When it comes to creating responsible direct mail, every marketer worth his or her salt will say the same thing: “Deliver on what you promise.” And while this maxim typically refers to an offer strategy or product benefit list, the same also can hold true for another element: the teaser.
Creatively, teasers long have been implemented to arouse a prospect’s interest in a mailing, spurring them to open the envelope and further explore its contents. But even more so, according to direct mail writer and consultant George Duncan, “[They] also provide a statement or promise that the reader can agree with. He or she reads the teaser, then decides to read the piece, so you have an immediate agreement to your proposition on the part of the reader.” And once you have that, it’s probably best not to let the reader down. To maximize the potential of the direct mail teaser, here are a few factors to consider when using teasers on your direct mail package:
• Placement. In terms of location, there are several places in a package where teasers can be used to great effect. Traditionally, such copy is featured on only one side of an outer, yet Duncan reminds mailers, “There are two sides to an envelope—a fact we sometimes forget. Don’t rule out using both sides.” And while an outer envelope teaser is “a must,” says copywriter Ken Scheck, there are a few spots within a package where teasers can be used to lead readers through a package’s components. “They … work well in the Johnson box at the top of the letterhead,” he affirms, although he warns that a marketer should be sure to answer the tease in the body of the letter, the P.S. or even on the order card to fulfill the promise of information. “Teasers also can be used on the cover panel of the brochure to draw the readers inside to the spread,” Scheck adds.
• Creative. When considering creative, it’s important that the teaser complements the overall look of the piece. “Each is a little piece of theater as it works with the envelope’s format, color, gizmos, etc., to invite the reader into the envelope,” Duncan says. An envelope’s corner card, for example, provides an authoritative source for the teaser’s promise, he adds. Likewise, a photo can work with a teaser to increase the reader’s suspense. For example, Scheck references a package from Rodale that features a close-up photo of an animal footprint on a jumbo envelope with the teaser: “What is 9 feet tall, weighs 1,800 pounds, runs faster than a deer, has a temper like a small volcano ... and fits into this footprint?”
• Construction. As with all copy, the actual words in context also can have a big impact on how the teaser resonates with a prospect. Using the word “you” helps to increase personal involvement, Scheck says. He mentions an example from The New Republic: “How did YOU help pay for a Texas billionaire’s new airport—where YOU can’t land?” Scheck also maintains that teasers don’t always have to ask a question, sometimes the mere implication is enough. This teaser, “HE (name revealed inside) will make $15 million this year—and he’s dead,” on a package from Forbes leads prospects to ask themselves, “How is that possible?” and subsequently open the piece to find out, he says.