Letter From Vienna
Rather, to the higher ups in our business, these blips are Harry Lime’s “dots.”
If data are stolen and a few folks robbed of their IDs, so what?
Direct marketing has become a business of data—data enrichment, data mining, data storage, data licensing, data updating.
We have gone from marketers whose success depended on our emotional connection with each client, prospect, expire, donor and customer to readers of printouts, numbers, balance sheets and percentages.
I remember hearing a lecture by a top executive of one of the three great credit bureaus explain how to manipulate data by putting various categories of people into “buckets.”
Would you put your spouse, your child or your dog in a “bucket?”
When I first got into the business, the gold standard of direct mail excellence was magazine circulation—exquisitely written and designed, deeply moving letters by America’s greatest freelancers and, very occasionally, an agency writer.
Today, coin of the realm is the Professional Discount Voucher. This is a low-price-driven, mass-market-like colorless, emotionless list of features (which are called benefits, because today’s copywriters do not know the difference between a feature and a benefit) with no letter and no description or picture of the publication; no reason to buy beyond saving money.
Recently, a guy asked me to critique one of his mailings and e-mailed me a Professional Discount Voucher. I e-mailed him back saying that I had no comment; I said everybody was doing these things.
He e-mailed me back and said, in effect, “Yeah, everybody’s doing it, but our responses are lousy and I am thinking maybe we should test an old-fashioned, benefit-oriented, promise-laden full-dress package.”
When he sent me his results by list, I could see why; many lists pulled exactly 0.00 percent. The overall average was 0.25 percent.
The Direct Mail Letter
With the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and the National Do Not Call Registry, once again direct mail is riding high—the workhorse of direct marketing.