Until Next Year!

The Copy Grove's Directions blog will feature new posts beginning January 1, 2009. 
Until then, leaving you with this quote ...

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in. 

~Alan Alda


Selling Life Insurance in Tough Economic Times

Here's how The Prudential Insurance Company of America is promoting their coverage this holiday season in a recent USA Today space ad. 

This is a branding ad, with a soft call to action that's nearly invisible at the bottom of the ad. (It's buried in the last paragraph of body copy and directs the reader to Prudential's web site.) The photo is obviously supposed to pull at the heart strings for an emotional appeal. Warm and fuzzy, yeah. Effective? Mmmm ... not so sure this is going to lead to thousands of hits on the Prudential web site. And what makes this ad really NOT direct marketing at all is the lack of a code or unique url to tie a web hit directly back to the ad and measure its effectiveness.

The fact is, people are hearing so much bad news about the economy and looking for ways to cut back on everything from cell phone bills to holiday gifts that buying life insurance might be the last thing on their mind. Insurance is never an easy sell at any time of the year. It's an intangible product, often bought out of fear - versus an impulse buy or a highly desirable commodity. It's something you either have to have (ie: auto insurance) or know you need (ie: health or life insurance) but hope you don't really have to use. 

Some insurance marketers may argue - and in in my opinion, rightly so - that insurance is even MORE important to have when times are tough. After all, it can provide big dollar protection for a small monthly outlay. This Prudential ad tries to do that. But a harder edge and stronger call to action might be more effective - especially in these tough economic times.


Old School Classic: DRTV Life Insurance Spot

When it comes to old school Direct Response TV, here's a classic ...

Click on the link highlighted below (the photo to the left is just a screen shot) to view an oldie but a goodie featuring Ed McMahon for Colonial Penn Life Insurance Company. He's standing outside of a house, by the mailbox. Very gritty - and there's a hokey visual effect in the beginning of the spot - but some "still effective" DR techniques being used here. Learn from the past! (One bad thing they did in this spot - they didn't hold the toll-free number for the duration of the spot, something we usually try to do in DRTV nowadays, especially when the target audience is the age 65 and over market. The toll-free number is only up for a brief period of time in the opening.)


The Art Linklover Show

Bloggers Say The Darnedest Things ...
"I’m surprised the marketing world has not adopted current truth as its mantra. Heck, I’m aghast that no marketing group has yet hijacked the concept outright. As I write this article currenttruth.com is available for the taking." - About the popular phrase "The Current Truth" on Before & After, Creative Thinking In Business.
"A Promise is an Infomercial. Dear Students, A good ad tells truth. It is concerned with a fact. (it doesn't have to be an informational fact. observations can be the truth) A bad ad promises." - From a teacher of a graduate program in advertising, not so good with punctuation it seems ... Mark Fenske.


In My Mailbox: Fundraising DM Done Right

This is supposed to be the season of giving, and when it comes to direct mail success for fundraisers, this package (shown above) from Carson Valley Children's Aid has a lot going for it to make givers give, despite the current brrrrrrrr climate of government bailouts and a dwindling Dow.

From the get ...

(1) It immediately acknowledges that the recipient 
previously gave a gift.
- AND -
(2) it creates a sense of urgent need.

The outside envelope of the Carson Valley Children's Aid package immediately acknowledges the fact that I am a previous giver with the line, "Please help us again this year." This reaffirms the affinity between the recipient and the organization. Remember, your best prospects are your previous supporters.

The line above that says, "A tough economy is even harder on our children" - helping establish a sense of urgency and the need to act again, NOW.

So I open the envelope. Then ...

(3) It shows how my gift benefits the children 
with a concrete example.

A two-panel, 3-color insert in the package tells the story of a boy named Dakota, one of the organization's "Rapid Service Response Success Stories."  It goes on to describe the Rapid Services Response program, which is designed to prevent placement of children into the child welfare system by increasing parents' and caregivers' abilities to provide safe, nurturing home environments. 

Additionally, a 14" sheet titled Annual Report and Donor Recognition is nested behind the letter/reply form and compares 2006-07 revenues to expenses, as well as the number of families and children served in 2007-08, which crystalizes the organization's need for continued support into the new year. 

So I blog about it ... and pull out my checkbook.

The Carson Valley Children's Aid package was created by a varied team of direct marketing professionals, including Topak Marketing, Inc.'s Linda Brignola-Braverman, Jim Shire of Pyramid Graphics and TTMS' Jim Capanna.



Statement Stuffer of The Week: Wachovia Gift Card Tied To Charity

Wachovia is promoting its gift cards pre-holiday via statement stuffers. The cards cost $3.95 each - $1.95 if you buy 20 or more (you save $2); the upside of the fee is that $1 of it (up to $250,000.00 maximum donation) goes straight to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, helping disadvantaged children. The built-in charity donation is a great way to lessen the brunt of the card's issuance fee, an added cost - and now feature/benefit - which most gift cards don't carry. Good idea for business gifts though, if you're still looking for ideas. Interested? Click here.

Statement stuffers are often used by banks and credit card companies to cross-sell or up-sell products and services to existing customers. They can also be used effectively in membership renewal notices for upgrades and cross-sell opportunities. A statement stuffer can be buckslip sized, like this one shown for Wachovia, and if the "call to action" is just a phone number, url or a "visit your local branch office," that's a perfect size. Or they can fold and have a BRC or "make your own" BRE (formed by moistening a glue strip).

Why send just a bill when you can send a statement stuffer, too, and try to get another sale from one of your best prospects, your existing customers?


Happy Thanksgiving!

You'll find new posts on The Copy Grove's Directions blog starting December 2, 2008. Until then, please check the Previous Post archives on the right for posts you may have missed. Or visit some of the interesting blogs listed in the right column. And have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!


Today's Guest Contributor: Joe Niewierski with 10 Direct Mail Tips For Results!

Today's guest contributor is Joe Niewierski of Postcard Mania, here with this article to help you create winning direct mail.

10 Tips To Get Results in Direct Mail

Don't want your direct mail to end up in the trash with the rest of the unread mail? These 10 tips will help you get the results you want ...

1. A clear, bold headline. On the envelope or front of the mailer there should be one central message. The best way to achieve that is with a bold, clear headline that's not cluttered up with other text. A good guideline is to have the headline fill up at least 15% of the front of the mailer.

2. A graphic that supports the message. The graphic should be easy to understand and add to the message the headline is trying to convey. For instance, if you are trying to get people to list their home you would want to show a home with a SOLD sign clearly visible out front. That graphic reinforces the message more than a simple picture of a home.

3. Color that pops. Make the headline and other text stand out by using a color that stands out from the background color. When you look at the card, ask yourself, "What do I see first?" If your answer isn't the headline, you might want to tweak the colors.

4. Subheads that lead into text. If you have a couple of paragraphs of text with no lead in, there's nothing to entice people to actually read the copy. A subhead will give people a place to start reading. If you have only a 100 words or so you may be able to get away with it, but if the text gets any longer than that the average reader will want to have some guideposts along the way.

5. Benefits, benefits, benefits. One of the biggest errors people make in advertising is stating features, rather than benefits. For example, never assume recipients know what benefit can be derived from a lower interest rate on their mortgage. Let them know how their monthly payments will go down.

6. The offer. An offer is always a good idea and should represent a specific reason to call now, such as "Limited supply" or "Interest rates are climbing."

7. Your company name and logo. Although this needs to be on the mailer, it shouldn't overshadow the offer. Customers care most about what you can do for them.

8. Call to action. Tell prospects exactly what you want them to do. "Call today for more information" or "See us online" are two of the most common desired actions.

9. Contact information. Provide your name, phone number, and Web address directly following the call to action. Whatever you ask prospects to do, give them the means to do it easily.

10. Return address. A return address ensures you'll get returned mail from the post office and sends a message that you're an established professional. People feel better knowing the company they're dealing with has an actual location.

About the author: Joe Niewierski, the VP of Marketing & Promotion at PostcardMania, became a published writer after graduating with a BA in Advertising from the University of South Florida. Using a powerful, yet simple, extremely cost effective way of communicating with customers has earned PostcardMania Inc Magazine's recognition as the nation's fastest growing direct mail postcard marketing firm with a $22,000,000 revenue run rate for year 2007. Today, PostcardMania employs 160+ people and prints 4 million and mails 2 million postcards representing over 350 business, finance and industrial clients each week. Visit www.postcardmania.com.


The new "small" postcard?

"Front" (display side)

"Back" (addressing side)

Dimensions: 5 7/16"w  x 4 3/16" h - a little smaller than usual. As effective? Have you seen any of these in your mailbox? Let me know. Drop me a comment!


Tools You Can Use

=FREE vector images
Some free or inexpensive Vector images are available 
here. One of my designers told me that he saw an image on this site that he just bought elsewhere - and if he had downloaded it here, he would have saved. Sign up for a free account and save!

=A FREE way to send REALY BIG electronic files:
File too big to go through your server efficiently? Need to send a file fast, without having to disk it and spend the money on an overnight delivery or messenger service? Check this out! We've sent many files to clients via this site's FREE service. Try it - you might like it.


Twin Ads

Ever been tempted to steal a concept? Worried your creative director, the client or the authorities will find you out? Here's a guy who's keeping track ...


Meh Day

Copywriters, take note:

Apparently, the apathetic expression "Meh" has officially become a word! It has gained a place in the Collins English Dictionary. The term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of The Simpsons. (The image on the LEFT is my Simpsons avatar - how I'd look if I were on The Simpsons show. You can make your own avatar at The Simpson's web site.) 

So if you want to spruce up your copy, sprinkle a few "mehs" here and there. Use in place of the word boring.

(Wondering: is the plural of "meh" indeed "mehs" and is "mehs" an acceptable word? Can adjectives be plural? Hmmm, like "There are too many blues in that layout." I think not - "Too many shades of blue" would be the way to say that. Ah well ...) 

Onto things more exciting.


Great Email Subject Line

Or Big Brother is Watching?

The subject line for this email from Friends of the US Chamber was, "We Saw Who You Voted For Last Week." OF COURSE that email got opened! The body text of the email read ...

We Saw Who You Voted For Last Week...

Just kidding. Don't worry - your ballot was secret and your vote was private.
But imagine if there was no secret ballot. What would it be like if you had to cast your vote with everybody looking?

Not just strangers - but your boss and your co-workers?

Sound un-democratic?

That's because it is. Unfortunately, the Big Labor Unions and liberals in Congress are teaming up to push a bill that would kill the secret ballot in union organizing elections.

Some news reports say this will be one of the first bills introduced when Congress reconvenes in January.

With no secret ballot, small businesses could find themselves overrun by union organizers before they even knew a campaign was underway. Not to mention, corrupt union bosses can see how American workers vote, leaving them open to intimidation and coercion.

American workers deserve better - and right now, we need to be working to fix the economy first, not fighting over controversial bills like this.

Do you think Congress should fix the economy first ... or push this bill to kill the secret ballot in union elections?

Please vote in our quick poll below:

For more information about this critical issue, visit the Workforce Freedom Initiative's Web site at www.uschamber.com.

© Friends of the US Chamber, 1615 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20062
Point made, and made well!


Follow-Up: USA Today's online survey tied to Sweeps

Back in October, I blogged about an interactive survey that USA Today was doing, to measure effectiveness of advertisements that companies place in the paper. The survey is done online and is tied to a monthly giveaway/sweepstakes. Well, yesterday I received my first survey link in my email inbox, pictured above. I received it in the morning and had until midnight that day to do the online survey (not shown above is the link to the survey, which was a few lines down in the email). They even sent me a reminder email in the middle of the day.
In the evening, after dinner, I read the paper and then I decided to go online to take the survey. I left the paper on the dining room table, but I went to the computer in my office, nevertheless. The link from the email brought me directly to the survey, without having to "log in" or remember any password from when I initially registered for the survey, which was nice. The survey asked standard "market research" type questions about a Sprint ad that ran in the Nov. 13th USA Today, promoting Sprint's "Simply Everything Plan."
The ad itself had caught my attention because I am a Sprint customer. I quickly glanced over the full page ad and decided the new Simply Everything Plan from Sprint for $99 a month wasn't any better than my current Sprint plan, based on my current usage, and I didn't plan to use my cell phone more (in fact, I try to use it less), so I turned the page and kept reading. Unfortunately, the survey questions didn't ask if I passed up the ad's offer due to the fact that I was already a Sprint customer.
Well, I look forward to the next survey. Next time, I'll give you more insight into the kind of questions asked.


Beat The Control

“Beat the control.” Those three little words can make or break businesses and careers. In the world of direct marketing, where results mean everything, many agencies, account executives, copywriters and designers live and die by those three little words.

For those who may not be so familiar with direct marketing lingo, “beat the control” is short for, “create an ad, mailing or TV spot that generates more sales or leads than the best performing ad, mailing or TV spot that ran before it for the same product.” You know the direct mail package that keeps turning up in your mailbox year after year, unchanged – or the TV spot that seems to be airing forever? We call those controls. They have the best response rates. They’re the benchmark, the hurdle against which other direct marketing materials are tested. They’re the winners.

So how do you unseat a winner? In over two decades of experience as a creative resource on both the agency side and as a freelancer, I’ve been called upon many a time to “beat the control.” Here are 5 little secrets I’ve used to create new winners.

1) Don’t miss a trick. Study the current control. Really examine it. Deconstruct it. Analyze its style, format and content. Is it straightforward or colloquial? How does it use graphic images and color? (Lots of photos, no photos, conservative or wild colors?) Why do you think it appeals to its target audience? Jot down your initial impressions. “Gut reactions” are usually spot-on and can tell you a lot.

2) Study previous controls. What did the current control beat? Study the contenders. You’ll be able to see what elements, if any, have remained constant from control to control, and you’ll want to use those elements in your new effort. Note: If there were no previous controls, then the existing ad, mailer or TV spot has yet to be tested and is therefore not a “real” control, but you still have to beat it, so skip to step 3

3) Look over your shoulder. What’s the competitor doing? The competitor has controls. They can provide you with a springboard for new ideas. See what’s working for someone else, and you’ll see what appeals to your prospective customer on someone else’s dollar. How do you know if a competitor’s ads are working? Here’s a clue: It’s been airing or mailing for a long time. Companies don’t generally like to throw good money after bad and will can a poor performing ad at their earliest convenience.

4) Mix and match. Take two winners, put them together, make a third. Learn to combine formats and copy approaches. Use what works for others to create a thing of your own. In practice, this step is more art than science. You can’t just smash things together because they “work” and assume you’ll have another winner. You may have created a Frankenstein instead of a Tiger Woods. Be selective. Start by taking two catchy phrases from the control and putting them together to create a powerful letter lead or a brochure headline. The idea is to take what works and work with it, not against it.

5) Know when to take a chance. Truth be told, no one can give you all the steps to create a control. You have to gamble a bit. Not gamble as in scratch-off lottery ticket or Russian roulette, but more like investing in a 401(k) plan. Diversify. Be conservative and aggressive. Combine “tried and true” techniques, elements of copy or design that have already been proven to work in the marketplace with your target audience (in other words, be conservative) with something new and different (the aggressive part). Give yourself permission to say, “I don’t know for sure if this will work; it’s never been done before.” Then add, “But I have every reason to believe it can work. Here’s why …”

Cynthia Maniglia is a member of the Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association (PDMA) and this article of hers appeared in the PDMA's newsletter last year. This article also appeared in the Detroit Direct Marketing Association’s newsletter.


The Art Linklover Show

Bloggers Say The Darnedest Things ...
"... you rank up there with the best that Billy Mays has to offer. The problem is .... you come off looking dated and sad .... You and Aqua Velva. Please. I beg of you, stop now."
- Ranting about Just For Men on Make The Logo Bigger.

"If you have comments enabled, recent posts, a blogroll of links and an RSS feed you might be 58% bloggy by some people’s reckoning."
- Direct Online Marketing blog, regarding a sliding scale of "blogginess." (How bloggy are you, btw?)
"The word exposure reminds me of the word naked so I thought of the term Naked Marketing."
- Uncle Naked Head on how he named his blog, Naked Marketing Blog.


PostcardMania Shares Tips

PostcardMania's Founder and CEO Joy Gendusa calls the postcard a "humble device" that "may be your best choice for reaching customers this year."
According to Joy, "When the economy is a bit shaky, you should increase promotion to keep your name in the minds of customers, but you also have to keep down your costs. To get maximum return for your marketing dollar, you can mail postcards up to 4 1/4 by 6 inches for between 17.5¢ and 19.5¢ each first class (the cheapest letter rate is 19¢ - 24¢). If you find the right company, you'll likely be able to have 5,000 postcards printed for less than $400."
Joy recommends UV coating (laminated), full-color and 4 1/4-by-6 in. postcards. "This ensures you get the highest-quality look and the biggest post card you can for the lowest mailing rate. The UV coating is essential for a very high gloss finish to make your product look good."
Want more postcard tips? Visit PostcardMania's site where they have a full list of educational articles filled with tips on marketing with postcards. And be sure to visit Joy's blog, "Ask Joy" - to learn even more.

A good company to know about: PostcardMania is a full service postcard direct mail marketing company which includes graphic design, printing, mailing list acquisition and mailing services with free marketing advice. PostcardMania employs over 150 people, has seen positive expansion every year since its inception with its 2007 revenue at nearly $19 million. They have won many awards for their creativity and marketing farsightedness, such as the MarCom International Awards, the Stevie Awards, the Inc 500 List, the Creativity Annual Awards and the Webmaster awards — all of which the underlying theme contributing to their accomplishments is helping companies all over the nation expand. They print 4 million and mail 2 million postcards representing over 33,000 clients in more than 350 industries each week. Visit www.postcardmania.com today.


Banana Republic Links In For Nov. Sweeps

Update your LinkedIn profile by November 22, 2008, and you could be one of 25 winners in the Banana Republic $1,000 Wardrobe Makeover Sweepstakes. You don't have to do anything fancy or major - I just updated the white band (under my photo) where you can put a little blurb about where you plan to travel, what you're reading, or what you're working on - things like that. And then, poof! You can register for the contest via a little pop-up window. (Note - you need to enable cookies on your browser for the pop-up to complete your registration.)


Inspirational Quote For Today

"There is a word I learned from my Dogon tribal brothers in Mali. Every Friday was market day, and since there were no stores, pedlars, or any other way of locally buying or selling, people walked for miles and days to get to the market. Each sale was a ritual accompanied by much palaver - arguing, bargaining, and talk. When buyer and seller finally agreed that the transaction had met the needs and expectations of both, they would clasp hands and simultaneously say, 'Habama,' which literally means, 'We have done well together.' Direct marketing is Habama!"
- Lester Wunderman, "Being Direct: Making Advertising Pay" 
Advertising legend and pioneering father of direct marketing


Orderus Interruptus

How do you keep the sale going when an online order has been "interrupted" and never completed? Here's how Blue Mountain eCards tries to do it ... with an immediate follow-up email AND a special offer.

The opening is friendly and empathetic - "Just when we thought you were going to become a member, you didn't. Maybe you got a phone call? Had to run to a very important meeting? Whatever distracted you from the task at hand, now's your chance to take the ball and run with it."  Then comes the offer - they'll give you $2.99 a month towards two of their e-card services if you click on the link below and finish signing up. Not a bad way to keep an online sale going.


Break Time: Green Tip for The Day

I'm doing some research this weekend for a new assignment and came across this interesting "green" tip from a web site called The Frugal Law Student that says:
Don’t throw away “dead” batteries. Remove them from your radio and use them in quartz clocks. These clocks take such a small amount of power that batteries too weak to run anything else may have enough power to run a clock for a while.
I'll have to try that! Now, back to work ...


alli tries to win allies with new direct mail creative featuring dual option incentive

alli is an over-the-counter weight loss aid, and their latest direct mail creative features a 96-page, 6.5 inch squared "we lost it" book filled with illustrated testimonials. There's "Laura Lee" - age 27, from Ansonio, CT - who used to be a fit, size-7 firefighter who then became "the fat friend." And then there's "Laki" - a 37 New Yorker and Executive Kitchen Manager at the Cheesecake Factory - who tasted himself up to 260 pounds. Aside from these and other great testimonial stories which present a wide range of ages and lifestyles, there's also a neat incentive that perfs off the back cover of the book and can be used one of two ways...

SIDE ONE OFFER:  It's a $10.00 Mail In Rebate Certificate. This is great if, say, you just bought the alli product before the book came in the mail. Just grab your receipt and send it in with the rebate certificate, and alli will send you back a $10.00 check. See below ...

SIDE TWO OFFER:  Turn the piece over. Now you have the option to use the coupon on the reverse side to get $10.00 OFF at the point of purchase. See below:

The choice is yours! How interesting is that? And smart - giving your potential buyer the option to SAVE money in the way that is most convenient for him or her. Plus, there's the nifty little "let's go shopping" portion at the top of the piece, which gives you room to make a shopping list and gives you ideas of what to pick up at the market, along with your alli 90ct or 150ct starter kit.

Have you ever seen an offer set up like that before? This is the first time I've seen it. This dual option coupon/rebate incentive is - in my opinion - direct marketing genius for a retail product. Kudos to the alli creative and marketing team for this fabulous execution. Stash this in your idea file - and don't lose it!


Green Eggs and Spam

This came to my personal email address this morning. Apparently, I am to think I'm a winner in some Swiss Online Lottery program and stand to win "Seven Hundred and Fifty Pounds Sterling." All I have to do is give Mrs. Dana Grey my name, address, age, sex, phone number, etc. (Funny, they didn't ask for my bank account number ...) For a moment, I wonder - did they get my email when I was surfing the web looking into offshore Swiss Bank accounts, pre-2008 Bailout? Then my coffee kicks in ...

Sorry, no takers here. This morning email is labeled Green Eggs and Spam.


Tune In, Tune On, Tune Out

Bloggers Say The Darnedest Things ...
"At the risk of sounding like a Successories poster, here’s one truth that I picked up over the years: You have to continue functioning even when the bottom falls out. And it gets easier after you’ve done it a few times." From Ray Schultz, posting on The Big Fat Marketing Blog about going to the DMA conference that was held this week in Vegas, despite all the economic turmoil with Bailout 2008. 
"Personally, I find this kinda juvenile--but that's just me..." Suzanne Obermire on the 2008 DMA Vegas conference theme, "R U Connected?"
"What I saw were row after row of companies peddling what my dad would call 'buckets of rubber dog crap.'” From Garth, posting at Garth's World - with his random musings following his return from the 2008 DMA show in Vegas.
Have a good weekend - and keep plugging away, all!
And tune in again for Art Linklover ... 


USA Today's Clever Giveaway Helps Evaluate Ads

Aside from focus groups that offer cash incentives and can take up too much of a busy participant's day, here's an interesting thing that a newspaper is doing to conduct market research on the effectiveness of its advertising ... with online surveys and cash giveaways!

USA Today is interested in knowing what their readers think about the newspaper's print and online advertising. The paper is conducting a series of short online surveys. Readers get a chance to win $250 in a cash prize drawing just for registering - PLUS the opportunity to win additional cash prize giveaways monthly.

Do you read USA Today? If so, you can click here to register.The registration process takes you through a quick, rather painless initial survey about your reading habits, as well as asks some standard demographic questions. I just did it and it took a minute or so. Upon completion of the initial survey, you will then be sent an email to confirm your registration and also be entered into the drawing for the $250 cash prize.


Inspirational Quote For Today

"Realize that true happiness lies within you. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside. Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving. Reach out. Share. Smile. Hug. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself."
Ironically, this quote (which alludes to not needing to buy anything to make yourself happy) comes from a man who wrote The Greatest Salesman in the World!


Wall Street, Main Street, or Mall Street?

Duct Tape Marketing's 10/12/08 blog post poses some good questions about Main Street vs. Wall Street.
Their question: "In the context of the small business world, what is Main Street anyway?"
My answer: "Words. A nice catch phrase. It's where the Mom and Pop stores of yore flourished. But more and more, it's become an iconic phrase in the vernacular."
Their question: "Is Main Street the antithesis of Wall Street?
My answer: "It's supposed to be an extension of Wall Street. What happens on Wall Street affects Main Street."
Their question: "Are Sarah Palin and Joe Biden Mainstreeters?"
My answer: "Palin is posing as such. Not so sure about Biden. He's more ... I dunno ... polished. Maybe he's more Mall Street!"
Their question: "Does Wal-Mart build on Main Street?"
My answer: "Wal-Mart tore down Main Street and stuck all the goods inside a gigantic warehouse they call a store. Essentially, they got rid of the street!"


Dear Investor: A Day Late and A Dollar Short

In yesterday's mailbox, I received this direct mail package from Ameriprise Financial offering me a FREE planning guide, "What you need to know before you retire."

The letter begins, "Dear Investor: What does your dream retirement look like?" Well, I've been looking at a LOT of CNN recently, and your mailing, my dear Ameriprise, appears to be... a day late and a dollar short. I guess you had no way of knowing that the market would tank so badly when you put this baby to bed. Quite frankly, I can't imagine ANY investment or retirement planning mailing doing well this week.

What I need to know before I retire isn't in the FREE book they're giving away, at least not according to what I'm hearing in the news. What I need to know is probably inside a crystal ball ... and I haven't received any direct mail packages selling that ... yet.

I'm interested to know - what's in your mailbox lately in regard to financially-related products and services and how are you reacting to it?


A Designer's Perspective: With Guest, Joanne Lewis of Tango Vision, Inc.

Today's guest on The Copy Grove Blog is Joanne Lewis - Art Director of Tango Vision, Inc. Joanne has designed many direct marketing materials with The Copy Grove for a variety of clients, from auto clubs to health insurance companies.

Copy Grove: Joanne, welcome! You have a lot of experience in direct marketing and a keen eye! What graphic trends are you noticing in direct mail these days?

Joanne Lewis: I am noticing a lot of oversized and interesting postcards. With so many credit card offers coming in, these postcards really stand out and attract the eye. I am also seeing some oversized self-mailers that I like as well. Some of my favorites are the Comcast pieces, where I might receive an oversized postcard and then a self mailer a few weeks afterward. With so much traffic in the mail stream, I believe that postcards are a great way to stand out — they are like billboards in the traffic jam.

Copy Grove: Of all the direct mail packages you designed, which one was the most challenging and why?

Joanne Lewis: I had a client in Michigan who was an insurance third party administrator. Our audience was Mortgage professionals and the product was a blanket home equity protection product. The writer I was working with, Jennifer Thomas Vanadia, and I came up with a concept of mailing out "coasters" that had pictures and the stories of various "insurance risks" ... people who took their loans and did things like blew the money on exotic vacations, went fishing, or even donated their homes to care for wayward felines. The challenge of the package was to provide something that these brokers might keep on their desks or hang on their office bulletin boards. Our budget didn't cover traditional coasters so we decided to use heavy cardboard and varnish. We also used a see through vellum envelope with a letter with a teaser that read, "Just think about them once a year. We'll take care of the rest." The six "coasters" were inserted inside the letter and the outside envelope was fairly thick. The challenges were mainly production oriented. I think it's usually easier to come up with the great ideas than it is to make them a reality at times.
(Above: Photo of coaster mailing, courtesy of Tango Vision, Inc.)

Copy Grove: From a design perspective, what can a marketer do to make his or her direct mail package stand out among the clutter and get opened?

Joanne Lewis: Again, I like postcards right now for really standing out in the mail. I also like adding something special to a package. A client of mine in Washington D.C., St. Johns College High School, was looking for something different for their annual appeal a couple of years ago. I recommended that they recognize some of their "heroes" (teachers, coaches, administrators) with a series of trading cards. The cards were sent out with a letter, reply, BRE and each card had the name and photo of the "hero" on the front with their "stats" on the back. The teaser copy on the outside envelope alluded to the cards and the cards became so popular with the alumni and staff that the second set of "heroes" were sent out the next year. As far as standing out, color goes a long way, a compelling teaser will get me inside a package, using a non-standard size is good. I am seeing a lot of white outside envelopes and some good use of color will always catch my eye.

(Above: Photo of heroes mailing, courtesy of Tango Vision, Inc.)

Copy Grove:  Thank you, Joanne, for sharing your insights and thoughts with us today. We look forward to hearing more from you and having you back again.

Joanne: You're very welcome! Anytime...

Joanne can be reached at Joanne_Lewis@comcast.net


Prediction: More postcards

Now that banks are less willing to lend money and corporations are laying off workers, chances are fewer new products and services will be "going to market." As companies become more conservative and less inclined to launch new initiatives, direct marketers will be more focused on retention and cross-sell opportunities. And I predict we will be seeing more postcards in our mailboxes! 

After all, when money is tight, it behooves marketers to use the most cost effective ways to "drum up sales" - and the once deemed lowly postcard can now be viewed as an affordable way of getting in the mail and driving sales leads - without the higher paper, lettershop and postage costs of a standard No. 10 package.

If you plan to use a postcard for your direct marketing efforts, here are a few tips:

1) Have a single-minded focus for your marketing message.
Room is tight on a postcard. That means you've got to broadcast your main message and it needs to be an enticing one - either a great savings offer or a much-needed benefit that's going to meet one of your targeted audiences' needs.

2) Put the call to action on the front and the back of the postcard, if you can.
Unless the call to action needs to be personalized and you are not duplex lasering the piece, it's a good idea to put the call to action (the response language - "call now or visit www...") on the front AND the back of the piece. After all, that's the action you want your recipient to take. Make it easy to keep that phone number or web site in clear view and top of mind.

3) Stand out from the clutter but be careful that you don't look so promotional you get lost in the clutter.
Direct mail should always have an air of personal correspondence to it. So don't forgo the "Dear Sample A. Sample" that could go on the personalized side of the postcard in lieu of photos and fancy graphics, or you'll miss a chance to connect and speak directly to your targeted audience members. (I read somewhere that self-mailers got a better response when they had a letter that started with a "Dear ..." and had a signature at the end. A postcard is a kind of self-mailer. So why not give your postcard a personal edge? It can help it stand out in the clutter.) Use the other non-personalized side for your attention grabbing headline and graphics. When a postcard is too "design-y" with "bang-them-over-the-head" visuals on both sides, it tends to feel too much like a general advertising piece that's trying very hard to sell something and less like personal correspondence with something very important to tell me, about something that's especially for me - to meet my needs. And I'd much rather receive the latter. Wouldn't you?
Below is a sample postcard that follows many of the tips mentioned here. As you'll see, there is a little letter on this side of the postcard that begins, "Dear Advertiser:"

This is side 1 of a postcard that was mailed as a reminder to advertisers of products and services relative to the Chemical Engineering profession, alerting them of the close date for inserting their ads in AIChE's CEP (Chemical Engineering Progress) magazine. It's always smart to mail to your current client/member or user database to remind them about added ways you can serve their needs. As that old saying goes, your best customers are the ones you already have!

This is the reverse (side 2) of the postcard pictured above:

Notice it's more colorful and contains more details about the magazine contents, so advertisers can tailor their message to editorial content. 

Postcards such as the one shown here were mailed throughout the year, with the same format, different copy and color schemes to match the season or time of year. This card mailed in the early fall.

Thanks for stopping by