I wish all catalog copy could be written like this

Duluth Trading catalogThe J. Peterman Company has long been hailed as the reigning king of catalog copy. And I’ve been a fan ever since I bought one of their “anti-gravity” shirts.

But they have some serious competition from the Duluth Trading Co., which you might describe as J. Peterman for the working class.

Here’s an example of their masterful copy from the April 2011 catalog, which I received just last week:


FIRE HOSE: America’s most heroic fabric. So durable, so surprisingly comfortable, you’ll wonder why we were the first to use it in clothing. It’s the same great 100% cotton canvas that once wrapped rubber fire hoses, responding to call after call, dragged up and down stairs, pulled through windows, yanked around sharp corners. We located a supplier for that cotton canvas and specially washed it to make it soft and comfortable. Then, we treated it to resist stains and water. Supreme toughness and supreme softness in one fabric. Now that’s something to get fired up about!

I don’t care if you live in Thermopolis, Wyoming or in the heart of New York City, after reading that copy, you want those pants.

Duluth Trading knows that they’re really not selling necessities. They’re selling fantasy. Whether it’s Fire Hose pants or a one-handed pocketknife, a jolly good safety razor or Dr. Klick’s set of dental tools, they romance every product.

Take this travel bag, for example:

AWOL Bag -
In original Leather or Fire Hose and Leather

It’s nearly identical to the one Dad carried when the army shipped him overseas in 1943. Servicemen jokingly called it their “AWOL bag” and kept it packaged for sudden deployments and weekend liberties. …

It’s just a bag. But the copy transforms it into a piece of American history, full of character, memories, and meaning. And if you buy it, it transforms you into someone with places to go and adventures to have.

Maybe my favorite example of Duluth Trading’s skillful catalog copy is this description of a t-shirt:

Solution to Plumber’s Butt — 2 for $10 ea.

The problem began many moons ago — about the time pants and plumbing were invented. The notorious “Plumber’s Butt” syndrome came into being, and both plumbers and their clients were tormented. That’s why in 2002, we introduced a solution — the Longtail T — in the cause of modesty and good taste. …

You can probably find longtail t-shirts just about anywhere, but they won’t have the same charm and humor.

Admittedly, not all catalogs can use copy this fanciful. But if you want to learn how to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, get a copy of the Duluth Trading catalog and read it stem to stern.

Do you know of other catalog companies with standout copy?

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3 Responses to “I wish all catalog copy could be written like this”

  1. Peter Thomson on March 22nd, 2011 5:01 pm

    Brilliant writing. The focus on the experience instead of the product is perfect for building a loyal tribe and getting people excited about the product. Love it.

  2. Jennifer St. James on March 28th, 2011 4:18 pm

    A fantastic example of why companies should use professional copywriters to create this kind of distinctive content! Thank you for posting such a perfect case study.

  3. Kathleen Calderon on April 4th, 2011 4:37 pm

    I must confess I have never seen a catalog copy written like this, but feel that it is something I should definitely experiment with. Thank you for yet another great article. ;)

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