Magalogs - Send the Sizzle or the Steak (1,821 words)
The old Bencivenga copy-heavy magalogs in two colors—in either typewriter or Times type on plain-jane offset paper—resembled a newsletter and looked like the actual product you would receive.
In the 1990s, newsletter writers and designers became more adventuresome and began adding color and, in order for the color to pop, started printing the magalogs on glossy paper. Today, the magalogs of, say, Rodale or Boardroom have all the snap, color and pizzazz of a magazine with hot illustrations, powerful cover lines and mini articles that promise salvation. What's odd about them is that they in no way resemble the product that is eventually shipped—a newsletter. Yet, this doesn't seem to matter; between the time they respond and the delivery of the first issue, customers evidently forget the original colorful promotion piece and are perfectly happy with the newsletter.
What's really different about many modern magalogs is the disappearance of the letter—the one thing that makes direct mail unique among all advertising media, that highly personal, intimate, me-to-you communication of any length that allows you to fire your sales message of any length at point blank range in the privacy of home or office.
A slick, high-powered magazine-like experience replaces the letter. Freelancer Lea Pierce said: "All direct mail is opened over the waste basket." And one of the axioms of direct mail is that the writer/designer has four seconds at best to get the reader's attention; if the envelope fails to do this, it is trashed.
Sizzle or Steak?
It was Elmer "Sizzle" Wheeler, super salesman of the 1950s and 1960s and Prentice-Hall superstar author whose motto was: "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." With few exceptions, the business of direct marketing is "selling the sizzle"—making the product or service sound so appealing that it will be ordered. Two exceptions: