3 Mailers Making Waves With Content Marketing

Let’s consider what some people regard as just another buzz term: “content marketing.” Despite all the hype, the concept really wasn’t invented yesterday. Some mailers have been doing it for years. Let’s look at three examples of mailers successfully using relevant content marketing to stand out in the mailbox.
R. Crusoe & Son, a luxury travel marketer, mails slim-jim catalogs. They’re packed with beautiful, high-quality photography and rich, evocative copy that’s long on background that creates intrigue. Here’s how a description for a trip to Peru begins: “Shaken-not stirred. That’s how you’ll want your pisco sour in Peru. The national drink is just one reason (and not a bad one) to head to the land of the Inca.”

Williams-Sonoma has long understood the connection between its customers and the products that the company offers in its catalogs and website. In a recent catalog, Williams-Sonoma provides a recipe for some beautifully photographed chicken and spring vegetable soup laid out with a photo of the Le Creuset dutch oven and other kitchen tools the company thinks the prospect should use to make it.

Trader Joe’s, a beloved grocery store chain with a strong following, regularly mails its “Fearless Flyer.” It’s a brochure, usually running about two-dozen pages, with whimsical images, long product descriptions, and it even includes a shopping list to be clipped out and brought to the store for ease of shopping.

So, why do all of these mailings work so well in creating engagement? There are many reasons, but I’ll give you a three:

  1. They all don’t merely sell, but tell (and show), whether it’s a story, a couple of interesting facts, or a just a surefire way to make great soup.
  2. They have unique personalities that are definitely not boring.
  3. They build the credibility of their brand because they show how passionate they about their products and they’re eager to share their expertise.

This is what helps to make for great marketing. Earn a customer’s business by making it exciting and interesting to shop with you.

Paul Bobnak is the director of Who's Mailing What!, the most complete, searchable and fully online library of direct mail and email in the world. He has read and analyzed thousands of direct mail packages (offers, copy, designs, incentives and formats) and email in more than 200 industry categories, including retail, nonprofits, insurance, telecom, B-to-B, financial services and publishing. He writes for the e-newsletter Today @ Target Marketing and has been a judge in NonProfit PRO's Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence since 2006.
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  • Carol Worthington-Levy

    Hi Paul,
    you’re right about how ‘content’ has been around for years! When i think about it I think i must have included content in almost every catalog I created for the past 20+ years! Examples: Around 1994, in a medical software catalog targeting Doctors, we developed a ‘Dr. Tip’ who, on nearly every spread of the catalog offered up suggestions for how to use certain software and other tips that could educate a typically uneducated doctor when it came to computers. Corny? maybe. But it was a hugely successful startup and we developed a strong and loyal market. Another example: our Action Bag catalog (B to B for salons and stylists) included writeups by noted specialists in how to promote a salon business. One more example: one of our American Isuzu direct mail packages included in it a rubber ‘jar opener’ that had a diagram on it showing how Torque on Demand worked. This was a new concept in 4WD vehicles and it is not unlike how a hand instantly grips a jar with a jar opener, only when it’s needed. This was massively successful in the mail for quality lead-generation for test drives.

    One more thing – while photography of cooked food and products being sold is certainly entertaining enough to call it content, I like how Williams Sonoma regularly raises the bar by putting what i think of as more valuable content – they have always had recipes in the catalog, happily, right next to the pan or pot they’re selling. I bought my first madeline pans from them when they posted a recipe next to them – this must be at least 20 years ago!