Denny’s Daily Zinger: BMW’s Barf Bag Mailing

Why would BMW send me a $3 mailing with a barf bag as the centerpiece?
Peggy and I drive a 10-year-old used Jag. It works fine.

We have no intention of buying another car—ever.

So why would BMW send me this weird, grotesquely expensive mailing?

All elements are heavy cardboard. Included are five “beauty shots” of the same red BMW coming and going.

And no letter.

The message: a BMW test drive is so exhilarating:


The copywriter’s idea of salvation: breathe into a closed barf bag.

And a barf bag is enclosed.

Takeaways to Consider

  • “Direct mail is intimate advertising.” —Stan Rapp
  • The brochure is the “it” copy, showing and describing the features of “it”—the product or service being offered.
  • The letter is the “you” copy—turning the features of “it” into benefits to “you.”
  • A letter is the only device in all forms of advertising that enables one writer to make an emotional connection with one reader.
  • “Of all the formats used in direct mail, none has more power to generate action than the letter.” —Dick Hodgson
  • “A mailing with a letter but without a brochure will almost always outpull a mailing with no letter.”­ —Denny Hatch
  • Example: Martin Conroy’s “Two Young Men” letter, mailed by itself with no brochure. Running just 781 words in two pages, it was control for 25 years and responsible for bringing more than $1 billion in revenue to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Conroy’s “Two Young Men Letter” was the most successful advertisement in the history of the world.

Denny Hatch’s new book is “Write Everything Right!” Robin Perron writes, “***** Five Stars. “Write Everything Right!” is a great resource for anyone who uses writing in their lives, because he talks about all forms of writing from emails to articles and memos. The goal is for everyone to write in a way that makes it easier for the reader to read it than to ignore it.” Click here to download (opens as a PDF) and read the first three chapters FREE. The title is also available on Kindle. Reach Denny at

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Meg Nugent Hodges

    My dream car is the gorgeous (and stolen) yellow Jaguar convertible Peter O’Toole drove in “How to Steal a Million”. Perhaps when I can afford the part-time mechanic I would need to service it.

    No sales letter, no matter how expertly written would convince me to buy that car or any other. The roadster I do drive every day was pitched to me by imagery alone. That imagery got me into a dealership and behind the wheel. The leather, the sound system and the purring motor did the rest.

    There was a lot to know about my car (it came with it’s own coffee-table book of history, cultural impacts and engineering breakthroughs.

    12 years later I’ve still never read all of it. But I can tell you about every image. Some products are just like that. Visual, Viseral. I’ll take 5 images and their 1000-word worth over a sales letter any day for this category of product. Save the letter for products and services that don’t already sell themselves.

  • sleepygeak

    Just an fyi. It is not a barf bag. You are supposed to breath in a bag when you hyperventilate. But your points still stand :-)