Friday, April 22, 2011

An Illustrated Guide to Unusual Advertising

I don't know how I got on their mailing list but somehow I received a catalog from The J. Peterman Company in the mail the other day. What was odd about the catalog, or "Owner's Manual" as it was labeled, was that rather than there being photographs of the products being sold, there were these adorable illustrations. They remind me of paper doll clothes that I played with when I was little.

I've been reflecting on effective advertising lately because a sweet marketing student contacted me last week to ask for help with learning about marketing to the yuppie demographic. And while I think that J. Peterman's illustrations are incredibly charming, I don't think anyone these days would buy an article of clothing that they'd never even seen a photo of. There's no practical way get a sense of fit or fabric with this approach. To make things even more laughable, each item in the catalog has these hilariously verbose descriptions, which are allegedly written by J. Peterman as he either philosophizes about the item or recounts the exotic adventure on which he found the inspiration for it. Here is the description for the striped Russian Navy Shirt above.
Wait a minute. Does Russia really have a navy?
They do. Of course they do.
Watch the news on TV tonight. If they're wearing striped shirts like this, it's the Russian Navy.
Unless you see a dark-eyed girl paddling a green boat and her boyfriend laughs and smokes and laughs and his cigarette is slightly less than one inch long and permanently attached and he is wearing a not bad-looking striped navy shirt, then it's France.
Unless it's New York.
But if the girl and her boyfriend are both blonde, and pale smoky-eyed, and he, you notice, is deeply tanned and wearing a striped navy shirt, then it's Finland.
Or the island of Sylt.
Or Krk.
Or Sukhumi.
Under a suit jacket, it's L.A. Or maybe Munich.
But when they're both wearing striped navy shirts, it's Zihuatanejo.
Or Sochi.
If there are two girls and one boyfriend and all three are wearing striped navy shirts, then it's definitely Russia.
Unless it's Central Park.
Russian Navy Shirt (No. 1017), for men and women. A faithful copy; like the original, it's “unimproved.” Pure cotton. The blue is wonderful: dark, deep, moody. Maybe it's the Russian soul, coming back.
Who needs to buy children's toys when you can cut out the clothes from J. Peterman's catalog for paper dolls and read your children stories like these at bedtime? They certainly made for a good evening of dramatic readings at the dinner table at our house.

| Art Credit: From The J. Peterman Company. |

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