Elaine Tyson

On Feb. 29, two recognized figures in the direct mail field electrified the audience during a webinar entitled "Copywriting & Design All-Star Session - 2012 Best Practices for the Direct Mail Envelope, Letter, Brochure & Reply Form." Ken Schneider and Elaine Tyson discussed how to improve direct mail performance and, specifically, how to overall the "Big Four" — the envelope, letter, brochure and reply form — with new ideas, techniques and maybe even formats.

Magazines have long been among the most sophisticated users of direct mail (for the very latest look at trends, into both direct mail and email marketing by magazines, along with extensive analysis, see DirectMarketingIQ's just released Magazine Publishing Industry Sector Report). Many fine copywriters and designers cut their teeth on subscription packages and developed giant reputations as a result of their ability to sell subscriptions through this channel.

Some marketers are doing better than six months ago, but many are not. Hard times, of course, beg for change rather than standing pat. I spoke recently with some leading copywriters and direct marketers about new ways that companies can go to boost direct mail response levels.

I've been able to work with a lot of wonderful direct marketers over the years, including the late Jack Shurman and Joan Throckmorton. Both of them taught me a tremendous amount about direct mail and subscriptions marketing. That's how we learn, by working with practitioners who understand direct marketing and are willing to teach others what they know. Joan and Jack passed along to me a love for magazines and a love of a very old advertising discipline: direct mail.

The common consensus is that the older the audience, the more direct mail-friendly it is. Thus, seniors and baby boomers are often considered better direct mail prospects than Gen Y and iGen (also called Gen Z), for example.

Amid the economic woes have been constant calls and predictions that mail will get smaller, slicker, cheaper. Frankly, it's a little depressing. Can you imagine the general advertising folks saying their billboards were going to be smaller, their TV ads only 10 seconds long and were opting for bus bumper stickers rather than the bus itself. In a word? No.

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