Take the Duluth catalog copywriting challenge

March 24, 2011 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

Duluth Trading catalog copywritingDid you ever get a catalog in the mail and want to read it cover-to-cover?

Most catalogs are pretty boring. And since I’m not the shopping type, most catalogs go right in the trash.

That is, unless my wife intercepts them. (I have to start sorting the mail in the garage before I come into the house.)

Anyway, I received a Duluth Trading Co. catalog the other day and I was hooked. I’ve seen the catalog before, but never took the time to browse.

The copywriting is superb.

I talked about Duluth Trading’s catalog copy on my business blog, but I’m so pumped about it, I wanted to turn my enthusiasm into a challenge.

Can you write engaging catalog copy like this?

Here’s just one scintillating sample from page 53 of the April 2011 edition:

Peaches O’Reilly’s Sunblock Hat

Peaches was our guide as we rushed down the Colorado River in the midday sun, wetting our pants in more ways than one. He wore a hat like this one, to protect his creamy Irish complexion. 100% nylon, it has an ultra-wide, 4″ brim for sun protection, and side vents on the crown to keep you cool as you sweat. Sweatband wicks away perspiration — nice when you’re in a precarious situation. Locking chinstrap keeps it on during fast descents and high winds. Why the nickname Peaches? He was from Georgia. Imported.

It’s a $20 hat. You could probably find something like this in a dozen other places, but would it be the same?

This copy tells a story, creates mystique, and imbues an ordinary product with extraordinary qualities that make you want to own it.

So here’s the challenge: I’ll give you a list of ordinary items and you have to write scintillating “Duluth” style copy.

Here’s the list:

  • Swingline stapler
  • Durango boots
  • American pocket comb
  • Lawnboy snowblower
  • Henkel duct tape

Google an item. Find out what you can. Write your copy and weave your spell. Let’s see what you can come up with.

And if you want to share it, please do.

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Smart Comments

13 Comments on Take the Duluth catalog copywriting challenge

  1. Barry Harvey on Mar 24th, 2011 10:08 am
  2. How about this, a description that reads like a news story:

    Duct tape repels water, but cannot fly

    Henkel recently sought to determine the often argued etymology of ‘Duct Tape’. Strong evidence suggests it started out as ‘Duck Tape’, however tests do not bear this out.

    While renowned as a highly effective water repellent (borne out not least by its’ use in protecting ammunition boxes in WWII) tests proved repeatedly that it could not fly. Despite being available in 20 colours with a superior adhesive and strong cloth backing and being extremely useful in a wide variety of situations, all the rolls tested failed completely to defy gravity, without external force and, even then, only temporarily.

    So Duct Tape it is, and it’s available to you at only $1.99 a roll.

  3. Dean Rieck on Mar 24th, 2011 10:46 am
  4. Thanks, Barry. I like it.

  5. Smedly's Buttler on Mar 28th, 2011 5:09 pm
  6. The one. The only. American Pocket comb

    One dapper trip down memory lane.
    The wafts of brill cream, the hum of the razor. That perfect ducktail you sported for the homecoming dance. This one brings it all straycat strutting back. 50 years on and still made right here in the good ol’ US of A. Put it to the test against as much butch wax as you please – the space age (well, by 1950s standards) resin construction is unbreakable. 5-3/8” wide, half course teeth, half fine just like you remember. In any color you want. So long as it’s black.

  7. Dean Rieck on Mar 28th, 2011 5:20 pm
  8. Smedly, I love it. That’s crackerjack catalog copy. You’re making me want that comb. And the last line is a killer homage to Henry Ford.

  9. Smedly's Butler on Mar 29th, 2011 9:27 am
  10. Just doing my job, Ma’am.

  11. George on Mar 30th, 2011 12:12 pm
  12. I like this part

    “This copy tells a story, creates mystique, and imbues an ordinary product with extraordinary qualities that make you want to own it.”

  13. Codrut Turcanu on Apr 5th, 2011 2:47 am
  14. That’s awesome advice.

    I understand stories sell, just that we need to find the right story appeal, then weave it into the message at the right time…

    P.S. Would love to participate in your challenge, just that my niche is non related to your proposal, maybe next time.

  15. CopywriterJess on Apr 7th, 2011 1:34 pm
  16. Have you ever seen the Land of Nod catalog? It’s furniture, decor, and toys for kids. I love reading the copy in that catalog. The stuff is cool, too. But the copy? Awesome.

  17. Dean Rieck on Apr 7th, 2011 2:11 pm
  18. Jess: No, but I’ll check it out. Thanks for the tip.

  19. R Matt Lashley on Apr 8th, 2011 3:17 am
  20. Mine is pretty lame and maybe a little racy, but good for a laugh. :)

    It’s 8am and quiet. The bell has just rung. The boys are all watching. The intern wiggles just a bit when she uses it. But only just. White French tips at the end of tanned, slender fingers, set off by jet black steel. An easy slide with the left hand, a slight press with the right … effortless penetration. Swingline Classic staplers. Sleek, durable. Easy on the eyes, rough on the boys.

  21. Dean Rieck on Apr 8th, 2011 10:19 am
  22. Matt: I have a client who uses copy like that … but they don’t sell staplers. Ahem.

  23. Barry Harvey on Apr 8th, 2011 11:29 am
  24. She knocked, but came straight in anyway. And straightaway, I knew – this was not gonna be straightforward. Something told me she usually got her way.

    She wanted the boots: ‘The Comfort Core Insole Technology’ she said. She knows her Durango, I thought, and who was i to argue.

    Durability, comfort, style. She couldn’t go wrong. And yet… And yet, I couldn’t help thinking, she just didn’t look the type.

    I said as much. I held my breath. She bent down real slow and whispered breathily, ‘Anyone can wear them’, she said, ‘all you need is feet.’

    Dean, you’ve got me hooked. This came out of a blog I was trying to write. It wasn’t working, but i looked back on your list and saw the boots…

    However, I’m only doing characters. I need to have a go at something more poetic and atmospheric, like your original example. And like Smedley’s comb. Brilliant.

    Thanks again, I’ll leave you alone now.

  25. Josh Jackson on Apr 11th, 2011 12:58 pm
  26. Heh. J. Peterman all the way …