Mail-Order Catalogues: The Literature of Persuasion in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries
Imagine that you are a perfectly content subarbanite. You have virtually everything you need. Life is easy, if not somewhat unimaginative. What convinces you, after flipping through the pages of a Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue, to call a toll-free number and place an order for a wireless wrist-worn fish-finder—something that you previously had little-to-no desire for, or even an awareness of its existence? How do authors turn readers into consumers?
This is just one of the questions we will try to answer in Mail-Order Catalogues: The Literature of Persuasion in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.
The finest example of genius catalogue copy is the much ballyhooed J Peterman Company catalogue, which features a few inventive paragraphs for each item, usually describing the items use by some personage of great reknown, or a romantic, but nameless, adventurer. This catalogue was so famous that a character in a popular television show, Elaine from Seinfeld, worked for the company.
Some of the questions we will ask ourselves over the course of the semester:
- Why are some color names better than others, e.g. why is plum better than purple?
- How is men's clothing marketed different from women's? Children's?
- Can you ever "lay it on too thick"?
- How do the authors emphasize individuality and consumer choice while hawking mass-produced items?
- How do the authors entice the consumer to make an immediate purchase?
If time permits, we will also examine the SkyMall Catalogue, literature for captive consumers.
Updated 08-16-2005. Problems? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org