3 Ways to Use Negative Thoughts in Direct Mail

Whether used subtly or like a sledgehammer, getting a prospect to worry about the worst-case scenario is often all that’s needed to override any objections.

Here are three quick ways to use a negative approach before presenting a positive solution

If there’s one thing I hate to be wrong about, it’s direct mail.

I admit I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to knowing who’s used what tactics or strategies successfully, and when.

And that fear — of something going wrong — can itself be a pretty powerful way to motivate action in direct mail. The most successful and common copy driver — see our special report on all of them — employed by marketers is fear.

Whether used subtly or like a sledgehammer, getting a prospect to worry about the worst-case scenario is often all that’s needed to override any objections.

Here are three quick ways to use a negative approach before presenting a positive solution.

1. Paint Them a Picture
Jefferson Health
Everyone thinks they’re careful, or try to be. But pride goeth before the fall, sometimes literally.

Here’s an image from a self-mailer for Jefferson Urgent Care in Philadelphia. Notice that it didn’t have to be grisly to get your attention, and make a point.

The message is: know where to get immediate help, for “life’s little emergencies.” This mail piece included a map showing the location of the hospital’s urgent center, and a magnet with its hours.

2. Challenge an Assumption
Advanced Biosolutions
Your prospect may feel content. They think they have all the facts needed to make a good decision about what car they drive, foods they eat, etc. But you can point out a flaw in their thinking.

The teaser on this envelope from Advanced Bionutritionals, a supplement manufacturer, plays on that. “Boost Your Nitric Oxide Levels With L-Arginine, Right? Wrong!”

The letter inside talks about how “popular advice” was wrong, thanks to newer research studies it cites. It then promotes its product as an alternative. The marketer successfully used this exact argument for its product for several years, in both direct mail and email.

3. Use Social Proof
aig_01
Many insurance providers build their marketing on negative thinking. But AIG takes it to another level with its mail for Travel Guard. Here’s an example.

The woman on the front panel of this self-mailer says of travel insurance: “I don’t think I’ll need it.” But inside, 4 case studies – “nightmares” – unfold across three panels. These aren’t mere quotes, but full paragraphs. Each horror story (e.g., medical emergency) deals with a specific policy need satisfied by the company’s plan.

People want to avoid them, but bad things happen. It’s important then, that as much as you can acknowledge them, not to use them to overwhelm customers. Your brand should evoke more positive feelings. Offer solutions that are more about creating a positive experience.

The bottom line? Test both positive and negative approaches. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

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.”