What Did You Do on Data Privacy Day 2020? Do Tell Us.

Each year, Jan. 28 is known as “Data Privacy Day” in the United States and globally — also Data Protection Day in other jurisdictions. As business organizations — and marketers — we see that it’s a day when consumers are reminded to exercise their “privacy rights.”

Each year, Jan. 28 is known as “Data Privacy Day” in the United States and globally — also Data Protection Day in other jurisdictions.

As business organizations — and marketers — we see that it’s a day when consumers are reminded to exercise their “privacy rights” and take advantage of tips and tricks for safeguarding their privacy and security. In our world of marketing, there are quite a few self-regulatory and co-regulatory tools (U.S. focus here) that enable choices and opt-outs:

  • To opt out of commercial email, direct mail, and telemarketing in certain states, consumers can avail themselves of DMAchoice. For telemarketing, they can also enroll on the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call database.
  • For data collected online for interest-based ads, consumers can take advantage of Digital Advertising Alliance’s WebChoices and Network Advertising Initiative consumer control tools, which are accessible via the ubiquitous “AdChoices” icon. DAA also offers AppChoices, where data is collected across apps for interest-based ads. [Disclosure: DAA is a client.]
  • Now that California has a new consumer privacy law, consumers there can also take advantage of DAA’s new “Do-Not-Sell My Personal Information” Opt Out Tool for the Web. Its AppChoices mobile app also has a new CCPA opt-out component for “do not sell.” Publishers all over the Web are placing “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” notices in their footers, even if others outside California can see them, and offering links to their own in-house suppression lists, as well as DAA’s. Some publishers are using new the Privacy Rights icon to accompany these notices.

Certainly, businesses need to be using all of these tools — either as participants, or as subscribers — for the media channels where they collect, analyze, and use personal and anonymized data for targeted marketing. There’s no reason for not participating in these industry initiatives to honor consumer’s opt-out choices, unless we wish to invite more prescriptive laws and regulations.

We are constantly reminded that consumers demand high privacy and high security — and they do. We also are reminded that they prefer personalized experiences, relevant messaging, and wish to be recognized as customers as they go from device to device, and across the media landscape. Sometimes, these objectives may seem to be in conflict … but they really are not. Both objectives are good business sense.

As The Winterberry’s Group Bruce Biegel reported while presenting his Annual Outlook for media in 2020 (opens as a PDF), the U.S. data marketplace remains alive and well. For data providers, the onus is to show where consumer permissions are properly sourced, and transparency is fully authenticated and demonstrated to consumers in the data-gathering process. It’s a rush to quality. Plainly stated, adherence to industry data codes and principles (DAA, NAI, Interactive Advertising Bureau, Association of National Advertisers, among others) are table stakes. Going above and beyond laws and ethics codes are business decisions that may provide a competitive edge.

So what did I do on Data Privacy Day 2020? You’re reading it!  Share with me any efforts you may have taken on that day in the “public” comments below.

5 Great Marketing ‘Do’s From Herschell Gordon Lewis

When I heard this week that Herschell Gordon Lewis had died, I thought about his many contributions to direct marketing, and especially direct mail.

When I heard this week that Herschell Gordon Lewis had died, I stopped for a few moments. I thought about his many contributions to direct marketing, and especially direct mail.

He was, first and foremost, a practitioner of the first order.

Some of the most memorable direct mail packages archived in Who’s Mailing What! were written by him, and for all kinds of products. He wrote for Red Cooper (grapefruit), Advanced Financial Services (home equity loans), and Omaha Steaks.

Weil_01The letter for his Grand Control promotion for Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self-Healing (a newsletter) begins with one of his signature tactics: using handwriting script in the Johnson Box. It’s then woven throughout as he speaks one-to-one to the reader.

This is the opening:

Dear Reader,

A very good morning to you!

I know statistics are boring.

But this one should make sense to you, if you care at all about the caliber and reputation of anyone who gives you advice.

Here it is …

Engrossing, isn’t it?

I’ve read three of his many books on the craft of direct marketing writing. It’s impossible to capture the full breadth of wisdom that lies in them.

What follows is a handful of his communications rules and tips.

1. Every issue is emotional

From Hot Appeals or Burnt Offerings:

Every issue is emotional. Or should be, because of an absolute rule of human psychology: When emotion and intellect come into conflict, emotion always wins.

2. Make an immediate promise of benefits

From a 2011 Target Marketing Group webinar:

There shouldn’t be any head-scratching going on after reading your copy about the question, “What’s in it for me?” whether it’s a direct mail letter or email. The benefit should hit them in the face and they should be thankful for the knowledge.

3. Be imperative, not declarative

From a 2010 Target Marketing Group webinar:

Tell your target individual what to do. That’s why imperative outpulls declarative. For example, when you choose words and phrases for force-communication, clarity is paramount. Don’t let any other component of the communications mix interfere with it.

4. Good writing is lean

From his magnum opus, On the Art of Writing Copy:

Kick out extra words. Good copy is lean.

5. Remember the envelope’s purpose

The cardinal rule of envelope copy: “The purpose of the carrier envelope, other than preventing its contents from spilling out onto the street, is to get itself opened.”

Marketers, what are some of your go-to Herschell rules?

5 Long-Time Direct Mail Controls and Why They Still Work

People ask me all the time what direct mail is most worth studying for ideas. Even before I mention whatever is being mailed in their industry, I recommend the Grand Controls.

People ask me all the time what direct mail is most worth studying for ideas. Even before I mention whatever is being mailed in their industry, I recommend the Grand Controls.

These are the best packages, the box office champions that have driven the most customer and donor response for a period of three years or more. Who’s Mailing What! has been cataloguing them for thirty years.

A few weeks ago, I pored  through my database of 1672 of them to find the longest-running controls still in the mail today. Here’s a quick look at five of them, and why they work.

1. Amnesty International

Amnesty_01I’ve written about this package before. I’m amazed that it’s still driving membership for Amnesty today, about thirty years after it was introduced. The copy and the outer get tweaked from time-to-time, but it remains, in Denny Hatch’s words, a “powerhouse of guilt.”

The letter runs down a list of places in the world where human rights abuses occur, and asks the donor to sign and return the enclosed “Message of Hope” card. Why? It explains: “His name is Constantino, and for years he was held in a tiny cell; his only human contact was with his torturers.” One day, he gets one of those personalized hope cards. It lets him know that people are working for his release. Eight months later, he is freed. A very powerful involvement device.

2. The Humane Farming Association

HFA_01This is another fundraising appeal that’s been around forever. Well, since 1998 anyway. This photo of a baby calf chained in a wooden box takes up a third of the outer. “He Can’t Turn Around- ,” it starts, “We Can’t Turn Our Backs!” The letter inside goes into rather gruesome detail describing veal industry practices in the United States, for two out of its four pages.

Again, guilt works. It’s easily the leading copy driver, in its many forms, in non-profit fundraising.

3. AAA

AAAControl_01The auto club is a giant in direct mail, offering travel and financial services besides roadside assistance with membership. A lot of its efforts have been long-term successes, like this one for more than 10 years.

The outer’s a #10 envelope that tells the prospect that they’re being offered membership privileges for not just themselves, but two drivers. The letter inside and this four-page “QuickStart Guide” focus heavily on benefits. Everyone knows their road service, but they also talk about travel, insurance, ID protection, and lots of discounts. It’s all about surrounding the customer with one-stop shopping.

4. International Living

IntlLiving_01The first intriguing thing about this newsletter subscription campaign is that it’s an envelope-within-an-envelope, a #10 inside a manila #11. Then there’s the fascinating letter. Denny Hatch writes about it brilliantly in his book, Method Marketing.

Originally written by Agora founder Bill Bonner, it still captivates after almost forty years: “You look out your window, past your gardener, who is busily pruning the lemon, cherry, and fig trees … amidst the splendor of gardenias, hibiscus, and hollyhocks.” And that’s just the start … sign me up!

5. The Sun

TheSun_01The Sun is a monthly magazine publishing essays, poems, short stories, and photographs for over forty years. This subscription acquisition mail piece goes back to the late 1990s. It’s a seven-panel self-mailer that does two great things.

First, it includes a heartfelt letter from its founder and editor, Sy Safransky, who tells his story. He then explains the magazine’s objective: to “celebrate the glory and the heartache of being human.”

Second, the mailer uses photo and excerpts from the magazine to whet the reader’s appetite for more. Remarkably, they haven’t been refreshed much over the years. They probably don’t need to be.

The bottom line with all of these timeless mailings is that they all still work. There’s something about each one that makes them stand firm against whatever competition is thrown against them, from tests as well as the outside. Study them; reach out to me and I can help you. See what makes them and the thousands of other controls work,. Then as we say around here, “steal smart.”

 

3 Great Ways to Pose a Question in Direct Mail (and 1 Note of Caution)

Sometimes you realize that something’s escaped your attention. Take the direct mail that I read. I’ve made lists, but not for mail that asks questions.

Sometimes, even when you think you’re a very detail-oriented person, you realize that there’s something else that’s escaped your attention. Take the direct mail that I read every day. I’ve made lists of all kinds of features that our Who’s Mailing What! database doesn’t capture, but I never started one for direct mail that asks questions effectively.

I could think of a few examples off the top of my head, almost all of them in teasers. But I had to do some serious digging through my file folders to begin to get a handle on what works well in creating reader involvement, and eventually, inspiring action. And although I’m not close to being done, here are some early observations on what I’ve found.

1. Appeal To Emotion

This is a no-brainer. It’s pretty common across all verticals to leverage one of the seven main copy drivers (guilt, flattery, anger, exclusivity, fear, greed and salvation).

Volvo mail

Here’s a postcard from Volvo that taps into fear of hitting a runner moving across the front of your vehicle. “Are your brakes ready?” it asks.  The promotion is for a multi-point brake inspection, so that your car is “ready for whatever comes your way.”

I have to mention this. A membership renewal effort from the Republican National Committee begins with a question that’s good at inspiring some guilt: “I don’t want to believe you’ve abandoned the Republican Party, but I have to ask … Have you given up?” This letter is a long-lived Grand Control, in the mail for over 15 years.

2. Make the Reader Curious

You have some information to provide about your product, your service, or your nonprofit. To attract the attention of the prospect, you can make them want to know more.

CROH_01This teaser question from Consumer Reports on Health, “Do you make these 10 common mistakes about your health?”, is a variation on one originally written by Max Sackheim for a mail order course more than 80 years ago: “Do You Make These Mistakes In English?” It’s been copied by lots of others, mostly unsuccessfully, over the decades.

Other examples:

“Why does my cat do that?”  —CatWatch
“Honey (and Vinegar) Can Do WHAT?” —FC&A Publishing
“Can these students save America’s national parks?” —Student Conservation Association

3. Make ‘Yes’ Easy

Good yes and no questions are a lot harder to formulate than you might think .You should avoid wording your question so that a weak “yes” or a flat-out “no” stops the prospect from reading further.

You want your question to be focused. You want it to be so cut-and-dried, so  rhetorical, so obvious that the reader buys in enthusiastically with a “yes,” and continues reading, and agreeing with your pitch.

WomensHealth_02This is a good example from a mailer for Women’s Health: “Want to look better naked?” Considering the audience, this is a leading question that works.

The bottom line is that questions should always be geared toward one goal: getting the prospective customer, member, or donor to seek the answers (or at least begin to) from the direct mail piece in front of them.

Are there good questions in direct mail that you like? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

3 Great Direct Mail Copy Drivers (Besides the Top 7)

I’ve been thinking about emotions more than usual lately. Maybe it’s the type of direct mail I’ve been reading lately that sparked it. Swedish direct marketing entrepreneur Axel Andersson and Seattle direct marketer Bob Hacker identified the seven key copy drivers that persuade people to buy a product or service, or to join a cause.

I’ve been thinking about emotions more than usual lately. Maybe it’s the type of direct mail I’ve been reading lately that sparked it.

Or maybe it was all of the great discussion around Carolyn Goodman’s webinar that my colleague Thorin McGee wrote about the other day. In case you missed it, she talked about the emotional buy-in of some voters during the current election season.

Swedish direct marketing entrepreneur Axel Andersson and Seattle direct marketer Bob Hacker identified the seven key copy drivers that persuade people to buy a product or service, or to join a cause. They are:

guilt, flattery, anger, exclusivity, fear, greed and salvation.

For years, I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of which of these appear in the long-term controls I track for Who’s Mailing What! Flattery and greed are the two most commonly used. They figure prominently in Denny Hatch’s The Secrets of Emotional, Hot-Button Copywriting, a report that focuses on the seven great ones

But there are other drivers that also deserve a moment in the sun. In another book, Hatch identified twenty-one additional motivators that can also lead to action. Here are three of them, with examples of how I’ve seen them used in the mail.

1. Love
Danbury_01

I’m surprised that I don’t see more mail that really taps into one of the most basic of human emotions. But some marketers, like Danbury Mint, are good at it. This mailing for a “Midnight Spell Necklace” spells it out on the front of the outer: “this holiday season Romance Her Heart with a gift from yours.”

The brochure inside tells of a Polynesian legend that says a black pearl was meant to be a sign of “eternal love”. In the necklace, the pearls “add mystique and glamor to the woman who wears them.”

2. Better Health/Physical Well-Being
CROH_01

This can take many forms, depending on the audience. Maybe it’s a gym, a weight loss program, fitness equipment, or or a diet supplement. In this case, it’s content delivered by a newsletter, Consumer Reports On Health, in a magalog.

“Healthy or Not Healthy?” the headline asks, then teases “21 myth-busting facts to help you feel younger, stronger, healthier.” Fascinations (i.e., fascinating facts), phrased as questions, dangle just enough information to get the reader to turn to the pages inside for the answers.

3. Patriotism
BVA_01

Conveying a sense of national pride has strong appeal across the political spectrum. For example, it’s long been a staple for some non-profits to talk about helping those who have sacrificed so much for the security and liberty of their fellow Americans.

From a recent letter for the Blinded Veterans Association: “They put their lives on the line for our freedom and they deserve more.” “We invest a lot in military personnel,” it continues, “it’s time we all stepped up.” One note of caution: it’s important to maintain a proper tone of respect and good taste to avoid sending an inappropriate message.

There are other copy drivers worth considering, but regardless of what ones you use, either alone or in some combination, make sure that they support the rest of the elements of the mailpiece. To quote Bob Hacker, “If your letter isn’t dripping with one or more of these, tear it up and start over.”

3 Steps That Reveal Your Marketing Blind Spot

Your eyes each have a blind spot. It’s an area right in front of your eyeballs that the shape of the cornea prevents you from seeing. Your brain takes input from both eyes and fills in the blind spot with what should be there. As marketers, you have a marketing blind spot as well. Only your brain isn’t addressing that one, and it can lead to disaster.

The brain is an amazing piece of biotechnology. Your eyes each have a blind spot. It’s an area right in front of your eyeballs that the shape of the cornea prevents you from seeing. It’s not right in the middle, but it’s in an area you’d never guess you couldn’t see.

The reason you don’t realize you have a blind spot is because your brain addresses it. It takes input from both eyes, and fills in the blind spot with what should be there.

As marketers, you have a marketing blind spot as well. Only your brain isn’t addressing that one, and it can lead to disaster.

The Marketer's Blind Spot
“The Marketer’s Blind Spot” was MECLABS Founder Clint McGlaughlin’s keynote at Marketing Sherpa Summit 2016.

“It’s the greatest danger facing every single marketer in the room today,” said Flint McGlaughlin, founder and managing director of MECLABS Institute, during the opening keynote of the annual Marketing Sherpa Summit, held this week in Las Vegas.

I had the good fortune to attend this year’s show (It’s a great event!) and I think McGlaughlin found a good way to explain a way of thinking that’s been plaguing marketers for as long as I’ve been covering them.

The Marketers Blind Spot
It’s one thing to be told you have a blind spot. It’s quite another to see it in a room full of marketers. McGlaughlin showed creative treatment after creative treatment — emails, landing pages, shopping cart pages — and he asked the marketers in the room which one they thought would do better in a test.

I got half of them wrong.

In repeated testing that MECLABS has done in its case studies and research, “72 percent of the marketers chose the wrong treatment,” claimed McGlaughlin.

It’s a problem he’s been seeing for years, one of the key findings from the years of research MECLABS has done.

“The more expert we become as marketers, the less expert we become as consumers,” McGlaughlin says. “Something connected to that observation is at the heart of our problem.”

What’s In the Mail???

This is my first blog, ever. But it comes now, with a distinct purpose to posit my views about the exploding direct marketing landscape, including direct mail. The maxim “Change or Die” has never been more relevant, and being relevant has never been more alive.

This is my first blog, ever. But it comes now, with a distinct purpose to posit my views about the exploding direct marketing landscape, including direct mail. The maxim “Change or Die” has never been more relevant, and being relevant has never been more alive.

Over the past few years, I’ve limited my written opinions to my monthly column in Inside Direct Mail. Now that IDM is now online in an enewsletter format and DirectMarketingIQ has been launched, this blog is the place where I will more frequently opine, offer the occasional whine and try to entertainly cover the topics of the day. If anything, I hope to start a dialogue with some of you and give you something useful each time I write. I’m certainly not into wasting my time or yours.

My first entry is, logically, about the mail and what I’ve observed over the past year. Even though overall mail volume in down, I still review close to 1,000 mail pieces a month that spill into our Who’s Mailing What! Archive. It can be an exhausting but fun exercise to see what mailers are doing to stand out in the pack.

With squeezed budgets, I’ve definitely seen fewer oversize formats and, instead, many more slimmed-down mailers. The big Kraft envelopes are hardly seen anymore (a fact that makes them a good candidate to resurrect, of course!), magalogs have slipped in number, and the lumpy packages that nonprofits loved to mail have similarly dwindled.

In their place are more economical efforts that are using more 4-color, more with VDP, more attention-getting one-color outer envelopes in orange or yellow (or even black), strikingly more that utilize both sides of the outer, and certainly more self-mailers, especially postcards. Also, more windows are being employed, including full-size windows that showcase the copy inside, including even the back of envelopes. And along with more VDP, more personalized imagery is being employed to connect with the prospect. On the rare side, I’d place blind outers, shape mailers, formats that use obviously recycled material (such as bioplastic), reuseable envelopes and even the brown-bag mailer.

Staying with a discussion about the outer, copy hasn’t changed too much. Teasers are not employed as often, seemingly, with color and imagery getting more play. Mostly, when they do appear, they appear in the expected places — above the address on the front of the outer. Offers, of course, still shout from the many outers, giving prospects no choice but to open the envelope. A few efforts do push the envelope, pun intended, with more outrageous copy than in the past and sometimes using the back of envelope for part of the provocative message to get the envelope opened.

What will the rest of 2010 hold? More mail with personalized URLs, even more color, more variable imagery, shorter copy (alas), etc. I’m hoping to see more inventive efforts, using great DM tactics, and taking advantage of the fact that less mail crowds each mailbox. We shall see …