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Breaking Every Rule in the Book!

In 50 years, the saddest catalog I ever saw!

October 16, 2012 By Denny Hatch
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In the media player at the right are eight pages (four two-page spreads) from a British catalog that turned up on my kitchen counter.

As readers of this cranky publication know, I am a stickler for knowing rules.

I wrote two books of rules: "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success" (co-authored with Don Jackson) and "CAREER-CHANGING TAKEAWAYS: Quotations, Rules, Aphorisms, Pithy Tips, Quips, Sage Advice, Secrets, Dictums and Truisms in 99 Categories of Marketing, Business and Life."

I know about rules.

The Ultimate Rule of Rules
"Learn the current rules so you'll know when you are violating them. In direct marketing, as in any other field, if you don't know the rules, you will fail. It's true that rules are made to be broken, but to be successful you have to know them first. Only then can you break them, expand on them or go on to create new rules of your own." —John J. Flieder (1931-2008) Direct marketer, Allstate Corp, founder of the Callahan Group

The Rule of Rules was amplified by Seattle direct marketing wizard and guru Bob Hacker:

  • Play by the rules until you have solid controls; you have a higher chance of success and less risk.
  • Break the rules after you have solid controls, because in breaking rules, the riskand sometimes the costis much higher.
  • There are two ways to find a breakthrough: Play the rules better than anybody else. Break the rules better than anybody else!

In 50 years of scrutinizing direct mail and catalogs, I have never seen so many broken rules in one venue.

I found the Boden catalog from Great Britain lying forlornly on my kitchen counter. A tiny little thing: 64 pages, just 5-3/4" x 7-1/4." Across the bottom of the cover was the clue where it came from:

EXCLUSIVE OFFER FOR NEW YORK TIMES CUSTOMERS

Every morning I sit on a stool at the kitchen counter with a mug of coffee and three newspapers—Inquirer, New York Times and Wall Street Journal—next to the small TV tuned to CNN, MSNBC and/or Fox.

 
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