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Brooks Brothers' Bizarre Blue-Serge Letter

An effort guaranteed NOT to generate sales

Vol. 5, Issue No. 21 | October 27, 2009 By Denny Hatch
16
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IN THE NEWS

Brooks Brothers,
Established 1818

[Undated]
Dear Denison,
The arrival of a new season at Brooks Brothers is always accompanied by new wardrobe elements designed to offer incomparable style, quality and value. This fall is no exception and provides us the opportunity to reintroduce many of our longstanding classics while incorporating new additions into our collection.
—Diane M. Hamilton, president and chief operating officer
—Brian Dean, vice president, direct

[To see the complete letter, click on the thumbnail illustration at the end of today’s edition.]


I grew up wearing blue serge.

In the autumns of my youngest years, my parents would drive me to Best & Co. in Garden City, Long Island, and outfit me in blue serge for church and birthday parties—short blue serge pants with matching Eton jacket (no lapels), white shirt with big Eton collar and red tie. In the spring, same kind of thing, but summer weight.

When it came time to get my first pair of long pants, I was driven to Brooks Brothers on Madison Ave. in New York City, where I have been doing business since 1942.

It was a big deal when I got my first pair of blue serge long pants. My mother cried.

When I started going to dances, I would get tuxedos at Brooks Brothers and white dinner jackets for summer.

When cash was tight because of Andover bills in 1949-1953 ($1,400 tuition, room and board), we sometimes shopped at Rogers Peet on E. 42nd St.

Both Best & Co. and Rogers Peet are kaput. Brooks Brothers is a survivor.

But it won’t survive much longer if it continues to spend vast sums of money sending out blue-serge letters.

The Blue-Serge Letter From the President and VP Direct
These days, I buy from Brooks Brothers in Philadelphia once in a while—maybe a very lightweight summer jacket and an occasional sweater set for my wife, Peggy, at Christmas.

Early this month, the folks at Brooks Brothers wanted to alert me that their “Web site has been redesigned to be more engaging and informative.” It continues:

A central component is improved navigation and more convenient placement of our most sought-after items and resources. BrooksBrothers.com now offers expanded product information with alternate views and more comprehensive merchandise descriptions.

The one-page letter went on for three more paragraphs about the wonderful new Web site. “We hope that you will take the opportunity to visit the updated BrooksBrothers.com,” they write in the final paragraph, “and subscribe to the timely e-mail communication of our special events.”

That line was one of two calls to action.

The second call to action:

P.S. Please feel free to update your catalog preferences at any time by contacting us at 800.274.1815.

Call any time? I go to bed early, but my bet is that if I called at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, an operator would not be standing by. If operators are standing by 24/7, for pity’s sake, say so! It shows the customer and prospect that you really, really care.

The word “you” or “your” appeared just six times in the letter.

By contrast, the words “we,” “us” and “our” were used 20 times.

No offer was made—no discount certificate, no promise that if I bought three ties I'd receive the fourth tie free to celebrate the new Web site redesign, no early fall sale—zip, nada, zilch.

I was given no reason to respond. As a result, President and COO Diane M. Hamilton and VP, Direct, Brian Dean had no clue as to whether the letter was ever delivered to anybody or whether anybody read it.

Why do I call it the Brooks Brothers blue-serge letter?

Because the writers were peeing in blue serge; it made them feel warm all over and nobody noticed.

55-Word Book Reviews
Note: In the May 8, 2007, edition of this e-zine, "The Book Business: An Industry of Whiners," I proposed an online (for-profit) book service, QuickieBookReviews.com, that features short reviews (55 words) and one to four stars—just like movie reviews. You're invited to submit 55-word reviews of any really good book that readers would enjoy. 

**** "Harry Truman's Excellent Adventures: The true story of a Great American Road Trip" by Matthew Algeo. Shortly after leaving the White House, Harry and Bess Truman drove themselves from Independence, Miss., to Washington, D.C.; Philly; and New York, staying in motels, eating in diners, mingling with everyday Americans. Algeo recreated the trip and brings the Trumans and America in the 50s deliciously alive. A delightful excursion into simpler times. I loved it! Chicago Review Press, 256 pp, ISBN-13: 978-1556527777, $24.95. —DH 10-19-09
http://tinyurl.com/ygwb2us

**** "Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations" by Georgina Howell. The extraordinary saga of arguably the most important woman of the 20th century—a wealthy British linguist, insatiable traveler of the Arabian deserts, diplomat with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle East, and major player in the creation of Iraq along with Churchill and T.E. Lawrence. A tragedy she's not alive now when really needed! Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 512 pp, ISBN-13: 978-0374531355, $15 paperback. —DH 10-19-09
http://tinyurl.com/yj5fvls

**** "A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon" by Neil Sheehan. High drama for the soul of the U.S. Air Force and the survival of the free world—the battle between guided missile pioneer Bennie Schriever and Gen. Curtis LeMay, who loved his B-52 bombers. The history, the technology, the triumphs and the failures that ultimately brought the fearsome Russian bear to its knees—peacefully. Random House, 512 pp, ISBN-13: 978-0679422846, $32, hardcover. —DH 10-24-09.
http://url2it.com/bhdq


Takeaways to Consider

  • Send a letter with no offer and you’ll get no response—guaranteed.
  • That's known in the world of marketing as a “waste of money.”
  • “It’s the offer, stupid! If you do not get the results you need or response is flagging, check the offer first.”
    —Seattle guru Bob Hacker
  • “If you want to dramatically increase your response, dramatically improve your offer.”
    —Swedish direct mail guru Axel Andersson
  • “Success in direct mail is 40% lists, 40% offer and 20% everything else.”
    —Ed Mayer, dean of direct marketing educators
  • Before sending out a blue-serge letter, think the letter “P”: only the Printer and the Post Office make money.
  • “The tone of a good direct mail letter is as direct and personal as the writer’s skill can make it. Even though it may go to millions of people, it never orates to a crowd but rather murmurs into a single ear. It’s a message from one letter writer to one letter reader.”
    —Harry Walsh, freelancer
  • The Brooks Brothers blue-serge letter was signed by two people, the COO and VP, direct. When two people sign a letter, it ceases to be personal. This is prose by a copywriter that was signed off on by a minicommittee of two. It's impossible to make an emotional connection with a committee, so the letter is an oxymoron signed by marketing morons.
  • “The most important word in direct mail copy (aside from ‘free’ of course) is not ‘you’—as many of the textbooks would have it—but ‘I.’ What makes a letter seem ‘personal’ is not seeing your own name printed dozens of times across the page, or even being battered to death with a never ending attack of ‘you’s.’ It is, rather, the sense that one gets of being in the presence of the writer ... that a real person sat down and wrote you a real letter.”
    —Richard Armstrong, freelancer, author of “God Doesn’t Shoot Craps: A Divine Comedy”
  • If operators are standing by 24/7, for pity’s sake, say so! It shows the customer and prospect that you really, really care.

Web Sites Related to Today's Edition

Brooks Brothers
www.BrooksBrothers.com


 

Companies Mentioned:

16

COMMENTS

Click here to leave a comment...
Comment *
Most Recent Comments:
James - Posted on October 29, 2009
Mr Hatch: Generally, I like people to address me by my first name, if they know me. But if I got a letter from my local Haberdasher addressed to "James" as opposed to Mr Soandso, it would definitely put me off my feed.

I don't know, and don't care, who the head hoompah of Direct is, and I doubt I would ever NEED to care, so having this character sign a letter to me would have had little impact.

It struck me that this letter, besides being clunky and vastly overwritten, was still a form letter. Granted, I know, and you know, and our friend Hugh knows that they're not writing ME a personal letter all to myself and nobody else, but that's not a good enough reason to make it overwhelmingly obvious that they probably don't know and likely don't care who I really, really am. I suspect that your name was mined from a big ol' database, as mine would be, and they dumped it into a mailmerge maelstrom, and out popped a letter, and please post this potage post-haste, and there you are, Denison, your very own letter. Awwww.

Frankly, I'm embarrassed for Brooks Brothers, and more than a little scared for the copywriter slash hack that crafted this particularly turgid piece of prose. What ever will he do? Fortunately, he will probably get good and well-paying work writing for the government, but nothing, I mean nothing, could make up for not being in the bright and shining presence of Brian Dean, Vice President, Direct. I mean, his name is, after all, on the stationery (well, on the signature line, anyway).

Finally, I was glad to be informed that Brooks Brothers' website had been redesigned to be more engaging and informative. If only they had thought to provide the same service to their outgoing mailpieces, we might not now be having this conversation.

Good luck Denison, in all your Brooks Brothers endeavours. I feel certain that with their well-crafted wardrobe elements, you'll be in fine fit for the fall.
T - Posted on October 29, 2009
Denny,

After having read other reader?s comments regarding the brooks brothers? letter, I was somewhat surprised and disappointed. There is a time and place for offers and hard sales pitches, and clearly that was not the intent of this particular letter. In some cases, a company may wish to inform their customers of updated services, namely the improvements to their website, without at the same time, bribing them to see those changes. While this surely is the kind of economic times to be creative about discounts and sales incentives, it is not always necessary to do so on every single ad campaign or piece of information or advertisement that a company distributes.

What it appeared to me was more an acknowledgement of you as a previous customer that they are personally informing you of what they see as value added features that will enrich your shopping experience, and they are expressing it to you in a non-sales low key approach.

In some cases, a storefront can entice with a personal invitation, to enter their store to see more of what you have come to expect from them of high quality products, that meets the exacting standards of their discriminating customers. While discount come-on?s may perk up a customer?s interest in purchasing products, there is also the danger of over saturating customers with incentives as well as cheapening the product with what in many cases, are simply transparent attempts to dump old, low performing product.

Responses to discount offers and/or coupons don?t always paint a reliable picture of those that were sent the letter, nor of customers, and it certainly can distort the information and message of the letter itself.

And criticizing for 2 signatures as opposed to one, is simply nitpicking. There are plenty of company newsletters that contain more than one signature. It doesn?t in any way diminish the personal style of a letter, but actually may enhance it, indicating that more than one person is interested in you as a customer and has communicated to you to inform you of new product enhancements. What actually detracts more from supposed ?personal? letters usually is the use of the term ?customer? in place of the person?s name. They addressed you personally by using your first name only, which sets the tone of the letter as one of distinct attention to you, which can cause the recipient to think of themselves as a select and privileged group. Again, nothing at all wrong with this method. Perhaps in reality what is happening is that some readers have clearly been marketed to death, over-saturated with response mail offers and now always expect that ?coupon offer? or incentive without which the sales pitch loses effectiveness and subsequently loses the attention of the customer. And while discount offers that may assist is tracking purposes, it?s not always accurate, and can detract from both the company?s purpose for the letter and for the information they are attempting to convey.

In my opinion, it?s refreshing to see a retail establishment simply inform, without bribing which as a result, may indeed make a better case to encourage me to visit their website. After all, when no coupon exists, doesn?t it plant the seed of higher quality, stronger reputation, and a more reliable product line?

Perhaps there is some customer psychology that succeeds without a discount!

However, they might want to work on the style of their signatures though. Diane and Brian?s handwriting is an absolute train wreck. It looks like a child?s scribbles.
joe - Posted on October 28, 2009
Nice post ;)
D. Amkraut - Posted on October 27, 2009
I note that the physical format of the letter--- long chunky paragraphs with no starting indent--- well fits the letter's irritating tone.

I realize there are so many things wrong with the letter that you can't mention all, but I was also struck by the pretentious tone and the big words and long sentences where small words and short sentences would have been better.

Addressing people by their first name without leave to do so is presumptuous and offensive to many people. I remember Ed Mayer Jr. saying this 40 years ago! This isn't a rock club for teenagers, it is supposedly a gentlemen's store.

P.S. Say, whatever happened to using a P.S. to strengthen a letter. Whoever writes Brooks Bros' letters never heard of that trick, I guess.

I have shopped at the Brooks Bros. store in downtown L.A. The service and goods were excellent. Brooks' salespeople deserve better support from their marketing dept.

Malcolm Auld - Posted on October 27, 2009
It's 2009, why marketers are still making the same mistakes?

To your peeing in blue serge comment, I call it "wetsuit marketing". To keep warm in a cold surf you pee in your wetsuit. Nobody knows you've done it, but you get a short term benefit of being warm. After a few minutes everything goes back to normal and there is no lasting benefit.

It's the same with much of the advertising we are subjected to - it makes the marketer feel good for a short while but makes no difference to the bottom line in the long run.

David - Posted on October 27, 2009
Denny, good stuff.

I am not precisely as venerable as you, however, I still recall when brands stood for something.

Disregarding the goners, Brooks Bros., Saks, FAO Schwarz, The Plaza, Abercrombie & Fitch--those names used to have meaning.

Now, like Bumble Bee tuna (which used to stand for quality), they have all slipped repeatedly through various owners--Japanese, Arabs, private equity funds, and so forth.

The brands' value to traditionalists is lost; perhaps the new owners can maximize the value of their investments by appealing to new markets, in the same manner that Abercrombie & Fitch now appeals to those of "urban" or those who like viewing pictures of youngsters in come-hither poses.

Seems like sort of a shame, though...
s burlage - Posted on October 27, 2009
if you went to Walmart and bought
Wranger jeans you would spend much less money and be much more comfortable.
Bob Paroski - Posted on October 27, 2009
Denny:

Wow.

Thanks for sharing the Brooks Brothers' letter with us.

Another example of a company which feels that their customers are there to serve them rather than that they exist to serve their customers.

I agree with you that Brooks Brothers' days may be numbered if they continue this type of marketing. The sad thing is that the demise will be blamed on the economy rather than poor decisions being made by senior management.

Bob Paroski
www.wordcrafterscopywriting.com

Wash Phillips - Posted on October 27, 2009
Denny, do you ever offer such wisdom as this to the actual offenders--directly? Or do they ever find it on their own (as seen in unexpected over-the-transom responses to you)?

Or is it like Dev Kinney envisions: the folks at BB are so far above mere mortals, they are impenetrable?

Might there be a win-win in the offing if these folks, receiving today's piece, approached you re: a DM consultation?

I guess I hate to see wisdom go to waste.

Jack McCarthy - Posted on October 27, 2009
Thank you for sharing that unfortunate letter. More than being just terrible, it appears that whoever wrote it doesn't understand Brooks Brothers' branding at all.

From the unwelcome familiarity of the salutation (there are still a few places where you should expect being addressed as "Mr. Hatch" and Brooks Brothers is one of them), to the dopey double signature at the close (why do you need anyone else when you are being written to by the President), this is a mess.

You can boil the letter down to "we've got some new merch, we fixed the website and if you want any of our evergreen products, don't hold your breath waiting for the catalog cause they're only online now."

It's clear the writer thought the letter's high-falutin' tone would carry the day. No dice!

This could have been an excellent opportunity to make a powerful statement about how the customer will find exactly what he or she is seeking and in an environment of respectful personal service that everyone else has long abandoned (of course in more subtle and elegant language).

In fact Mr. Hatch, if that letter had done its job, you would have been transported back to those days when there was no question that Brooks Brothers would be your destination when it came to buying a new dinner jacket or just a package of underpants. I think that's what you wanted, and they disappointed you.

Anyway, thank you for your newsletters...they always remind me of the value of thinking and of the good marketing habits I sometimes forget (like our friends at BB). And isn't it too bad that there's no more Rogers Peet!?

Jack McCarthy

Dev Kinney - Posted on October 27, 2009
I see Ms. Hamilton sitting behind her mahogany desk dictating to a marketing assistant, "We want to speak with dignity. No gross appeals. No third grade language. We represent status and that's what our customers want. Get a college professor to tell our story. Use nice stationary and have Brian also sign the letter to demonstrate that we are still a male oriented establishment."
Michelle - Posted on October 27, 2009
Hello!

The first thing that struck me when I clicked on the Brooks Brothers letter is that you were addressed by your first name. That being their only attempt at a personable tone left me feeling particularly empty as I read their formal prose. The fact that they did not extend an offer added further insult to injury as it showed an unwillingness to truly connect to you, their customer. I suppose they were simply too busy gloating about their new website to notice they had stepped right over you.

Thank you for yet another insightful commentary. I always look forward to your articles and greatly appreciate your personal stories wrapped up with a common sense bow.

~Michelle
Ralph Drybrough - Posted on October 27, 2009
Brooks' copywriters lost their way but so it goes. I'm most upset about what they've done to the "Traditional Fit" shirts I have bought for decades. To save a few thousand bolts of cloth, they have skimped so that my shirts no longer billow with comfort. And, no, my waistline has not changed for years. I sadly must seek another source for shirts. In the meantime, I will keep in my mind's eye a vision of Little Denny Hatch peeing in his blue serge suit.
Mat Weller - Posted on October 27, 2009
I'll just say right out that I work for a BB competitor, so take anything I say with that salt.

That being said, while this letter is not the way I would have done it and in my opinion does not take full advantage of the opportunity, I would not call it a total wash for a pair reasons.

First, if you don't think offer-less marketing sells, you need to spend some time with BB's marketing department and understand their demographic better. I can't speak for them, but for us the best selling catalogs of almost any season are the first and the last, and the first has no offer attached to it.

Second, BB is a luxury brand with a luxury image sponsored by a luxury price. Meaningless mailings and frills are what make their clothing cost more. It's not like every article of clothing is lovingly handmade by tailors with no less than 30 years experience who all live in a secret monastery in the hills of Kentucky. They source from the same vendors everyone else does, they just charge you more so they can send you stuff like this letter as part of their image-building.

I'm not saying you're altogether wrong, I'm just saying there are several reasons you are not accurate. Though your impassioned rant should leave you comfortable that there is always a spot on Glen Beck's writing staff.
Peter Hochstein - Posted on October 27, 2009
Never mind the eternal direct response verities about offer and response vehicles. How the hell did they expect most of their readers to slog through the two sentences below? Reading them gives one the sensation of chasing butterflies with a sledgehammer while running through an ankle-deep pool of molasses:

"A central component is improved navigation and more convenient placement of our most sought-after items and resources. BrooksBrothers.com now offers expanded product information with alternate views and more comprehensive merchandise descriptions."
Dave Busch - Posted on October 27, 2009
Denny

I subscribe to a number of marketing newsletters and e-zines. Your columns are the only ones I save.

With apologies to Ed Mayer, direct mail is 50% the offer 40% the list, and 10% we'll never know.

Click here to view archived comments...
Archived Comments:
James - Posted on October 29, 2009
Mr Hatch: Generally, I like people to address me by my first name, if they know me. But if I got a letter from my local Haberdasher addressed to "James" as opposed to Mr Soandso, it would definitely put me off my feed.

I don't know, and don't care, who the head hoompah of Direct is, and I doubt I would ever NEED to care, so having this character sign a letter to me would have had little impact.

It struck me that this letter, besides being clunky and vastly overwritten, was still a form letter. Granted, I know, and you know, and our friend Hugh knows that they're not writing ME a personal letter all to myself and nobody else, but that's not a good enough reason to make it overwhelmingly obvious that they probably don't know and likely don't care who I really, really am. I suspect that your name was mined from a big ol' database, as mine would be, and they dumped it into a mailmerge maelstrom, and out popped a letter, and please post this potage post-haste, and there you are, Denison, your very own letter. Awwww.

Frankly, I'm embarrassed for Brooks Brothers, and more than a little scared for the copywriter slash hack that crafted this particularly turgid piece of prose. What ever will he do? Fortunately, he will probably get good and well-paying work writing for the government, but nothing, I mean nothing, could make up for not being in the bright and shining presence of Brian Dean, Vice President, Direct. I mean, his name is, after all, on the stationery (well, on the signature line, anyway).

Finally, I was glad to be informed that Brooks Brothers' website had been redesigned to be more engaging and informative. If only they had thought to provide the same service to their outgoing mailpieces, we might not now be having this conversation.

Good luck Denison, in all your Brooks Brothers endeavours. I feel certain that with their well-crafted wardrobe elements, you'll be in fine fit for the fall.
T - Posted on October 29, 2009
Denny,

After having read other reader?s comments regarding the brooks brothers? letter, I was somewhat surprised and disappointed. There is a time and place for offers and hard sales pitches, and clearly that was not the intent of this particular letter. In some cases, a company may wish to inform their customers of updated services, namely the improvements to their website, without at the same time, bribing them to see those changes. While this surely is the kind of economic times to be creative about discounts and sales incentives, it is not always necessary to do so on every single ad campaign or piece of information or advertisement that a company distributes.

What it appeared to me was more an acknowledgement of you as a previous customer that they are personally informing you of what they see as value added features that will enrich your shopping experience, and they are expressing it to you in a non-sales low key approach.

In some cases, a storefront can entice with a personal invitation, to enter their store to see more of what you have come to expect from them of high quality products, that meets the exacting standards of their discriminating customers. While discount come-on?s may perk up a customer?s interest in purchasing products, there is also the danger of over saturating customers with incentives as well as cheapening the product with what in many cases, are simply transparent attempts to dump old, low performing product.

Responses to discount offers and/or coupons don?t always paint a reliable picture of those that were sent the letter, nor of customers, and it certainly can distort the information and message of the letter itself.

And criticizing for 2 signatures as opposed to one, is simply nitpicking. There are plenty of company newsletters that contain more than one signature. It doesn?t in any way diminish the personal style of a letter, but actually may enhance it, indicating that more than one person is interested in you as a customer and has communicated to you to inform you of new product enhancements. What actually detracts more from supposed ?personal? letters usually is the use of the term ?customer? in place of the person?s name. They addressed you personally by using your first name only, which sets the tone of the letter as one of distinct attention to you, which can cause the recipient to think of themselves as a select and privileged group. Again, nothing at all wrong with this method. Perhaps in reality what is happening is that some readers have clearly been marketed to death, over-saturated with response mail offers and now always expect that ?coupon offer? or incentive without which the sales pitch loses effectiveness and subsequently loses the attention of the customer. And while discount offers that may assist is tracking purposes, it?s not always accurate, and can detract from both the company?s purpose for the letter and for the information they are attempting to convey.

In my opinion, it?s refreshing to see a retail establishment simply inform, without bribing which as a result, may indeed make a better case to encourage me to visit their website. After all, when no coupon exists, doesn?t it plant the seed of higher quality, stronger reputation, and a more reliable product line?

Perhaps there is some customer psychology that succeeds without a discount!

However, they might want to work on the style of their signatures though. Diane and Brian?s handwriting is an absolute train wreck. It looks like a child?s scribbles.
joe - Posted on October 28, 2009
Nice post ;)
D. Amkraut - Posted on October 27, 2009
I note that the physical format of the letter--- long chunky paragraphs with no starting indent--- well fits the letter's irritating tone.

I realize there are so many things wrong with the letter that you can't mention all, but I was also struck by the pretentious tone and the big words and long sentences where small words and short sentences would have been better.

Addressing people by their first name without leave to do so is presumptuous and offensive to many people. I remember Ed Mayer Jr. saying this 40 years ago! This isn't a rock club for teenagers, it is supposedly a gentlemen's store.

P.S. Say, whatever happened to using a P.S. to strengthen a letter. Whoever writes Brooks Bros' letters never heard of that trick, I guess.

I have shopped at the Brooks Bros. store in downtown L.A. The service and goods were excellent. Brooks' salespeople deserve better support from their marketing dept.

Malcolm Auld - Posted on October 27, 2009
It's 2009, why marketers are still making the same mistakes?

To your peeing in blue serge comment, I call it "wetsuit marketing". To keep warm in a cold surf you pee in your wetsuit. Nobody knows you've done it, but you get a short term benefit of being warm. After a few minutes everything goes back to normal and there is no lasting benefit.

It's the same with much of the advertising we are subjected to - it makes the marketer feel good for a short while but makes no difference to the bottom line in the long run.

David - Posted on October 27, 2009
Denny, good stuff.

I am not precisely as venerable as you, however, I still recall when brands stood for something.

Disregarding the goners, Brooks Bros., Saks, FAO Schwarz, The Plaza, Abercrombie & Fitch--those names used to have meaning.

Now, like Bumble Bee tuna (which used to stand for quality), they have all slipped repeatedly through various owners--Japanese, Arabs, private equity funds, and so forth.

The brands' value to traditionalists is lost; perhaps the new owners can maximize the value of their investments by appealing to new markets, in the same manner that Abercrombie & Fitch now appeals to those of "urban" or those who like viewing pictures of youngsters in come-hither poses.

Seems like sort of a shame, though...
s burlage - Posted on October 27, 2009
if you went to Walmart and bought
Wranger jeans you would spend much less money and be much more comfortable.
Bob Paroski - Posted on October 27, 2009
Denny:

Wow.

Thanks for sharing the Brooks Brothers' letter with us.

Another example of a company which feels that their customers are there to serve them rather than that they exist to serve their customers.

I agree with you that Brooks Brothers' days may be numbered if they continue this type of marketing. The sad thing is that the demise will be blamed on the economy rather than poor decisions being made by senior management.

Bob Paroski
www.wordcrafterscopywriting.com

Wash Phillips - Posted on October 27, 2009
Denny, do you ever offer such wisdom as this to the actual offenders--directly? Or do they ever find it on their own (as seen in unexpected over-the-transom responses to you)?

Or is it like Dev Kinney envisions: the folks at BB are so far above mere mortals, they are impenetrable?

Might there be a win-win in the offing if these folks, receiving today's piece, approached you re: a DM consultation?

I guess I hate to see wisdom go to waste.

Jack McCarthy - Posted on October 27, 2009
Thank you for sharing that unfortunate letter. More than being just terrible, it appears that whoever wrote it doesn't understand Brooks Brothers' branding at all.

From the unwelcome familiarity of the salutation (there are still a few places where you should expect being addressed as "Mr. Hatch" and Brooks Brothers is one of them), to the dopey double signature at the close (why do you need anyone else when you are being written to by the President), this is a mess.

You can boil the letter down to "we've got some new merch, we fixed the website and if you want any of our evergreen products, don't hold your breath waiting for the catalog cause they're only online now."

It's clear the writer thought the letter's high-falutin' tone would carry the day. No dice!

This could have been an excellent opportunity to make a powerful statement about how the customer will find exactly what he or she is seeking and in an environment of respectful personal service that everyone else has long abandoned (of course in more subtle and elegant language).

In fact Mr. Hatch, if that letter had done its job, you would have been transported back to those days when there was no question that Brooks Brothers would be your destination when it came to buying a new dinner jacket or just a package of underpants. I think that's what you wanted, and they disappointed you.

Anyway, thank you for your newsletters...they always remind me of the value of thinking and of the good marketing habits I sometimes forget (like our friends at BB). And isn't it too bad that there's no more Rogers Peet!?

Jack McCarthy

Dev Kinney - Posted on October 27, 2009
I see Ms. Hamilton sitting behind her mahogany desk dictating to a marketing assistant, "We want to speak with dignity. No gross appeals. No third grade language. We represent status and that's what our customers want. Get a college professor to tell our story. Use nice stationary and have Brian also sign the letter to demonstrate that we are still a male oriented establishment."
Michelle - Posted on October 27, 2009
Hello!

The first thing that struck me when I clicked on the Brooks Brothers letter is that you were addressed by your first name. That being their only attempt at a personable tone left me feeling particularly empty as I read their formal prose. The fact that they did not extend an offer added further insult to injury as it showed an unwillingness to truly connect to you, their customer. I suppose they were simply too busy gloating about their new website to notice they had stepped right over you.

Thank you for yet another insightful commentary. I always look forward to your articles and greatly appreciate your personal stories wrapped up with a common sense bow.

~Michelle
Ralph Drybrough - Posted on October 27, 2009
Brooks' copywriters lost their way but so it goes. I'm most upset about what they've done to the "Traditional Fit" shirts I have bought for decades. To save a few thousand bolts of cloth, they have skimped so that my shirts no longer billow with comfort. And, no, my waistline has not changed for years. I sadly must seek another source for shirts. In the meantime, I will keep in my mind's eye a vision of Little Denny Hatch peeing in his blue serge suit.
Mat Weller - Posted on October 27, 2009
I'll just say right out that I work for a BB competitor, so take anything I say with that salt.

That being said, while this letter is not the way I would have done it and in my opinion does not take full advantage of the opportunity, I would not call it a total wash for a pair reasons.

First, if you don't think offer-less marketing sells, you need to spend some time with BB's marketing department and understand their demographic better. I can't speak for them, but for us the best selling catalogs of almost any season are the first and the last, and the first has no offer attached to it.

Second, BB is a luxury brand with a luxury image sponsored by a luxury price. Meaningless mailings and frills are what make their clothing cost more. It's not like every article of clothing is lovingly handmade by tailors with no less than 30 years experience who all live in a secret monastery in the hills of Kentucky. They source from the same vendors everyone else does, they just charge you more so they can send you stuff like this letter as part of their image-building.

I'm not saying you're altogether wrong, I'm just saying there are several reasons you are not accurate. Though your impassioned rant should leave you comfortable that there is always a spot on Glen Beck's writing staff.
Peter Hochstein - Posted on October 27, 2009
Never mind the eternal direct response verities about offer and response vehicles. How the hell did they expect most of their readers to slog through the two sentences below? Reading them gives one the sensation of chasing butterflies with a sledgehammer while running through an ankle-deep pool of molasses:

"A central component is improved navigation and more convenient placement of our most sought-after items and resources. BrooksBrothers.com now offers expanded product information with alternate views and more comprehensive merchandise descriptions."
Dave Busch - Posted on October 27, 2009
Denny

I subscribe to a number of marketing newsletters and e-zines. Your columns are the only ones I save.

With apologies to Ed Mayer, direct mail is 50% the offer 40% the list, and 10% we'll never know.