Editor’s Notes: Bring Back Fun Mail
Do you remember the days when the direct mail in your mailbox was more than catalogs and plain white envelope packages, when you might come home to a direct mail effort that charmed and entertained you from the outer envelope teaser and graphics to the letter, brochure and order form? I don’t know about you, but I miss those days.
The main culprits of boring mail are budget cuts and increased competition, convincing mailers to use blind outers and price-oriented presentation styles to bring in orders with a strong pay-up percentage. Sure, professional discount vouchers and blind outers work, but these approaches fill the mailstream with dull, nearly identical promotions. I wonder if consumers would be less irritated by direct marketing if more of what they received actually said something besides “lowest price ever” and “risk-free trial.”
Recently, freelance copywriter Jay Van Wagenen said to me, “I think it’s important to make mail fun and interesting for recipients, so it’s a perk in the middle of their dreary day.” I agree. Overwhelmingly, the direct mail efforts to which I have responded in my life used sticker tokens, included long letters that informed and inspired, and inserted a little something special, such as a recipe or a stencil, to get me fired up about the product.
Not every mailer has succumbed to corner-office pressure to sacrifice housefile size to profits per mailing. In the publishing realm, Meredith Corp., Boardroom Inc. and Time Inc.’s Southern Living division stand out as proponents of direct mail that oozes with personality. No middle-of-the-road efforts for these firms.
The Economist’s Beth O’Rorke, Target Marketing’s 2004 Direct Marketer of the Year also is uncompromising. She’s been unwilling to compromise in her career—when Esquire wanted her to give up circulation and do marketing, she quit—and in the way she runs circulation for The Economist. While the competition relies heavily on similar-looking professional voucher efforts, The Economist tells its tale with 9˝ x 12˝ envelope packages and magalogs that bowl over prospects with striking photos and sharp copy.
For the full story of O’Rorke’s rise in the publishing industry and how she grew The Economist’s circulation more than 400 percent since 1981, read “Playing by the Old Rules—and Winning Big.” I hope it inspires you to think big with your next campaign; I’ll be rooting for you!