Hill Holliday Relationship Marketing's Nancy Harhut on Getting Your Mailing Into the Must-read Pile
EB: How does "self-interest" factor in?
NH: I believe that consciously and subconsciously we all care most about ourselves. "What's in it for me?" has long been a guideline for developing effective direct response. That's why the word "you" is a high-read word in marketing communications. The same holds true for a person's name. In fact, there have been scientific experiments done that have shown that people are more likely to respond positively to a request if it comes from someone who shares their first name.
EB: You also say authority is important. Do too many mail pieces aim to be liked, rather than respected?
NH: The two aren't mutually exclusive. People do buy from people—and brands—that they like and respect. It's one of the reasons leveraging a company's brand in its direct marketing can lift response. In addition, when trying to make a buying decision, people also rely on authority as a decision-making shortcut. It's a way to feel secure about a purchase when we don't have the time to research every angle on our own.
Think Zagat's or PC Magazine's Editor's Choice Award. Those authorities have done the legwork for us, and so we use them as a proxy for our own investigation. Today, with the growth of social media, our definition of authorities has become even broader.
EB: Is feeling "obligated" another important emotion that leads to action?
NH: Social scientists have identified something they call the Principle of Reciprocity, which states that we as people try to respond in kind to what others have done for us. We as marketers can and do use this every time we offer a free trial, a free sample or a gift enclosed with our solicitation. There's a reason so many charity appeals include those address labels: They work! And the reason they work is the Principle of Reciprocity.