The 6 Best Direct Mail Teasers of 2016

To get a direct mail prospect, customer or donor inside your envelope, the teaser is a crucial factor.

To get a direct mail prospect, customer or donor inside your envelope, the teaser is a crucial factor. How do you make that happen? What headline can you use to get them to act?

A year ago, I reviewed the thousands of direct mail packages received by Who’s Mailing What! Keeping in mind the great work of so many giants of the craft, like Mel Martin and Bill Jayme, I came up with some of the best direct mail teasers used in 2015.

This year, I spent some time looking through even more mail from 2016. I made a list of two dozen or so good ones; here are six, arranged in no particular order.

1. HelloFresh
HelloFresh teaserThis online meal delivery service loves sending colorful direct mail. Here, a large image supports the teaser. “HEALTHIER” appears in larger type than the rest of the copy.

I also like how it includes two qualifiers. When can you cook healthier? “TODAY.” How? “Without leaving home.”

2. Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports teaserThese guys have produced a lot of great direct mail over the years. Sometimes the name of the magazine alone (or a line drawing of its building) on the envelope was enough to get a big response from subscribers.

This latest effort calls attention to the three “bubbles” it bursts right below the headline. As usual, the intention is to show a little taste of how the magazine’s content inside the mail piece defies pre-conceived notions.

3. Farmers Insurance
Farmers Insurance teaserOversized windows allow you to put compelling copy and images in two places at once: the outer, and the inside piece. Farmers has been leveraging its popular TV commercials with J.K. Simmons as “Professor Burke” in its mail for a few years.

This latest campaign uses an image from one of its “Hall of Claims” spots, where some crazy and funny story results in a claim being paid by the company. With this familiar branding and slogan from TV, an agent can generate a lead, and also play on their experience and training.

4. Met Life
Met Life teaserI’m not sure which I like better about the front of this 6”x9” envelope. The giant “$0” is impossible to miss. But the crisp, short statement works so well: “No down payments … Ever.” No wiggle room there. None.

5. Sierra Club
Sierra Club teaserSpeaking of making a point with minimal copy, you can’t get much more concise than “BUZZ KILL” in a distressed typeface. Paired with a photo of a dead bee, it’s a good way to introduce people to the collapse of bee populations due to pesticides. Many of the variations of this fundraising direct mail package include a packet of free seeds for attracting pollinators.

6. Sirius XM
Sirius XM teaser“You served for us. Now it’s our time to serve you,” this teaser says. And inside, the letter is from the company’s VP & GM Operations, John Archer. He also happens to be a Navy Reserve Captain.

He offers an impressive 25% lifetime discount on the service to his fellow veterans. I’d love to see more segmentation like this, mail that explicitly honors our service members.

So, those are some of my top picks. How about you? What teasers rock your world (or your customers), even if they’re a few years old? Please, let’s talk about it in the comments below!

Creating Luxury Appeal for Any Brand

So why do many of us spend $55,000 and more on a luxury car that Consumer Reports says won’t perform as well as a much cheaper brand?

So why do many of us spend $55,000 and more on a luxury car that Consumer Reports says won’t perform as well as a much cheaper brand?

And what makes women buy that $40,000 Gucci crocodile handbag when, functionally, it does the very same thing as a $40 knock-off from Target?

According to my friend, Harlan Bratcher, who has been creating and defining luxury as a C-level executive for labels such as Calvin Klein, Armani and Reed Krakoff, it’s all about emotion.

“We don’t necessarily buy a luxury product because of how it’s made, or even its style, but more so because of how it makes us feel,” says Bratcher. “When you drive that $55,000 car, or carry an Hermès or Gucci handbag, consciously, but even more unconsciously, you feel you have achieved your aspirations, even if that aspiration is as simple as feeling good about yourself.”

As the lead personal shopper for Neiman Marcus in the early 1980s at the beginning of his fashion lifestyle career, Bratcher recalls helping women try on $15,000 gowns, watching them slumping as they looked in the mirror. After spending time getting to know them, and helping them feel beautiful inside and out, suddenly that $15,000 dress was worth even more.

If luxury is defined by how a product makes us feel, as suggested by Bratcher, then is it possible for any brand to become a “luxury,” or something for which consumers are willing to pay a premium?

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, luxury means:

  • a condition or situation of great comfort, ease and wealth
  • something that is expensive and not necessary
  • something that is helpful or welcome and that is not usually or always available

Per the above definition, its seems a product or brand can call itself “luxury” if it makes consumers feel pampered, extravagant and exclusive.

Bratcher offers a different definition:

“A brand becomes a luxury when it becomes aspirational to the consumer. Aspiration can manifest in many ways, from elevated self-esteem, confidence and sense of self; to a personal statement you believe you deserve to make about yourself.”

While aspiration can traditionally be defined as our hopes, dreams and exquisite goals for life, its connection to luxury is taking on a new meaning in today’s consumer-driven climate. Luxury is not just about exclusive products that one in thousands might own. It is about the experience that elevates the perceived value of the product and brand.

“As CEO of Armani Exchange, my mission was to build a highly relevant experience for our customers that made them feel beautiful, energetic and happy, and in ways that helped them associate those feelings with our brand. One way we did this was to research our customers’ favorite music, and then play it loudly at each of our stores, creating that Friday night dance club feeling. Sales and customer loyalty soared.”

Beyond feeling young, urban and sexy from the purchases we make, today’s consumers are demanding a new sensation: altruism.

Research from both Cone Communications and Edelman shows that more than 80 percent of today’s consumers, from Gen Y to Baby Boomers, choose brands which can show the positive social impact they are having on the world. Aligning with social causes – not just fashion trends and glamorous living – is now becoming an essential part of branding for luxury brands in all categories – from designer apparel and vacation resorts to auction houses like Christie’s.

“Consumers today are seeking actualization in all they do, and they do this by finding purpose in their daily lives, from the deeds they do to the products they purchase, “ says Toby Usnik, Chief Social Responsibility Officer for Christie’s in New York City. “Luxury is now about a bigger brand statement than just the product itself. It’s about shared values, a higher purpose and a sustainable community.”

For Christie’s, Usnik has helped contemporize a 250-year old brand through new initiatives for giving back. This includes the creation of Bid to Save The Earth, a coalition charity auction on behalf of four leading environmental groups: Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Central Park Conservancy, and Conservation International. Over three years, this program earned several million dollars to support its causes, and substantially helped to further Christie’s profile as a luxury brand with far-reaching values.

While some might be tempted to up their price, bling their packaging and call their brand ‘Luxury,” the chances for successfully transforming a great brand to a luxury brand are greater if you follow these simple steps.

Create authentic experiences

  • Armani’s nightclub atmosphere was authentic and spot-on for creating a strong dose of the emotions that make us feel powerful, awesome and in a mood to shop.

Tap into feelings that matter

  • While feelings in a nightclub might be fleeting, especially when you wake up the next morning, the overall consistent feelings of belonging and self-esteem you can create with every shopping experience, service interaction, follow-up communications and events are what maintain a brand’s luxury status.

Preserve the Perception

  • Once you’ve broken out as a brand above the cluttered fray, its critical to maintain your sense of luxury. You can do this not just with exclusive experiences, and short product runs for really amazing items, but with your pricing strategies. As Bratcher and Usnik both suggest, lowering your price, or offering discounts, just reprograms the status of your brand and you may never get back the status you once had.

Engage Customers in Sincere Altruism

  • As Usnik says, long gone are the days when a company buys a table at a charity gala or donates here and there. Leading brands are putting a stake in the ground based on their values and communities. They have skin in the game — creating programs that support those values, having their employees volunteer for related non-profits, sharing their platforms with others committed to the same cause. Doing just that made Warby Parker a huge force in the eyewear industry, because its customers’ purchases give free glasses and vision to disadvantaged people globally.

Albeit trite and cliché to say, luxury is still in the eye of the beholder. But now more than ever, it’s in the heart, as well. Building a brand around authentic values and causes that make people feel they are one step closer to actualization, social and personal aspirations, will help elevate your brand in ways much more powerful than you can imagine.

What are the aspirations or hopes you can associate with your brand to secure loyalty and attract high-value customers? You don’t need to open up shop on Fifth Avenue in NYC to succeed. Instead, focus on the dreams, hopes and core values of your customers, and tell your story in a way that makes them want to be a part of it, and pass it on to others.

Bratcher sums it up:

“No one really needs luxury. It’s nonessential. That’s where the dream and mythology come in. And this is why my career has been about anthropology – making dreams for the moment – more than product lines.”