Famous Last Words: “Junk Mail Is Alive and Growing”
When I was publishing the newsletter, WHO’S MAILING WHAT!, I would get outraged letters from readers if ever a media story used the term “junk mail” in the headline or copy. How times have changed.
Next to telemarketing calls at dinnertime and cascades of spam, junk mail is beloved.
For several years I have said that with the existence of the Do-Not-Call Registry and Can Spam Act, direct mail would once again become the workhorse of direct marketing. My prediction is coming true. According to Louise Story’s article in The New York Times, last year, marketers sent more than 114 billion direct mailings—catalogs, envelope efforts, self-mailers and postcards—a 15 percent increase over five years ago.
In a recent column, I mentioned that I have a standing offer of a free critique of any direct mail package or off-the-page ad—nothing elaborate, but rather a down ’n’ dirty paragraph on what rules are being broken (if any) and what rules are being followed. The stuff people are sending me is woeful—broken rules all over the place, by PR people and amateurs who think they are saving money by doing it themselves.
My guess is that since the dot-commers conned the world into thinking all direct marketing was going to morph into e-commerce and the old rules did not apply, nobody bothered to learn the old rules. They go back to 1194 A.D. when Bishop Renaud de Mouçon wrote the richest families in Europe asking for cash to rebuild the burned-out Chartres cathedral. How many of the following direct mail rules are you—or your copy and design people—adhering to?
• “The only purpose of the carrier envelope, other than keeping its contents from spilling out onto the street, is to get itself opened.” —Herschell Gordon Lewis
• “Remember that people sort their mail into two piles—the ‘A’ pile and the ‘B’ pile—and your goal is to get your mailing into the ‘A’ pile.” —Gary Halbert
• “Never disguise the fact that it is advertising mail.” —Bill Jayme
• “All direct mail gets opened over the trash can.”—Lea Pierce
• “Letters should look and feel like letters.” —Dick Benson
• “The letter itself is the pen-and-ink embodiment of a salesperson who is speaking personally and directly to the prospect. The letter is likely to be the only ‘person’ your market will ever meet—at least on the front end of the sale—so don’t make it highbrow if your market is lowbrow, and vice versa.” —Malcolm Decker
• “Use short words, short sentences, short paragraphs.” —Andrew J. Byrne
• ”If your copy is not dripping with one or more of the eight key direct marketing copy drivers, tear it up and start over: fear, greed, guilt, anger, exclusivity, salvation, flattery, patriotism.” —Bob Hacker
• “Neatness rejects involvement.” —Lew Smith
• “Ugly works.” —Bob Hacker
• “It’s copy that sells, not design.” —Ed Elliott
• “Use sans serif type for headlines, not for body copy.” —Andy Byrne
• “No response device—no responses.” —Anver Suleiman
• “Make it as easy as possible for the customer to order.” —Elsworth Howell
• “Give the order device more time and effort per square inch than any other piece in the package.” —Malcolm Decker
• “The order device speaks in the voice of the reader, not the writer.” —Bob Matheo
• “The order device (or coupon in an ad) must contain a mailing address.” —Bob Matheo
• “The right offer should be so attractive that only a lunatic would say ‘no.’” —Claude Hopkins
• “If you want to dramatically increase your response, dramatically improve your offer.” —Axel Andersson
• “It’s the offer, stupid!” —Bob Hacker
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter. Visit him at www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.