Anatomy of a Control: Breck's Tulip Control Continues to Bloom
For many years the chief copywriter and consultant to Breck's was the legendary Dick Hodgson,
author of "The Encyclopedia of Direct Mail," "Direct Mail and Mail Order Handbook," and "The Greatest Direct Marketing Sales Letters of All Time." He now consults with Dutch Gardens, Breck's competitor.
A prime example of Hodgson's wizardry is the long-long-time control for Breck's that offers Dutch tulips to gardeners. "Bring a touch of Dutch magic to your springtime garden," proclaims the #9 window envelope with a green and pink illustration of tulips.
The mailing is a true masterpiece that slavishly follows all the rules of direct marketing, and as a result, has been working successfully for years.
Hodgson on Personalization
Does personalization work? You bet it does, according to Hodgson.
"Personalization isn't designed to trick people," Hodgson says. "Rather it's to tell people they're special, and it works, sometimes increasing response as much as 20 percent."
When you have the customer's name and ZIP code, you know the town, the area of the country, and the climateeverything necessary to create wants in the mind of a gardener. Hodgson also personalized Breck's catalogs by putting a second, highly personalized cover inside the four-color outer cover, and used a die-cut window in the back for the name and address to show through.
"Personalization always raised response," Hodgson said, "although the percentage varied tremendously depending on the list."
The front page of the Breck's letter is personalized five times:
1. The name and address that show through the envelope window.
2. The salutation: "Dear Mrs. NAME."
3. The subhead: "And I have great news for you, Mrs. NAME."
4. At the end of paragraph five: "...you now have the opportunity to obtain a complete Prize Dutch Tulip Collection to plant in your own garden in [TOWN]."
5. Paragraph six: "Rest assured, you will have the most superior bulbs of each of these top varieties to plant in the [NAME] garden this fall."
The letter is a masterpiece that focuses on two of seven key copy driversthose emotional hot buttons that cause people to act: fear, greed, guilt, anger, exclusivity, flattery, salvation.
Because I was the first buyer to contact these growers, I was able to reserve an ample supply of six varieties of Holland's most spectacular tulips...
The growers have given Breck's staff of Dutch bulb Experts first choice of their top-of-the-line Tulips at harvest time. This is almost like being in Holland yourself.
That's exclusivity. How's this for greed:
The advance commitments made to these growers also permitted Breck's to obtain substantial quantity discount prices. And, of course, these discounts will be passed on directly to Breck's Preferred Customers.
"If you want to dramatically increase your response," says guru Axel Andersson, "you must dramatically improve your offer."
This is true. But hold your horses!
Great initial offers can be the marketing equivalent of heroin. Once you have lured your customer in the door with a sweepstakes or a bunch of premiums or huge discounts (or all three), you will not break the habit.
Spring Hill Nurseries nearly went out of business because it offered too many goodies. Fingerhut, with dependence on sub-prime customers and multiple premiums, actually did go out of business. Caveat: Sell with a sweepstakes, renew with a sweepstakes. Sell with three premiums, resell with three premiums.
This Breck's offer of 10 each of six prize-winning varieties of tulip is hyped with the promise of an extra goody10 Breck's Mixed Pastel Tulips for a total of 70 bulbs for $29.99 plus shipping charges or two sets for $54.99 (a saving of $4.99) plus shipping charges. This is not that powerful an offer, but it brings in customers who love tulips as opposed to a bunch of freeloaders and premium bandits.
The Ultimate Guarantee
Believe it or not, it was Benjamin Franklin who invented the mail-order guarantee. When he offered his library for sale, he included in his fliers:
Those persons who live remote, by sending their orders and money to said B. Franklin, may depend on the same justice as if present.
The guarantee has become one of the key elements of any direct marketing offer. (It is also mandated by the Federal Trade Commission, so it makes sense to hype it, and make the prospect and customer feel good about doing business with you.)
The Breck's offer is reinforced by an extraordinary lifetime guarantee that is repeated in the letter, on the order form and on the brochure. Guarantees don't get any better than this:
If, for any reason, you're not completely satisfied with any bulb upon receipt, after planting or once your bulbs grow and bloom, just contact Breck's anytimeno time limitfor as long as you garden. No need to return the bulbs. We'll send a full refund or replacement, whichever you choose.
The 8-1/2" x 7" brochure (it unfolds to 7" x 25-1/2") is ablaze with colorful illustrations of tulips. Included is a Dutch windmill with a gorgeous tulip garden in the foreground and glorious photographs of the different tulips being offered shown full size, some glistening with morning dew. Plus, of course, the lifetime guarantee.
The Order Form
"Give the order card more time and effort per square inch than any other piece in the package," says freelance copywriter and consultant Malcolm Decker. "It's time well spent. It's the net that secures the trout, so it can't have any holes in it."
Decker adds, "The order form should be so simple an idiot can understand it."
So it is with Hodgson's order form that allows you to purchase one set of prize tulips or two sets. Payment can be made by check or credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Discover).
The customer can either order by mail (using the BRE) or "Order easily and securely online at www.brecks.com." No phone or fax options.
The order form asks for the respondent's telephone and e-mail address using the following mousetype request:
Please include your home phone number and email address if available. Please check your name and address as printed and make any corrections necessary. Thank you for your order.
No opt-in or opt-out language that might make the person's teeth itch, and kill the order. Just gimme the information.
Malcolm Decker also wrote, "The order form should also sell." Decker meant that it should make the customer feel good about completing the order. But Hodgson actually introduces a new productan upsell on the stub portion of the order form for "Breck's Exclusive Dutch Treat Food for Bulbs and Perennials" with a space on the response mechanism to add to the order.
The Business Reply Envelope
On the flap of the BRE are two spaces to fill in the name and address of a friend who might like to receive a Breck's catalog. This technique was a mainstay of home study/self-improvement course marketer Nightingale-Conant for years and brought in a ton of new customers at no extra cost.
The logic behind it: The customer sees this form at the point the envelope is being licked and sealed. The request does not interfere with the ordering process.
In Short ...
If you want to see a textbook-correct direct mail package that has been proven successful year after year, contact the Who's Mailing What! ArchiveCo-Director Paul Bobnak can be reached at (215) 238-5225and order package #3356BRECKS0403.
Direct mail doesn't get any better than this!
Denny Hatch, contributing editor, consultant and freelance copywriter, is the author of the books "Method Marketing" and (with Don Jackson) "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success." Visit him online at www.methodmarketing.com.