoft and Gore-Tex logos appear at the bottom, along with their slogans.

The main copy to the right of the photo states, “For men and women…handcrafted in Maine since 1912, one pair at a time. Premium full-grain leather sheds snow and rain. Supportive steel shank enhances stability and comfort. Waterproof rubber boot bottom with chain-tread sole provides traction and durability.”

Under that is a section which provides details on sizing for lined and unlined styles. There are six more photos, three of men’s boots and three of women’s boots. Each photo is accompanied by a few words of additional information on boot heights, available colors, linings and prices. At the bottom right corner of the page, there is a box which encourages readers to “See more styles and colors at LLBean.com.”

What else do you need to know? It’s all right there on those two pages: A succinct five-word headline, a photo that shows the product in use, features and benefits in the copy, product details to help you choose the right size and style, and where to go for more information.

This is just one product in the catalogue. Descriptions like this appear on every page. In addition, L.L. Bean enhances their marketing efforts with generous discounts, guarantees and delivery policies – all of which are designed to provide consumers with reasons to trust (and buy) their products. Because they don’t resort to shallow claims and exaggerations, you won’t find words like “unbelievable,” “fantastic” or “awesome” in their descriptions. By keeping the focus on

relevant features and benefits, they essentially let the products do the selling. And it’s no secret that they sell a lot.

Obviously, not all advertisers are planning to publish a catalogue. But many of them can increase sales by using these catalogue techniques.

In other words, if the shoe fits, wear it.

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(c) Copyright 2020 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information:john@johnfoust.com