Video Made the Direct Mail Star
A good idea can go far in the world, but a good idea that is properly marketed stands a better chance of success. This is the reason why marketing promotions for books that promise to show people a new way to live focus as much on the authors and their credentials as they do on the ideas in the books.
But as Michael Weil notes, "It's hard to manufacture experts with [direct] mail alone." Weil is senior product manager at Boardroom Inc., the Greenwich, CT, publisher of Bottom Line/Personal newsletter, along with other newsletters and books. One of the products in his charge is "Natural Healing Encyclopedia," a book of alternative healing strategies developed by Dr. Gary Null.
The current promotion for Null's book is a 10" x 13" magalog that has been the control since late 2002 (105BOTLIB0204). In addition to the slightly icky illustration of a pair of artery cross-sectionsone blocked and one clearon the cover, the other main feature is a boxed-out photo of Null and supporting copy that denotes his television appearances on PBS and shows such as "Oprah" and "60 Minutes."
According to Weil, these broadcast outlets supply the direct mail promotion for "Natural Healing Encyclopedia" with more authority. PBS in particular, he says, is a good connection to promote to the average Boardroom customer; these buyers are, for the lack of a better term, information junkies, explains Weil. And, PBS is synonymous with quality programming. When Boardroom says Null's concepts were "proven on TV," Weil laughs, it's clear that it doesn't mean on an infomercial at 2:30 in the morning.
Boardroom is not the only marketer to go this route recently. Companies like CompassioNet, a direct marketer of health supplements, and Rodale Inc., a direct marketer of books and magazines on cooking, gardening and health, also have been spotted using the "as seen on TV" approach. And Consumer Reports magazine mails a control magalog (202CONREP0204) that pictures a handful of testing directors at the magazine's parent company, Consumers Union, showing that there are real people behind the claims of thorough, scientific evaluation of leading products and services.
Interestingly, the control prior to Boardroom's current winner for "Natural Healing Encyclopedia" was another tabloid-size magalog that placed even more of a spotlight on Null. Accompanying a large photo of the doctor was the following blockbuster headline: "Man of the Decade!" This cover treatment beat its predecessor by 40 percent, shares Weil, who chalks up the demise of the earlier "Bang! You've Got a New Body" cover to the world-altering Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
As for the transition to the current control, Weil calls it a lesson in not giving up on winning ideas. In the fall of 2002, Weil invited the copywriter of a "winning loser" campaign tested at the same time as the "Man of the Decade" mailing to rework his approach. The result is the control with the arteries graphic.
When it is suggested to him that the image likely works because it borders on the edge of disgusting, Weil points out that this reaction is just what the copywriter was seeking.
Weil adds that this copywriter enjoys a strong track record with Boardroom
already, which helped the company back him on testing such a disturbing image. But Weil notes that it's likely his team would have given the idea a try anyway. And he advises other marketers not to give up on their "winning losers" either.