Duluth Trading Catalog: A Caricature of the Midwesterner

Duluth Trading Holiday 2018 Catalog

The Duluth Trading catalog is one that I’ve had my eye on for some time because of the playful copy that is jam-packed with personality. The best way I can describe the copy is that it feels like a caricature of a Midwesterner. This goes right along with the illustrations that they use on their current website and the television commercials they’re known for. And, it’s a good thing.

Screen capture of their beaver illustrations–because websites change and links break.

Words like “gumption” and “wimpy” along with wordplay like “a notch above the rest” used to headline a spread of belts, have a corny feel, but are also charmingly Midwestern. (The company is based in Duluth, Minnesota.)

“Give Gumption by the Gift Load” (Not going to lie, “gumption” is one of my favorite words.)
“Take a holiday from wimpy jeans.”
“A Notch Above the Rest”

Duluth doesn’t shy away from its geography; the company embraces it. The copy speaks directly to people who, yes, actually enjoy winter, or who are at least willing to handle the weather with optimism. Wait! Isn’t that the definition of a Midwesterner?

The opening page of the catalog. This is just a nice piece of copy.
“Frolic” is another charming word, but this headline has a tough attitude with a positive outlook.

But, the copy isn’t all fun fluff. One thing that I took note of was the fabric weight callouts within some of the product descriptions, like the Fire Hose Work Pants.

Duluthflex Fire Hose Work Pants

This copy calls out the “tough yet flexible 8-oz. fabric” and the pocket bags that are “made from 5-oz. cotton so they won’t bust a hole on you.” The use of specific fabric weight of these pants puts a technical slant on the offering. Whether you know the difference between 8-oz. and 5-oz. fabric, it sounds tough and technical.

Flexible 8-oz. fabric.

Now, every fabric has a weight, but you probably won’t see the exact weight listed for the average ready-to-wear piece. The most common callouts are lightweight, mediumweight or heavyweight. So, including the numerical weight of the fabric these pants are made from is a nice touch. As I’ve written, copywriting is often all about including the right details.

Duluth Woman

Another thing I’m glad to see Duluth Trading continuing is their use of “real life” models. I snapped a pic of this particular woman because she’s from my home state of Alaska! When you see a real user of their products featured in their catalogs, it’s easy to believe that their clothing is tested and trusted. I’ve written about using real people in catalogs before. It’s a nice way to add extra interest to the catalog and make a reader see themselves wearing/using the items because, hey, these women are just like me!

With a strong brand and copy that expresses it, the Duluth Trading catalog is an interesting read–even if you’re not in the market for work clothing or outdoor gear.

The 2017 IKEA Catalog

I finally received the 2017 IKEA catalog. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I saw it pop up on my social media feed a month ago. One thing I did with last year’s catalog was peep at leafs. I have a thing for indoor plants. I don’t know why, but I seeing them in catalogs and those “home tour” pics.

Let’s take a look at the plants in IKEA’s latest catalog!

Even the cover has some nice greenery!

Monsteras are still so very hot. But this plant trend is evolving towards the single monstera leaf in a vase. Observe:

And, if you don’t want to care for your own monstera plant just to snip off leaves to achieve this trend, IKEA has this handy faux option:

It’s 31.5″ long. Maybe you want to get a bucket.

There are so many other plants:

And, still, more:

And, more:

This interior shot:


It doesn’t have any plants, but looking at it, I am reminded of my high school art classroom–the cement floor, the natural lighting, the cluttered organization. I didn’t take many art classes, but I was an aide for the art teacher my senior year. She had a couple of plants that I was tasked with watering every Friday. One was a jade plant. I faithfully watered it every week, because I was told to and I am inherently a rule follower. The leaves started to shrivel. (You’re not supposed to water them THAT often, unless they truly need it.) The teacher told me about the distress the plant was in. And, despite being counseled on my plant care, the jade still suffered. I think the teacher was annoyed.

If you need help with your green thumb, IKEA even included tips and tricks:

IKEA tips and tricks for indoor plants.
IKEA tips and tricks for indoor plants.

This isn’t a plant, but I feel like this chair captures the tropical essence a lot of indoor plants have.

Is this going to look dated in a few years?

Oh, and proof that I’m not the only leaf-peeper out there, IKEA included this pic:

Painting terra cotta pots is my jam!

Take a pic, then put it on a shelf:

So good, the plants and the pots!

There you have it! Now I have the urge to buy a few more plants, paint some pots, and relish in the fresh and natural feeling plants bring to a space.

The J. Peterman Catalog Makes Me Cringe

Did you know that The J. Peterman Company catalog still exists? Yes, it does! I signed up for the catalog not too long ago, because I am a copywriter, who loves catalogs, and The J. Peterman Company Owner’s Manual has long been held as an astonishing example of catalog copy, mostly because they spend an extravagant number of words on each product description. Extravagant for a medium and retail arena that focuses on shoving in as much information as possible.

The J. Peterman Company Owner’s Manual No. 146 Early Spring 2017

When I received Owner’s Manual No. 146, Early Spring 2017, I had time to sit down and read a few of the product descriptions.

My jaw dropped.


Honestly, what the hell is this? This: “If you are thin, this dress will positively make you look more thin, chic, feminine. …If you are not thin but more of the voluptuous persuasion… Decadent gifts of choux à la crème from the finest Parisian Patisseries….An over-abundance of social engagements.”

Let me translate that for you. If you’re thin, you’ll be even prettier. And, hey, even thinner, which is chic and feminine. If you’re fat (sorry, J., even your fancy wordsmithing isn’t clever enough here), people will shove Twinkies and Hohos in your direction, because they’ll think you’re too thin. Oh, and you’ll finally get asked out.

Surely this is just a fluke, right? I took a look at some of the other descriptions for the women’s clothing.


Nope. Not a fluke. Just across the spread a pleated collar blouse promises to have people ask, “Dear God, who is that charming little darling…?” Because, “little” is what any woman should be and strive to be, right?

No, no, no, say it isn’t so! The J. Peterman Company surely is doing better, right?

Then, there’s this dress that “hide[s] what you want to hide and accentuate[s] what you want to accentuate.”


“And of course there are the colors—slimming and eye-popping.”

Really, they should have started and ended the copy here: “The thing is, a simple yet alluring dress like this makes people feel good when they see it.”

Take that in.

Let’s just sit with that a moment.

Because, it’s all about WHO is looking at a woman, right, J.? Never about the actual woman. Never. Go figure.

But, across the spread, I found one amazing, inspiring description. I’m not being sarcastic either.


In its entirety:

The merger hasn’t been announced but everyone’s in panic mode.

Brantley said you’d be okay but nothing’s concrete. The good thing is you’ve got a niche. They need you. Don’t they? Wait, do they expect you to move to Berlin? You’re asking the wrong questions.

How about, do you need this headache?

Do you even like Berlin?

What’s the weather like on the Spanish waters this time of year?

These questions are more befitting of someone ready to turn the page.

Tomorrow you’ll tell them how it’s going to be.

Hell yes! This is the woman I imagine wearing J. Peterman clothes and, really, any brand. The woman who doesn’t depend on anyone. Who isn’t told what to do. The woman who forges her own path. The woman who’s ready to turn the page.

C’mon, J. Peterman! How about some more copy like that last one? A little less focus on women’s bodies. No more feeding into the vicious cycle of body image. You’re better than that. Or, maybe you’re not. Doing a quick Internet search, I found that you’ve written eyebrow-raising copy before. Check out this piece on Jezebel about a “rapey” description. Good thing I’m ready to turn the page.

The 2016 IKEA Catalog

It’s here! It’s here! Okay, it was here. I received my IKEA catalog in the mail a couple of weeks ago–and now it’s probably at the bottom of the pile that is my kitchen table, because the recycling bin is only 2 feet away, yet so, so far.

I love a good catalog. As demonstrated here and here and here. So, why don’t we look through the IKEA one together. It’ll be fun!


“Consumers vs. People.” Meh. This is marketing speak. Maybe customers and consumers prefer to be called “people,” but let’s face it, we know they’re people.


Oh my goodness. I cannot take this. Really? This is your opener? Let’s look up “expectation.” Hmmm… Okay, now let’s take a look at “anticipation.” Ah. So I think their first two examples of “expectations,” the party and vacation, are really examples of anticipation: sweet, sweet excitement. The home expectations are truly expectations: a feeling about how successful or good something is going to be. (Hey, aren’t we all expected to have a spotless, well-organized home and cook dinner every night? And we seem to fall short of those expectations…or maybe it’s just me.) The pre-feelings about the party and vacation could be expectations, too, and end up the same way: your friend forgot the dip and it rained the entire week you were at the beach. But what they’re referring to is that happy excitement anticipating a fun event. It’s like IKEA was stretching their idea a little too hard and far.

Then I thought, well, they are a Swedish company, right? Maybe something got lost in translation. Alas, they hire American copywriters:


This, by the way has to be the most meta thing I’ve ever seen: Copy about a copywriter. Or, the new word these days: content about a copywriter, wait, metacontent?

This year, it seems like they stepped up their content game. There’s an article every few pages.


Along with the usual catalog-style copy that hit on some good insights.


(My whole dining room table needs to be one big tray.)


This one made me sad, though. Awww, aren’t we supposed to be encouraging outdoor play?

There are little things I noticed, too. Like this:


Is that a legit man bun or just a fluffy pony tail? I haven’t been able to sleep because I keep trying to figure this out.


Standing desks are so hot right now. So on-trend.


Sharp thinking, yes. Okay. Sliced carrot shadow! Wait! What are my eyes seeing?!?

Finally, my absolutely favorite thing about the IKEA catalog: leaf peeping. (I have a secret passion for houseplants.)

In order to envision myself here, I have to ignore the fact that my feet would fall asleep and my tailbone would start to ache after 15 minutes. But, that tall, draping plant? Count me in!
Do you make lemonade here? With all these plants? I don’t care. I want to do it.
It’d be like showering in the jungle. Or, at least a greenhouse. I’ll take it.
I love this, but I just have visions of cats and small children knocking everything over.
Monstera plants are so hot right now. So on-trend.
I spotted the cacti first and then I noticed the blurry leaf in the foreground. Very sneaky, IKEA, playing with my eye like that.

There you have it. Now I have to unearth the catalog and put it in the recycle bin.

Catalogs Doing Great

We all know my love for catalogs, right? Well, as the holiday season descends upon us, catalogs are getting thicker and more abundant. So, I figured I’d share some gems I’ve seen stuffed in my mailbox. They’re my beloved Lands’ End and Eddie Bauer:

Holiday Season 2012 Catalogs

I’d say they’re adding a little je ne sais quoi, but I can tell you exactly what they’re doing that’s caught my attention. First up, Eddie Bauer:

Eddie Bauer Athlete
Eddie Bauer Athletes

The first couple of spreads feature the athletes/guides/whoever they sponsor along with a family member or two all sporting their down. It warms the heart to see the faces of the metaphorical Eddie Bauer family. It’s this personal touch that will have me settling in with a catalog instead of just doing a quick flip and toss.

Next up, Lands’ End:

Lands’ End Book of Yarns

Love, love, love the play on words!

First Yarn

“Irish Fisherfolk?” Seriously? I’d PAY any client/employer of mine if I could use that!

The Next Yarn

“…docile alpacas, grazing on the plateau…” Sigh, take me away! Who does Lands’ End think they are? J. Peterman? Well, maybe they’re not quite there, but I did appreciate the writing in this catalog.

Keep up the good work, Eddie & Lands’!