Anatomy of a Control: Sound Salesmanship Is the Spine of Easton Press' Control Package
When copywriter Jeff Laurie and designer Dwight Ingram sat down to craft an acquisition package for Easton Press' collectible books, their goal was simple: to present the product and offer to the consumer as clearly as possible, employing the tried-and-true principles of successful direct mail.
The 6" x 111/2" carrier-envelope effortfeaturing two poly windows and the teaser copy, "A work of genius has been reserved in your name at an unbelievably low price"has mailed as Easton Press' control for more than two years, according to Laurie, who also has scribed packages for Wired, Business 2.0, Fast Company, The Hulbert Financial Digest and PlayStation 2. In this instance, the tandem of Laurie-Ingram set out to "engage [prospective customers] in a way that makes them feel flattered and important," Laurie affirms. "The aim was to make them feel like they have been individually
selected for this upscale product."
Laurie wastes no time in building a flattering alliance with the reader, as evidenced by the Johnson box copy in his four-page letter:
Building a fine library says a lot about you. ... It's among the finest accomplishments a person can claim. Now take pride in adding this exquisite, leather-bound volume to your library. ... Herman Melville's immortal classic: MOBY DICK
The overarching objective from that point on, Laurie says, was to move readers through the package and inundate them with vivid mental pictures of the handcrafted product. In the letter, he strives to present a detailed
depiction of the book in all its glory:
... They are made of premium leather, free of scars, damage or flaws. This rich leather is custom finished to Easton Press' exact specifications, including milling to 1/1000 of an inch tolerance. ...
By using lively descriptors, Laurie helps the reader visualize the experience of holding the book in her hand. "Easton Press is a stickler for exactly and accurately describing the product," shares Ingram. "If you don't do the product justice, visually and with words, you're not going to have a successful campaign."
It All Begins With the Outer Envelope
Easton Press historically has mailed oversized, outer-envelope packages with bold creative and copy concepts. This package is no different.
The glossy, burgundy-orange carrier features a special poly window that displays a bookplate with the recipient's name imprinted on it in cursive. On the back, a glowing image of "Moby Dick" propped against other classic works of literature, is presented. The copy alongside the graphic reads: "Introducing the most luxurious Collector Edition of Moby Dick ever published. ... Add it to your family library for only $5.95."
According to Ingram, the duo has used this size carrier envelope frequently, mainly because it does not enter the realm of the oversized. "This is really pushing the limits of a certain class of postage," he says. "The market is flooded right now with small voucher packages, and it's a breath of fresh air when we are permitted to use the biggest size we can to show off the product."
As his personal design philosophy, Ingram stresses that a package's components "need to do double-duty and work as hard as they can to get the message across." Here, Ingram and Laurie use as much real estate as they possibly can to do just that.
Lifting the Offer
One of the elements Laurie considers particularly crucial to the success of a direct mail campaign is the lift note. The more traditional lift piece is a note from a customer used as a testimonial, or from a phantom program director used to reiterate benefits. But for this lift, Laurie opted to bring everything out in the open.
"The trick is to reduce the reader's suspicionto let [him] know that there are no tricks here," Laurie avers. "You want to lay bare the mechanisms as an act of trust or an act of intimacy."
He begins the lift letter by unfurling Easton Press' strategy, spelling out why it is offering the $35 savingsthe main selling point of the packageand why consumers will be able to examine future volumes of this series, "The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written," for 30 days, with no obligation:
... So why are we offering it at the incredibly low price of $5.95? The reason is simple, and good business ... For years, this no-risk, no-obligation "see-for-yourself" strategy has proven profitable ...
Laurie wanted to avoid any undue misconceptions about the validity of the offer. "We are telling [recipients] how we are actually doing it. We are wide open. It acknowledges everything the reader might be concerned about."
Most often lift notes are on the smaller size, so as not to compete with the other pieces in the package. In this instance, Laurie and Ingram had slightly more room to work with, so the team chose an 81/2" x 11" lift. The front of the folded note features a light-orange background, with the teaser: "Why are we offering an exquisite leather-bound Collector Edition of Moby Dick,
accented with pure 22-karat gold, for the incredibly low price of $5.95?"
Show and Tell
When it came time to do some showing, the duo came up with a five paneled, 53/4" x 11" brochure that folds out to a whopping 25 inches. The content is presented from top-to-bottom, instead of the standard, left-to-right gate-fold format.
"The full spread [of the brochure] is really where we get to restate the production values, and, as always, a description of the other books to come," says Laurie.
The first section of the brochure begins with the headline, "When you build a library to be proud of, your family benefits for generations." Here, Laurie presents several paragraphs of copy to drive home the idea of "fine craftsmanship" and "elegant taste." Just below is a boxed region where the book is presentedboth opened and closedwith call-outs pointing to its notable features. "Acid-neutral paper," "satin-ribbon page marker," "Gilded, smooth page edges," and "personal nameplate" are just a few elements that Laurie and Ingram opted to accentuate.
"It's all about the details with this product," Ingram says, "and that's what we wanted to show [in the brochure]. We're trying to get across the idea of displaying books, not necessarily reading them. We're trying to show off the best features."
In direct mail, you have to start with the rules, and then you have to break them. Says Ingram, "We are following the rules here, but we're also throwing in a couple of surprises."