The Beauty of Continuity Marketing

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Automatic shipments and the shameful “dirty load-up”

For $39.99/month, we ship new kids clothing items right to your door. Each box has a retail value of about $100. Our service is meant to supplement your child’s existing clothing supply with new, fun items. As your child grows so can the sizes of clothes you receive each month. Shipping is free and you can pause or cancel your order any time.

The Era of Continuities
In the 1960s—when I got into direct marketing—continuity series were hot. My first employer was Grolier Enterprises, marketers of the Dr. Seuss books as a one-a-month continuity series.

The offer: Take the first book FREE! (or for $1) and automatically receive one or two books a month for $2.95 each on a “til forbid” basis. (The books will keep coming until you forbid the publisher to send any more.)

Pioneers of Continuity Marketing: Greystone Press
Just after World War Two, it was John Stevenson and his designer/copywriter Fred Breismeister of Greystone Press that put book continuity series on the front burner of direct marketing and made scads of money.

The Arithmetic: Generally speaking, if the customer received 2.5 shipments (the first book is free and the next 1.5 shipments were paid for) it was a breakeven proposition. As the customer pays for more shipments, profits go up exponentially.

(A breakeven sale was profitable, because the customer’s name would be added to the database of “actives” and list rental income was significant.)

There were two kinds of continuities:

1) Open ended—with no finite number of books. Books were shipped and billed monthly ad infinitum à la Dr. Seuss or the Weekly Reader children’s book clubs.

Back in those days nobody had invented the idea of giving a credit card number and telling the publisher to automatically charge the Visa or MasterCard with each shipment. As a result, every book shipped became a new buying decision, which meant cancellations.

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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  • Barry Dennis

    The problem with continuity is…continuity. Too msny marketers take the loyalty-and continuity-of customers with "subscriptions" for granted. More than propects, more than new customers (who do need buying reinforcement), customers on auto-ship programs need regular nurtuting, reinforcement, and the surety of knowing that they are not being overcharged BECAUSE of their loyalty. Remember the ALLY bank commercials that offered "It’s not fair to give more benefits to new customers and take for granted the loyalty of existing customers." It may be profitable, but not necessarily in the businesses best interest.