Design Lessons of the Ages
When the good folks at Inside Direct Mail first approached me about writing this article, I knew it would be fun. And fraught with danger.
After all, we are all bound by our own points of view and I've never been particularly bashful about what I think works and what doesn't. But to be honest, not being privy to all the details of these efforts and then to offer up opinions is like getting a ticket to sit above the dunking tank at the fair: You just know somebody out there wants to take the shot that sends you soaking.
Having created my fair share of controls over the past 20 years, I know full well that a package attains that high status for a multitude of reasons and due to a number of distinct and often unequally important factors. You know the drill: product, list, offer, package design and copywriting. Which brings me to an important confession: You should know that I am a card-carrying evangelist for the work of DM greats Bill Jayme and Heikki Ratalahti. This "dream team" of direct marketing creatives got it right. All of it. They realized instinctively—long before direct marketers and brand people ever started talking to each other—that branding and selling go hand-in-hand. They knew that when it comes time to make a big splash in the venue of direct mail, larger packages, longer letters that told a story, inventive art direction and a few wisely chosen and smartly executed tactics like stickers through windows was the magic brew for a killer package. Of course, then there's a whole host of other issues that come into play, such as seasonality, the competitive, economic and political environments ... well, you get the drift.
So here are some ground rules. We are talking about consumer direct mail here, and we are by no means suggesting the work discussed is the "best" (whatever that means anyway.) But they each have survived the test (and testing) of time and that means there's certainly something we can and should learn here as we all prepare to create our own next control package.