Lois Brayfield is CEO of Mission, Kan.-based direct marketing agency J. Schmid & Associates.

Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter, content developer, copy coach and creative strategist. She is also the author of "The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook," published by Direct Marketing IQ. Reach her at (913) 341-1211.

Brand is king in the realm of securing customers and creating loyalty, which can save your bottom line in this down economy. Brand goes far beyond logos and taglines—it lies within your customer’s perception of your product or service. Whether you are aware of it or managing it, every point of contact with the customer defines and reinforces your brand—from the way you answer the phones, to the appearance and manner of your sales force, to the cover of your catalog and the landing page of your Web site.

The importance of headlines cannot be underestimated. They are a critical part of the success of a campaign, the most important copy in the entire piece and often, they're written last—almost as an afterthought. The headline is more likely to be read than any other copy in your marketing materials, so don't waste the opportunity to make it as powerful as possible. How compelling are your headlines? Understanding some general rules will help you create headlines that truly help sell your product or service.

It seems that every three to four years, a flurry of activity occurs within a marketing department, and you hear the battle cry for a creative makeover. Dutifully, creative directors present the battle plan based on what someone from the executive team has deemed wrong with the existing presentation. Often, they will point to another brand and say, “Why can’t we look more like them?” This is not a healthy start.

I’m fairly certain the study of direct mail would still be my favorite pastime even if I hadn’t grown up as the daughter of the postmaster of Inman, Kan., (pop. 1,194). It’s true that, from an early age, I was as eager to see the newly issued stamp designs as some of my friends were to see the newest fashions. But, as fond as I am of direct mail, I also recognize that, thanks to changing technology, new media opportunities, and exciting possibilities offered by the Internet, direct marketers now face a dilemma: What should we do with direct mail? If you’re already using it,

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