When Long Copy Ruled the Mail
I got rid of my breadmaker a couple of weeks ago, 24 years after I bought it through the mail.
It still worked.
To be honest, I hadn’t used it much recently, as my girlfriend is an excellent from-scratch baker. I am not.
So I gave it away to a friend who couldn’t believe I kept it all these years. And she was even more thrilled that I had all of the materials that were mailed to me after buying it from DAK Industries so long ago.
I gave her the catalog that originally sparked my interest, the instruction leaflet, and a few booklets with dozens of recipes. Like orange bread … chocolate chip bread (my favorite) … you name it. Fortunately, we still have copies at Who's Mailing What!
On my way to dropping everything off, I flashed back to the summer of 1992. There was a 3-way presidential race featuring Clinton, Bush, and Perot, Radiohead and Pearl Jam were playing on my Walkman, and I was reading the DAK catalog cover-to-cover.
Founded in the 1980s by Drew Alan Kaplan, DAK Industries was a direct mail company selling consumer electronics like PCs, radar detectors, stereos, and yes, breadmakers, like my Turbo Baker II.
Unlike some of my friends, I was never into gadgets. But thanks to Kaplan’s copy, I didn’t have to be.
The magic started with his long signed letters in the opening spread of each catalog. They were conversational, even homey: “If your family is like mine, you’ve been trying to eat right.” It continued with product descriptions focused clearly on benefits: “Just look at all you get for just $99.90.” And he carefully explained why devices worked a certain way. Single product write-ups often ran for a thousand or more words, and lots of small black-on-white type.
Who does that anymore?
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the time to read as I once did. Sure, lengthy product copy can sometimes be found online for some retailers. But in print, there aren’t many marketers relying on the power of long copy to persuade someone to buy.
This isn’t the flannel you leave hanging by the door.
Or chop a cord of wood in(you already have those). Trekking over dirt and rock isn’t its strong suit.
Think Parisian Cobblestone. Or a fireside glass of ’63 Quinta do Noval.
Travel marketer R. Crusoe & Son uses long travelogues as part of its catalogs. From a recent mailing, this description of an encounter with hippos on an African safari: “You’ll meet huge populations of these Pliocene relics sleeping, eating, socializing, and keeping cool in the water.” Now, that's a trip I want to go on!
With well-written long copy, a marketer can demonstrate expertise and build a customer’s trust. She can use it to provide answers and head off objections. And, maybe, tell a captivating story along the way as well.