Catalog Wednesday

We've got Black Friday for brick and mortar shopping and Cyber Monday for online shopping. How about Catalog Wednesday for catalog shopping?

And to help us get started, CVS is on the scene with this new catalog ...

Yes, pharmacy super store CVS has put out a glossy, 4-color, 84-page Holiday shopping catalog for the first time. The piece arrived in my mail about two weeks ago. If you didn't get yours, they're giving it out at the retail stores. Items are available in the stores, online AND by calling 1-800-shopCVS. Take that, Walgreens!


State Farm Agents Mail Holiday Address Labels

What's New In Agent Insurance Mailings?
Recently, my auto insurance agent retired and a new guy took over his office - and his clientele. Just about a week ago, around the middle of November, the new agent sent me an interesting mailing for the holidays. It was a 6 x 9 envelope with address labels inside. Wow, a lot more costly than your typical/standard holiday greeting card! I'm impressed. While I've seen LOTS and LOTS of direct mail kits with holiday address labels - from just about every charity know to man and woman - I've yet to receive one from my insurance agent. Good show, State Farm and your agents!


Blog Action Day: Direct Marketing, Paper and Global Warming

Here at The Copy Grove, we recycle paper.

When we get an electronic file, first we ask, "Does this have to be printed out?" In many cases, the answer is "No!" So we try to print out as few documents as possible, to conserve electricity, paper, and ink - not so much for cost-savings but for the sake of being environmentally friendly. Used ink cartridges go to recycling programs whenever possible. And if we print out a document, after the document is read and used, it goes in a pile - and after a couple of months, the pile grows and is repurposed; that is, the paper is sent back to the printer for printing on the other side.

Here's our current pile, soon ready for reuse:

When creating advertising for businesses that use direct mail, we always try to use less paper. Making a mailing more compact and cost-effective by using less paper puts less stress on the environment. And helps keep costs down for our clients. This can be a creative challenge. The writer and designer have to make the most of the paper that they DO have to use. For writers, that means more powerful, shorter headlines and more concise yet persuasive body copy. For designers, that means more powerful graphics that grab attention and generating a layout that leads the eye through the message. Bottom line here is you need a strong creative idea - one that is so strong, you don't need a big, long spiel to get the desired action from your reader.

Of course, you can print your entire mailing on recycled paper. To learn more, read this excellent brochure by the Recycled Paper Coalition.

And for a discussion on direct mail versus e-mail, see this article by Barry Abel, where he tells us ...

"The 20 percent increase in the cost of paper over the past two to three years is being caused in part by higher labor costs as well as higher fuel costs to get wood to the mill, run the papermaking machines and transport the finished product to warehouses and on to printers.

Moreover, many paper mills are making investments to become more eco-friendly, incurring costs to train employees in new processes and procedures. Printing and postage costs are also rising, and additional paper price increases are likely."

Do you have thoughts, suggestions, ideas to share on this topic? Please join in the conversation, in honor of Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change, and leave a comment with what you have to say or a link to your blog or web site.

"Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices."


Who's Spending The Marketing Dollars These Days?

Looks like fundraisers aren't slimming down their packages lately - they're beefing them up. Sandy Rees, CFRE at her Get Fully Funded blog asks, "Do you know when the best times are to mail a fundraising appeal?" She gives the answer, "Studies show that there are definitely months of the year that produce better results than others. October is the best month to mail." Ok, so that may explain why fundraising efforts that arrive in my mailbox lately are chock-full of incentives for me to give. Case in point, these two recent efforts from Paralyzed Veterans of America.

In a test situation where the fundraiser mails one group of people one kit and another group of people another kit to see which package gets the most response, I should have only received one of these packages. Nevertheless, I am now the lucky recipient of a Holiday Favorites music CD which arrived in the "Christmas in September" package, as well as a free notepad with a patriotic (Labor Day tie-in) motif AND address labels to match the notepad. Chances are, these two kits are NOT testing against one another. There was probably an oversight in the scheduling and list selection that enabled me to get both kits on the same day last week. But since I did get both and I know the mailer has put a lot of money into these free gifts, I am inclined to donate to this charity, as I have done in the past.

However, a situation like this where two kits arrive at the same address on the same day could turn out to be a big waste of the charity's money if the recipient doesn't make a donation in response to either package. Also, even if the recipient gives a gift, if it's not "enough," then it won't offset the cost of mailing two kits to the same address on the same day. In a perfect world, the Christmas kit should have been sent to me in October, as a kind of follow-up, 2nd effort to the notepad/label kit - IF I didn't reply to the first effort.

Such is life. Who knows? There may have been some delays or problems at the inserting or printing stage.

What we can see is that fundraisers aren't being shy about spending money on their direct mail appeals. In this economy, that's a good thing for direct marketer vendors serving these charities. Instead of mailing 2-color packages with standard No. 10 envelopes, a letter, reply card and BRE (bare bones), fundraisers are inserting calendars, using custom 4-color envelopes, mailing CDs and more. Hopefully, people who receive these costly packages will also open their wallets and give.


Special Olympics Fundraiser Mailing

On August 12, 2009, Eunice Kennedy Shriver - the woman known as the founder of the Special Olympics, sister of former president John F. Kennedy, and mother of Maria Shriver - died at the age of 88. The news was abuzz with Shriver's passing ... as it is today with the more recent passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. Shriver advocated tirelessly for the mentally disabled, and two days ago, I received a mailing from the Special Olympics, the organization which has been in the media's light of late due the sad loss of its founder.

The mailing is timed well, because people are more prone to give to this worthy cause due to recent media attention on the passing of its founder. The mailing is also well done, with the centerpiece being a 16-month 2010 calendar (the first month is September 2009), featuring paintings by Jennifer Nolin Winkler, an extremely talented 24-year-old Special Olympic athlete for 11 years.

The calendar is sized to fit in an envelope that is small enough not to incur the extra postage of a flat mailing. And on the back of the calendar is a quote from Eunice Kennedy Shriver...

"Every person, regardless of whatever different abilities they have, can contribute, can be a source of joy, can beam with pride and love."

You can't help but love the tagline for the Special Olympics: "Be a fan(R)" And, I might add, a supporter.

While calendars for fundraising and promotional items are a dime a dozen, this mailing stands out for it's great timing and for being so full of heart, thanks the lovely artwork by Jennifer Nolin Winkler.


Art and Copy: The Movie

Art and copy is a way of life for those of us in the advertising profession. Art and Copy, the movie from the One Club, opens in select cities (NY, Chicago, Denver, Seattle - sorry no Philly) August 21, 2009. For those of us not able to make it to one of the select theaters in that very short list of cities, we can probably catch it on The Sundance Channel one of these days - since the film has been dubbed an "Official 2009 Sundance Film Festival Selection," in addition to having won a couple of other awards.

Here for you now is the screener, courtesy of YouTube:

And an overview/blurb about the flick, courtesy of artandcopyfilm.com:

"ART & COPY is a powerful new film about advertising and inspiration. Directed by Doug Pray (SURFWISE, SCRATCH, HYPE!), it reveals the work and wisdom of some of the most influential advertising creatives of our time -- people who've profoundly impacted our culture, yet are virtually unknown outside their industry. Exploding forth from advertising's "creative revolution" of the 1960s, these artists and writers all brought a surprisingly rebellious spirit to their work in a business more often associated with mediocrity or manipulation: George Lois, Mary Wells, Dan Wieden, Lee Clow, Hal Riney and others featured in ART & COPY were responsible for 'Just Do It,' 'I Love NY,' 'Where's the Beef?,' 'Got Milk,' 'Think Different,' and brilliant campaigns for everything from cars to presidents. They managed to grab the attention of millions and truly move them. Visually interwoven with their stories, TV satellites are launched, billboards are erected, and the social and cultural impact of their ads are brought to light in this dynamic exploration of art, commerce, and human emotion."

If you dig the movie so much, you can become a fan and follow it on Facebook.

This is definitely on my list of "must sees."


How do you market to women entrepreneurs?

Let's take a look at a couple of examples from Enterprising Women magazine.

The first ad shown here speaks to a diverse range of women in a single headline. The ad is intended to promote a professional network called LEXCI, which is co-branded with the Women's Leadership Exchange and the American Express OPEN business credit card.

Fabulous layout - very attention-getting!

The second ad is meant to also appeal to women and minorities within diverse business communities. But instead of the "in-your-face" layout and brash headline, we've got something much more subtle, yet still full of impact ...
Here, American Airlines integrates the headline/call-outs to the various market segments with its own logo to make the point.

Side note: Many corporations have diversity initiatives whereupon they encourage the hiring of certified vendors that are women-owned or minority-owned. Enterprising Women magazine is strongly aligned with these programs. Their readership is different than that of Working Women or Fortune magazine. So the ads appearing within the pages of Enterprising Women must reflect the unique needs of their unique audience.

Kudos to the marketers cited above for their well-done ads in this fine publication.


More Bang For Your Buck: Turn your average business reply envelope into a bangtail to increase sales in direct mail packages

Before your potential customers send in their order for your main product or service, think about making a second sale using real estate on your business reply envelope (BRE). Make it interactive - by creating a bangtail BRE.

Here's an example of a bangtail BRE that recently arrived in my Bank of America credit card statement (you may have seen this piece if you're a Bank of America customer; it's been mailing for quite some time) ...
This is the reply envelope that we're supposed to use to return our credit card payment. But instead of just taking our payments, this envelope contains a special offer - and tries to make another sale. It starts to reel me by piquing my interest with a "please remove to reveal value" sticker. Half of the sticker is affixed on the back flap of the BRE. The other half of the sticker hides part of an insert that is folded and nested inside of the BRE.
In this example, the insert that is nested inside of the BRE is about the size of a buckslip and contains copy promoting a complimentary $20.00 gift card - which I can get just for trying Buyers Advantage(R), an added service that Bank of America offers their customers to help protect their purchases, get the lowest prices, and more.
Here I am with a "Direct Mail Minute" talking about this piece ...
Any questions?

(Note - This example is rather complicated! Bank of America spent some buck$$$ creating this piece - but since they send it to a high volume of people, the production costs are brought down to scale. Nevertheless, many marketers with smaller production budgets can still do a bangtail by extending the back flap of the BRE a couple of inches and adding a perforation - thereby turning the flap into a reply form that can be returned in the original BRE for the second offer or sale.)


Apollo 11 - 40th Anniversary celebrated with AOL morphed logo

On The Copy Grove's Directions blog, we've talked about how AOL has been periodically morphing their homepage logo to celebrate various seasons or holidays throughout the year - such as April Fool's Day and Tax Day. (Incidentally, April 15th marked the first time AOL ever morphed their logo into an actual product ad for Turbo Tax, which you can read about here.)

Well, as you can see from the above images, looks like AOL is at it again for the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11.

Speaking of logos, is the GM logo going green?

And you can test your logo IQ with this online quiz.

Have a great weekend!


If you can't wear the one glove ...

Click to view larger image.

... you can wear the bracelet - silver-tone charm bracelet, that is. 

At least The Franklin Mint waited until today to advertise this item in USA Today. They're calling it the "Pop Icon Charm Bracelet." Copy from franklinmint.com reads ...

"You can keep the thrill of Pop's greatest icon alive! Each charm is a work of art and a celebration of the greatest performer of all time. Remember the talent that has touched the world each time you wear this beautiful toggle bracelet. Seven handmade charms tell the story of a musical revolution that will live for generations. Swarovski crystal accents give it the sparkle of light."

Apparently The Franklin Mint is not the only one with an item like this for sale. The Bradford Exchange Australia Collectibles web site site was selling this - "Historic Michael Jackson Charm Bracelet Remembers the Music and Magic of the Legendary King of Pop in a Sparkling Salute! - He was a consummate artist and ..."  

Sorry, the item is no longer available from The Bradford web site. It IS available on eBay. (Um, was. Not any more.)

Compare this item and post to Bill Green's post today on MTLB: I JUST NEED ANOTHER $2,700 TO EXPLOIT THE MEMORY OF 9/11. 

At least the charm bracelet is affordably-priced (under $80).


Oxi Clean shows class with full page Billy Mays memorial in USA Today

Click to view larger image.

This appeared in today's USA Today newspaper, page 7A, "In memory of Billy Mays 1958-2009." Note the words above the Oxi Clean logo quoting the opening line that this passionate pitchman made famous ...

"'Billy Mays here!' Yes, he was but sadly not long enough." 

How true.

Another famous pitchman passed away a little over a week ago today, Ed McMahon. Most people remember Mr. McMahon as Johnny Carson's sidekick on the Tonight Show ... but for us direct marketers in the Greater Philadelphia region, particularly those who have done work for the Colonial Penn Life Insurance Company, we remember him for his work in DRTV.  

For more about pitchmen in advertising, how to pick one, why they work, etc. ... take a look at this Money Magazine article:  Why the Caveman Loves the Pitchman:  A little celebrity and a shrewd marketing strategy can go a long way to sell a product. The key is understanding how the human brain really works.

Catch you after the holiday weekend. Have a good one!


Bloggers say the darndest thiings ... on Michael Jackson

Did you know ...

"Michael Jackson had a patent."
       - You can read about it on the Advertising That Works blog.

"You know the morphing effect that we take for granted in movies and commercials, can even do at home on our laptops? What was the first time you ever saw that? If you're like me, it was in the Black or White music video. It was so cool, so cutting edge that I remember sitting in my living room watching it, right after an episode of The Simpsons, even now."
      - From The Exact Target blog.

"My question to you - How did you hear about Michael Jackson’s death?" 
      - Was it via Twitter version 1.0 or 2.0? Check out this interesting post called "Michael Jackson and the Twitter factor" on the Wikinomics blog. 


Who's The Leader of The Brand That's Made For You and Me?

I'm a brand. He's a brand. Wouldn't you like to be a brand, too? Now, you can be ... 

When it comes to personal branding, Tom Peters wrote the book - well, an article actually - for FastCompany magazine way back in 1997, and you can read the reprint here - "The Brand Called You."

How well does Peters' advice hold up ten years later? You can see what this blogger has to say about that here. But even more telling is how many followers Peters seems to have ... people who have given the concept of the personal brand their own twist.

Larry Genkin has taken the concept to new heights with his Personal Branding Power Pack, which you can read about here. Here's Larry's ad ...

Click to view larger.

Of late, this ad, by the way, has been running regularly in USA Today. I love the subhead, which I think should be the headline on this ad ...

"Honestly, Do You Chase After Business Opportunities or
Do Opportunities Chase After You?"

Mr. Genkin is the creator of The Thought Leadership Marketing(R) Method, in case you haven't heard of him. Sort of like a Tony Robbins...

He's not the only one to get on the personal branding bandwagon. Dan Schawbel is the leading personal branding expert for Gen-Y. His blog, "Personal Branding Blog(R), Navigating YOU to future success" is worth a look, especially if you want to pump up the volume on your social networking sites. FastCompany magazine called him, a "Personal branding force of nature." Business Week said he's "A leading voice in the area of personal branding." Entrepreneur Magazine called Dan Schawbel the "Gen-Y branding expert." His personal brand, it seems, is personal branding. Kind of like a rose is a rose is a rose, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein. In fact, on a Google search of the words "personal brand," Dan shows up third from the top. Not bad, beaten only by the 1997 Peters' article for FastCompany and a Wikipedia description of the phrase.

I'd say Dan beats Larry on that score!

Nevertheless, all this personal branding stuff got me to thinking ...

It's all wonderful IF you have something to back it up with. You can brand the heck out of something, but if it does not deliver the goods, all you've got is a lot of advertising and no sales. 

I'd rather take the $299 for Mr. Genkin's Personal Branding package and spend it on a course to sharpen my skills, a membership in a professional organization, or certification to boost my credentials.  And read all about how to enhance my personal brand online - for free.


More catchy phrases

Google "catchy phrases" and you'll inevitably find yourself here. Such is the power of Google. For my blog, which does not specialize in "catchy phrases" per se, is apparently receiving a LOT of visits from people plugging those very keywords into their search engines. In fact, my single blog post (until now) on this specific topic, which you can read here, has been viewed a whopping 1,400 times since it's original posting back on January 28th of this year - and that number is growing daily.

Which got me to thinking ... it's amazing how many people are searching the web for that kind of information, and if you're reading this now, chances are, you are one of those people. Keywords people use for this search have included "catchy financial phrases," "catchy direct mail phrases," "catchy summer phrases," and even "catchy chicken phrases" (I kid you not). 

In an attempt to not disappoint my somewhat newfound audience for this kind of information, I bring you MORE CATCHY PHRASES, starting with ...

Catchy financial phrases:  
Nothing beats "FREE money" for me or "get cash now."
Even better, show dollar figures - "$1 MILLION" is a good one.
But only if you can - that is, no false advertising.

Catchy direct mail phrases:
It's easier for me to give you tips on this, since direct mail IS my specialty.
In direct mail, some people think that one of the biggest "catchy phrases" is "Act now!" It's been around for so long that it's a cliche. More cliched phrases are "The sooner you act, the sooner you can save" or "But hurry! This offer is for a limited time only." Actually, these are not so much cliches as time-tested, proven phrases that get people to respond to the mailing. They are used so often because they work. They're plain English. The tell it like it is. And they're kind of catchy. 

To learn more of these phrases, you need to be a student of current and past direct mail. So start forming an archive of the direct mail that comes to your mailbox and circle phrases that are consistent no matter who is sending the mailing. Those are likely to be phrases you should be using in your direct mail, too. They're usually action oriented phrases that get people to do what your direct mail piece is intended to do - and that's get people to RESPOND.

Catchy summer phrases:
- "Ain't no cure for the summertime blues."
- "In the summertime, when the weather is fine ..."
- "Fun in the sun"
- "Life's a beach and then you die."
- "A cloudy day at the beach is better than a sunny day at work" 
- "Get in the swim ..."
I think you get the idea.

Catchy chicken phrases:
I'm stumped here. It all depends on the context. So I just brainstorm and come up with stuff like ...
- "What came first?"
- "The chicken or the egg?"
(After all, we're talking phrases here - not full sentences. If I had to come up with a headline for a chicken ad, let's say, I might write two headlines - one with the first phrase and one using the second phrase. Of course, my colleague/competitor might be doing the same thing. So ...)
I'd move on to the chicken joke ...
"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
And maybe try to do something with "drumsticks," I don't know.
This is not getting me anywhere, I'd probably be thinking ...

So maybe I'd do something totally removed from chicken.


The whole idea behind catchy phrases is (and this is the real secret) ... YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM UP. You can't rely on phrases other people have used. You have to play with words. A catchy phrase is memorable. You want to repeat it many times. It sticks in your head like like a song lyric or the title of a book. 

And so I leave you with this YouTube video, which serves as a good summertime example of a great catchy phrase in use. (Can you tell me what the catchy phrase is?)


YouSendIt.com alternatives

Click article above to see larger image.

USA Today had a good article about alternatives to YouSendIt.com.

YouSendIt.com offers you a free service for sending LARGE files you'd otherwise have a hard time sending from your IPS. This is a function that many designers or account service representatives in marketing might be in need of - mostly for large pdf or native art files. 

Check out the article above and see what your other options are, in addition to YouSendIt.com.


Are Redbox and Hershey's reading my blog?

I posted about these two on May 8th - talking about how they both have freebie offers going at the same time this summer.

Today, I get this offer (above) via email - "Buy two bags of Hershey's candies and get a free Redbox DVD rental." Seems Redbox and Hershey's have joined forces. 

Do I have ESP for an inside scoop on what marketers are doing, or what?


Selling Auto Insurance The Hard Way ... Like Nationwide

It goes like this:
1) Send a direct mail package to people who don't have your coverage, like the one above, which I just received from Nationwide. (Getting people to switch is hard.)

2) Try to get me to switch without a "savings" message in the main headlines. 

As I said, getting people to switch their auto insurance is hard. BUT getting people to switch without a promise of how much they can save is even harder. So don't put any promises on the envelope. Don't even allude to the fact that I can save money by switching, like Nationwide.

After all, sometimes it's hard to quote an exact amount. So why bother? All the other auto insurance companies who say you can save say things like "drivers who switched saved $375 on average."* (Notice the "*" after the statement; it always has to be footnoted with the actual survey information, to back it up. If you don't have this kind of back-up documentation for a savings statement, you can't make one. Simple as that.) 

GEICO doesn't even have to quote a specific dollar amount for their savings promise. They just show a stack of bills with eyeballs on top of it, and say "this is the money you could be saving" if you switched to GEICO. We get it. Saving money motivates us. That's why people switch to GEICO. And you need to motivate people out of inertia if you want to get them to switch.

Ok, so ...
3) IF I happen to open the envelope, tell me I've been "4 GIVN," like the Nationwide mailing above. For what I've been forgiven, I don't know ... but since I was not born yesterday, I have a suspicion that you're talking about forgiving me for my bad driving record. After all, everyone knows that a bad driving record could drive up my insurance rates. 

The problem is ... I don't have a bad driving record. I, in fact, have a great driving record.  So you must be mailing to a lot of the wrong people and working with a bad list. I should be on the "good drivers" list. 

But back to the point of all this. Nationwide is trying to sell auto insurance the hard way ... so this is permissible. Nationwide, you are forgiven.

Oh, and 3a) Did I mention this mailing with it's message of forgiveness has a somewhat religious tone to it? Here's what Keywords, a blog has to say about that... and apparently this kit from Nationwide is not a new mailing. Someone got it back in February of this year. So it may be working if Nationwide is still mailing it now, in May. 

4) Make your call to action real small, like Nationwide did. Don't put the number to call big and bold on the piece. Like maybe at top of the letter or the bottom of that nice blue band on the left side. But leave lots of room for three local agents to list their names, addresses and phone numbers at the bottom. Maybe I'll call one of them. Or maybe not. I can't decide who to call. Forgive me for my indecision!

Life Comes at You Fast(R) - that's the Nationwide campaign slogan. And this mailing is going in the trash even faster. Better luck next time, Nationwide. At least with me. 


How To Differentiate Yourself From Your Competitor (Not)

If I didn't have a blog, these two pieces of mail would have gone straight into the trash.

But since I am a blogger, I find these two self-mailers worthy of a post for the same reason they would have gone in the trash ...

They're virtually alike. Oh, one has a red logo and the other has a yellow logo. And they both have different headlines. One has more phones on it than the other. And maybe I'd read that headline first. But the fact is, I read neither headline first. 

One of these companies already has my business and wants more of it. The other wants to win my business. Neither is going to get their way.

It's unfortunate that you don't know what your competition is going to mail until AFTER the fact. So you can't plan accordingly. It's like picking out a dress to wear to a special event and hoping no one else shows up in the same frock. 

In this case, though - I have to tell you - I've been seeing a ton of these black mailings with phones on them. Black self-mailers. Black postcards. Black envelopes. 

How very basic black these mailings are becoming. And boring.

Actually, I AM going to be in the market for a new cell phone soon. So maybe I'd better hang onto these ...

Or try T-Mobile!



Two Takes On Freebies: Redbox and Mars Chocolate

Redbox giveth and Redbox taketh away. 

Maybe you've seen their big red boxes outside your local grocery store, where you can rent DVD movies for just $1 (take that, Blockbuster and Comcast Pay Per View!). It's also where you can get FREE movie rentals every Monday of the week. Or should I say was ...

For quite some time now, on Monday mornings, Redbox would text message people who registered their cell phones online with a FREE Movie promotional code. The code was only good that day to save the normal $1 fee on your Monday rental. Well, yesterday, Redbox alerted their loyal customers, via the email shown above, that their FREE Movie Mondays rental promotion is ending on May 11th. But to be the good guys in this bad economy, Redbox is going to keep the promotion going through the summer, on a monthly basis (not weekly) starting on June 1st. How nice is that?

Actually, is there anything better than FREE? It's "the strongest word in the English language," according to many direct marketing professionals. And it sure makes for hard-to-resist offer copy when you can say, "FREE Trial Offer, no strings attached." 

In an About.com article, "Creating Powerful Promotional Marketing Coupons, Contests & Samples Drive Sales for Business," Darrell Zahorsky has this to say about the topic ...

"Do free samples work? Giving your product away for free may seem profit limiting but consider the case of Seth Godin. Godin released a book called 'The Idea Virus' in 2000. Unlike other authors, he did not charge for the book instead gave it away for free as an e-book. In less than 30 days over 400,000 copies were downloaded. This created a buzz about the book and even through free, people bought the hard cover; making the book #5 on the Amazon best seller list."

And Redbox isn't the only one who gets the power of free samples and is giving stuff away this summer ...

The Mars marketing team is running a FREE chocolate on Fridays promotion with their Real Chocolate Relief Act (and getting a little governmental on us with that name). They've even developed a graphic "seal" for this official business initiative. 

The Mars ad that ran in yesterday's USA Today says, "Every week through September, Mars is giving way 250,000 free* real chocolate coupons for your favorite Mars brands. Authentic chocolate made with 100% cocoa butter. Enjoy one on us today and, for more free* chocolate, visit realchocolate.com on Fridays." 

The promotion, per the ad's disclaimer, will run 5/8/09 through 9/25/09. (I'm checking the website now, and having trouble linking ... is it my browser or the Mars site?) 

A few months back, I wrote about Mars' Dove chocolatiers franchise. I'm extremely impressed with what the company is doing to move forward - in this economy, you'd think FREE samples might be a bad idea, but Mars is going gung-ho with the idea. You can read more about the Mars FREE chocolate Friday giveaways here.

And don't forget to get your freebies! (My favorite Mars brand: 3 Musketeers. Movie: the latest comedy will do!)


Clever Aflac Duck Spills The Ink In Space Ad Spread

Aflac is to accident and hospital indemnity insurance what GEICO is to auto insurance. They both have catchy, odd names that are very untraditional - not your typical "American National Life & Home" type of thing. And both are highly advertised national brands with a strong "mascot" strategy to generate awareness and recall for their products (GEICO has the animated gecko, and Aflac has the white duck).

Recently, Aflac took out a bunch of space in USA Today to run a series of ads, each promoting various benefits of having Aflac's protection and reasons to go to the Aflac web site. The ads were numbered #1 through #5, each with the heading "get the Aflacts" on a white piece of paper held up by the familiar Aflac duck (does he or she have a name, I wonder?). The first ad said, "Aflac is different from health insurance; it's insurance for daily living." Aflac does sell life, dental, vision and other types of insurance, but these ads are focused on the company's accident and hospital indemnity products. Nevertheless, while their 4-color ads were very eye-catching, simple to read and quickly communicated key benefits, what was truly outstanding was a bit of clever creativity ...

Ink splashes! 

Next to the 4th ad in the lower right corner of the spread, Aflac media buyers bought the lower left quadrant and filed it with benign, fake newspaper text (at the very top of the copy you can see the word "Advertisement") - and over the type, they splayed some blue ink, as if it dripped from the duck's pen in the ad above it. 

Nice creative touch that helps make these strong copy and graphic ads stand out even more!


Celebrating Customer Retention With Birthday Messages

I just read a great article online recently that was filled with 21 ways to improve customer retention through relationship marketing programs. And great timing on my end for that topic, because I'm working on a customer retention project with one of my biggest clients - while my own mailbox seems to be filling up with customer retention efforts in honor of my upcoming birthday.

Some examples:A predictable yet perfectly executed birthday greeting, from my local Hallmark store arrived in my mailbox yesterday. They send me something similar every year. You'd expect a greeting card store to send a pretty card - and so they do. You'd expect the personal touches on the envelope that make it look like a "real" card, sent from "someone I know" - the live stamp, the handwritten font for the addressing areas, and a closed-face envelope. This mailing delivers it all - along with a coupon for 20% off my next purchase at the store.

Next up ...

Here's a nice email offer with a printable coupon for $5 off, from my local Famous Footwear store. I have one of their frequent buyer/membership cards. The email subject line was "Happy Birthday from Famous Footwear--Take $5 off." Pretty straight-forward. (My birthday, btw, is over a month away. This email came today.)

And here is something I'd never seen before, which also arrived by email this 
morning ...
It's a very unexpected, birthday-inspired email from a charity I've given to in the past -  the American Cancer Society. What I absolutely loved about this email was the subject line: "Who is the official sponsor of your birthday?" - and the whole campaign concept of a birthday sponsor. I also liked the brevity of this email. No long discourse, just a "Learn More" button to take me to the next step, where I can give a gift to the charity online.

When you remember that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers and clients, you can see why customer retention programs are not only a cost-effective and profitable strategy but in today's economic environment they're a necessity.


New Gas $aver Card From Shell - Better Than Your Debit Card?

A recent USA Today article said that we won't be seeing $4-a-gallon gas prices anytime soon - at least not through the summer and probably even next year. The article claims that gas prices could be pushed slightly higher by a modest rise in global crude, but any increase is likely to be tempered by the weak economy. OK ... but the weak economy is still causing many Americans to tighten their belts and look for ways to keep their costs down.

That's where the new Shell $aver Card comes in. According to Shell's new ad, "It's an easy way to save 5 cents on every gallon you buy at Shell." The card is termed a "payment card." You have to apply for the card (applications are available at participating Shell stations). Once approved, it works like this: Swipe the card at the pump and the discounted gas price (less 5 cents on every gallon during the introductory period) is AUTOMATICALLY DEDUCTED from your checking account.

Better than using your plain old debit card at the pump, huh? And even when the introductory rate goes down to 2 cents off the gallon after June 30, 2009, you're still pennies ahead. 

Years ago, gas stations developed and marketed their own charge cards, but those cards have fallen by the wayside. And there's apparently a potential downside to using regular debit cards at the gas pump, according to this MSN Money article.

Nevertheless, this new card is good way to drive motorists to Shell pumps. Shell more than likely saves money with this type of payment card rather than going through other credit/debit middlemen. So it's good for Shell and good for the consumer from a savings standpoint. And that's gotta be good for the economy.

Tax Day

AOL is at it again - with a whimsical twist to their homepage logo on this April 15th Tax Day 2009. 

Some of my favorite quotes about taxes:

The taxpayer - that's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination. ~ Ronald Reagan

America is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation. ~ Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Did you ever notice that when you put the words "The" and "IRS" together, it spells "THEIRS?" ~ Author Unknown


Joined Together At The Hip

Looks like CVS and Depend Underwear are joined together at the hip for this recent self-mailer to CVS customers who have bought the brand.

The back story - no, I don't wear these things. And no offense to anyone who does. This is an important product for not just the over 65 crowd but anyone who needs it.

Anyway, over a year ago, my father was sick. And to help him get through his illness, during which time he had trouble getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I suggested he try using Depend underwear. I bought him a pack at CVS. 

Whenever I make a purchase at CVS, the cashier asks me to show my Extra Care Card. Showing my Extra Card helps me earn points and Extra Care bucks, which I like getting and using on things like dental floss, magazines and so forth. So I showed my card when I bought the Depend product and that purchase was registered on my Extra Care Card, along with everything else I have ever bought when I showed my card. 

Of course, the marketing strategy behind the Extra Care Card program is to tie your purchases to special savings offers with a coupon at the bottom of your CVS receipt that might say something like, "$2.00 off any CVS dental product." And thus drum up extra sales.

Well, more than a year after that Depend purchase for my dad, I get a piece of mail from CVS promoting a NEW Depend product. According to the mailing, instead of generic, cookie-cutter, unisex Depend underwear, there now is an anatomically-correct male/female version of said product. That's nice to know. (Too bad neither my dad, myself or anyone else I know is not currently using the product.) Inside the self-mailer is a $2.00 off coupon for either the male or female version and that expires 5/15/09 (not much shelf-value there - use it now or lose it, I guess).

The Depend brand is promoting their product extension on tv with their "Who rules the world?" spot, which you can catch on YouTube.

So who rules the world - men or women?

I say the Depend brand rules - the new product extension shows the brand has innovative thinkers on board who have (dare I say) b*lls. They're not afraid to launch something new in this tough economy. And what a great marketing strategy to promote the new products with CVS as a partner. Way to go, Depend!

Supporting A Worthy Cause

The Copy Grove is proud to be a sponsor of the Breast Cancer 3 Day Susan G. Komen for the Cure Event. Click to learn more and/or add your donation today.


April Fool's With AOL

When I logged on AOL this morning, I noticed an upside-down logo on their homepage. I actually thought, "Wonder if they know there's a glitch here. Should I contact them?"

The phone rang, and I was talking to a client. "Sure, next week is fine. Hey - this is strange. The AOL logo is upside-down and now it's spinning around ..."


"Oh, I'm sorry - but this is so bizarre."

And then I got the joke!


Is this a trend?

Click on image to view larger.

Here's another "copy-driven" ad. All type, no graphic other than the Boys & Girls Clubs of America logo. If you visit the organization's web site at www.bgca.org, you'll see a very attractive and highly visual home page. There's plenty of visual fodder on the site around which to build a space ad for this organization. Which leads me to ask are we seeing a trend of more copy-driven ads nowadays and why? To save on photo fees? It behooves a direct marketer to create ads that stand out from the clutter - and especially in newspapers where you have a sea of type with scads of articles on virtually every page, why would one shun a photograph or some other attention-getting graphic?

But the ad shown above, which appeared in the business section of USA Today yesterday, sure does start off great. What a fabulous headline:


Then come over 30 lines of Courier type, some of which I greatly admire.

This Boys & Girls Clubs of America ad does a few things right, as opposed to the copy-driven ad for Hyatt Place featured in a previous post.

At least the type in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America ad is easy-to-read black. And while Courier tends to be a highly legible font, it is a bit lightweight for the grainy newsprint paper. (You have to consider the paper an ad is printing on when designing it.) 

And while the copy in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America ad is well-written, I would have cut the opening and started the ad with the sentence in the 2nd paragraph:

"When a local youth agency fails, there are no severance packages. No bonuses. No second chances. Just scores of children with one less haven to turn to during non-school hours."

Adding a photo to this ad might have given the message a little more weight. But this is major - the call to action at the bottom should have DEFINITELY been set in BOLD type to help make it stand out and drive response.

What do you think? Could this ad use a visual? Is Courier the right font for this? What about a different kind of layout? Maybe an "open letter" look, where the ad would appear on letterhead, signed by the president of the organization? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Hyatt Place Space Ad Gone Wrong

If you thought this ad was hard to read, then you are not alone. The headline/offer/first sentence is so long that I stopped reading about 1/3 of the way into this ad. It's easy to miss the main message; it's all the way at the bottom, under the logo: "Only 3 days to save 30%. Call 888 HYATT HP or visit HPLimitedTimeOffer.com." 

Yes, bad typesetting can kill an ad. This was supposed to be one of those ads that are "copy driven." After all (thinks the Account Executive/Marketing Strategist/Creative Director), prospective customers for Hyatt Place are educated. High brow. They read long copy. Right? Maybe. So they will read this, right? Maybe not.

Talk about reader-unfriendly colors for the type. I would have went with the burgundy type for the majority of the headline-as-body-text (it's darker, easier to read) and used the lighter "ochre" color for the "highlights." At the very least. But take a look at the Hyatt Place logo. It's chock-full of color:
Why not pick up something more springy, like say the periwinkle, lime green or robin's egg blue? 


Now there's only 1 day left to get the 30% off. Hurry! Act now! : )


Is Discover Card reading my blog?

Sometimes it feels like somebody's watching me. And I don't mean those big eyes from the GEICO TV spot. 

Is seems like the folks at Discover Card read my post yesterday. Because look what came in my email today:

Now that's upping the ante! 


What's New In Credit Card Offers?

I'm torn. Should I get this card and forget about the measly 1% cash back bonus Discover gives? 

A direct mail package recently came in the mail from Fidelity, telling me that the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express Card is designed to help bring me closer to my investment goals - with a whopping 2 points (2%) for every dollar in net retail purchases.

The specifics:  For every 5,000 points ($2,500 in purchases), a $50 deposit can be automatically deposited into a designated, eligible Fidelity account - or I can redeem points for gift cards, merchadise and more through the WorldPoints program ... with no cap or limit on the amount of points or rewards I can earn.

And there's no annual fee.

Not a bad deal - especially in this economy! 

In the direct mail package I received from Fidelity, the 2% is printed on the outer envelope and in the letter headline, which captured my attention - and I'm sure it will capture others. Let's see if this card takes off. I have a feeling it will!


A Nickel For Your Thoughts

I just received this mailing from the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) association. The organization is well known in the direct mail community for its fundraising packages featuring address labels as a gift for donations. This package stood out in the mail for it's size (5" x 11.5") and the fact that it not only contained the usual address labels, but also a real, live nickel.

It's been a while since I've seen any nickel (or penny) kits, as we in the direct mail biz like to call them. For many clients, these kits are too expensive to produce UNLESS you have a huge mailing list, which the PVA undoubtedly has. At small quantities, packages with real, live coins tipped on can be extremely cost-prohibitive. But at larger quantities, and when you count in vendor relationships with the client/agency producing the kit, it's entirely possible to come in at budget.

The coin acts as a kind of envelope opener - much the same way a plastic card works to get envelopes opened. 

(At one time, I seem to remember some direct marketers shying away from inserting coinage into kits and showing the "money" through the envelope, because there was a wave of undeliverable mail and suspicion/reports of kits being "stolen" to collect the change.)

Nevertheless, the creative challenge that comes with the execution of a successful nickel or penny kit is in how you tie the coin to the offer. In this PVA package, that challenge is met two ways:

1) With some great letter copy! From the headline to the close of the letter ("For many of these vets who are down to their last few nickels, Paralyzed Veterans of America - and you - are their last hope!), the copy works to persuade the recipient to make a donation.


2) With an extra push of a yellow sticky note, affixed to the business reply envelope, which echoes the letter's P.S. ("P.S. Even if you can't send a gift today, please return the enclosed nickel as a symbol of your support - Paralyzed Veterans of America needs every nickel to continue to provide vital services to veterans who have sacrificed so much in the service of our country.")

Another fine example of fundraising done right. Kudos to the PVA creative team for a well-put-together nickel kit.

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