Creating a One-Word Brand Statement

What do your customers think of when they see your organization name and logo? Your public image is important and should be up-to-date and fresh, especially during times of swift technology, cultural changes, and new generations. Every organization should go through a periodic review of how it is viewed and how it wants to be viewed by customers, donors and prospects.

What do your customers think of when they see your organization’s name and logo? Your public image is important and should be up-to-date and fresh, especially during times of swift technology, cultural changes, and new generations. Every organization should go through a periodic review of how it is viewed and how it wants to be viewed by customers, donors and prospects.

While sitting in an organization’s Board of Directors meeting last month, the topic came up of the desire to create a new logo. It had been the 1990s when it was last updated, and at that, it still had visual remnants of a decidedly 1970s feel. It was agreed a new logo should be developed, but it was also agreed that before going too far, a branding statement should be created to guide along the process more efficiently and result in a better outcome.

If you’re like many organizations, you might not have a branding statement. This isn’t to be confused with a mission statement (which can too often be filled with empty language that rings hollow to customers and staff).

A branding statement is a marketing tool. It reflects your organization’s reputation: what you are known for, or would like to be known for. It articulates how you stand apart from competitors. A branding statement is often written by individuals to define and enhance their own careers. If that’s of interest to you, adapt these steps and you can be on your way to creating your personal branding statement.

Today we launch into steps you can take to freshen your organization’s brand and image. This first installment will lay out five research and brainstorming steps to distill your image down to a single word. My next blog post, published in a couple of weeks, will focus on how to succinctly state your logical and emotional promise, both of which must be formulated in order to create a hard-working branding statement for your organization.

  1. Audience Research:
    Are you confident you accurately know the demographics, psychographics, and purchase behavior of your audience? If you’ve recently profiled or modeled your customers, then you probably have a good grasp of who they are. But if it’s been a year or longer, a profile is affordable and will yield a tremendous wealth of information about your customers. Demographics (age, income, education, etc.) are a good foundation. Knowing psychographics (personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles) takes you further. And knowing categories of purchase behavior enables you to drill down even further.
  2. Competitive Analysis:
    You can’t completely construct your own brand identity without understanding how your competitors position themselves. A competitive analysis can be conducted along two lines of inquiry: offline, such as direct mail and other print materials, along with what you can learn online. If you have print samples, you can discern much about a competitor’s marketing message. But you may not be able to pin down demographics, psychographics, and purchase behavior by looking at a direct mail package. There are a number of tools you can use online to deliver insights about your competition. Here are a few:
    • Compete.com offers detailed traffic data so you can compare your site to other sites. You can also get keyword data, demographics, and more.
    • Alexa.com provides SEO audits, engagement, reputation metrics, demographics, and more.
    • Quantcast.com enables you to compare the demographics of who comes to your site versus your competitors. You’ll be shown an index of how a website performs compared to the internet average. You’ll get statistics on attributes such as age, presence of children, income, education, and ethnicity.
  3. Interpretation and Insight:
    Now that you’ve conducted research, you’re positioned to interpret the data to create your own insights. This is where creativity needs to kick in and where you need to consider the type of individual who will embrace and advocate for your organization. You may want to involve a few people from your team in brainstorming, or perhaps you’ll want to bring in someone from outside your organization who can objectively look at your data. What’s key is that you peer below the surface of the numbers and reports. Transform facts into insights through interpretation. Use comparison charts and create personas. Then create statements describing who your best customers are.
  4. One-Word Description:
    Now the challenging work begins. Distill your interpretation and insight into one word that personifies your organization. Then think deeply about that word. Does it capture the essence of who you are (or want to become) and what your customer desires? For example, a technology company might use a word like “innovative,” “cutting-edge,” or “intuitive.” Car manufacturers might use a one-word description like “sleek,” “utilitarian,” or “safe” to describe their brand and what they want their customers to feel when they hear a brand’s name. You might think that by only allowing one word, you are short-changing everything about your organization’s image. It won’t. Finding the one word that describes your organization’s image will force you to focus.
  5. Reality Check:
    So now you’ve identified a word to describe your organization’s brand and image that resonates with both your team and your customers. It’s time for a reality check. Can your organization or product actually support that word? Or if it’s aspirational—that is, a word that you’d like your image to reflect in the future—is it achievable? And if it’s aspirational, what plans are in place to take it to reality?

My next blog will extend the important foundational work you’ve done working through these five steps. It will discuss how to look at your brand as it appeals to both logic and emotion, as well as credibility, uniqueness, and ultimately an example branding statement that you can use with your team. Watch for it in two weeks.

As always, your comments, questions, and challenges are welcome.

Direct Mail Design: Copy

At this point, after you have looked at the layout and color/images in the last two blog posts, you should have a general idea of what you want your direct mail to look like. There is another important factor that goes with your design, and that is the copy. Words have the power to inspire, empower and create desire

At this point, after you have looked at the layout and color/images in the last two blog posts, you should have a general idea of what you want your direct mail to look like. There is another important factor that goes with your design, and that is the copy.

Words have the power to inspire, empower and create desire. Direct mail marketing is especially vulnerable to a bad choice of words. The visual design catches their eye, but if the words do not convince them to take action, you will not get the desired response.

With that in mind, let’s look at the top five list of the best words to use in direct mail:

  1. Free: Who doesn’t love free stuff? This is very eye catching and sucks people in. We all want a good deal and nothing is a better deal than free.
  2. Amazing: We all want the best things, and if it’s amazing we have to have it!
  3. Discover: This is a challenge to find out new information. It makes us curious and we want to know more.
  4. Easy: These days we all need easy. There is just not enough time in the day to get things done. Whenever it can be easier it’s a good idea.
  5. You: It’s all about the recipient! What is in it for them? There should be lots of “You”s in the copy to show them all the great things that will happen to them when they buy from you.

On the other end of the spectrum, do not use these top five words to avoid in direct mail:

  1. Expensive: Duh! Who buys expensive stuff? We all want a deal!
  2. Charge: This word just makes me cringe! I don’t want to be charged! I want a positive, charge is negative.
  3. Price: It is never about the price! Do not even speak of it! It is about what you are doing for the recipient, like saving them time, money, headaches and so on.
  4. Cost: Just like price and charge, this is a turn off because you are focused on a negative.
  5. Sign: This is a real commitment it we have to sign for it. What if we are not ready? Think of ways to attract people, not scare them off.

These are by far not the only best and worst words to use, but they’ll give you a good start. When creating the copy for your campaign, be sure to consider how each word builds toward your message and call to action. Your call to action is the most important part. You need to give the recipient a reason to respond and how to respond.

Wonderful words mean nothing if they don’t drive the correct response. Tell your recipients exactly what you want them to do. Then provide them with multiple ways to do it. Keep in mind that we all have mobile devices with us 24/7, so you should allow for responses from tablets and cell phones. You will need your landing pages and website to have responsive design to accommodate this, but it will pay off for you big time. You can contact your mail service provider for help with the design, copy and pitfalls to avoid.

7 Tasty Copywriting Languages

How tasty is your copywriting? Taste-related words and figurative language can be more deliciously persuasive and sumptuously effective than literal words with the same meaning. Words that stimulate taste-activated areas in the brain are known to be associated with emotional processing. Language that frequently uses physical sensations or objects that refer to abstract domains, such as time, understanding or emotion, actually

How tasty is your copywriting? Taste-related words and figurative language can be more deliciously persuasive and sumptuously effective than literal words with the same meaning. Words that stimulate taste-activated areas in the brain are known to be associated with emotional processing. Language that frequently uses physical sensations or objects that refer to abstract domains, such as time, understanding or emotion, actually requires more brainpower, resulting in more engagement and comprehension.

To illustrate the point, the sentence, “She looked at him sweetly,” sparks more brain activity in emotion-based regions, like the amygdala, than, “She looked at him kindly.” Why? Because “sweet” amplifies a more physical experience, according to new research from Princeton University and the Free University of Berlin.

Figurative language can be more persuasive and effective in copywriting because your message is more imaginable in the reader’s mind.

For direct response copy, when practical (and without going overboard), a few tasty, figurative language uses can create more emotional reaction from your prospective customers. Figurative language works because the copy goes beyond the actual meanings of words. This way, the reader gains new insights into the objects or subjects in the work. Here are seven types of figurative language to consider using in copy and messaging.

1. Simile
A simile compares two things using the words “like” and “as.” Examples include:

  • Clean as a whistle
  • Brave as a lion
  • Stand out like a sore thumb

2. Metaphor
When you use a metaphor, you make a statement that doesn’t make literal sense, like “time is a thief.” It only makes sense when the similarities between the two things become apparent or someone understands the connection. Examples include:

  • Time is money
  • He has a heart of stone
  • America is a melting pot

3. Personification
Personification gives human characteristics to inanimate objects, animals or ideas. This can affect the way your customer imagines things. Examples include:

  • Opportunity knocked on the door
  • The sun can greet you tomorrow morning
  • The sky was full of dancing stars

4. Hyperbole
Hyperbole is an outrageous exaggeration that emphasizes a point, and can be ridiculous or funny. Hyperbole is useful in fiction to add color, but should be used sparingly and with caution in marketing copy. Examples are:

  • You snore louder than a freight train.
  • It’s a slow burg. I spent a couple of weeks there one day.
  • You could have knocked me over with a feather.

5. Symbolism
Symbolism occurs when a word which has meaning in itself, but it’s used to represent something entirely different. In this case, work with your graphics team, as images can express symbolism powerfully. Examples are:

  • Using an image of a flag to represent patriotism and a love for one’s country.
  • Using an apple pie to represent an American lifestyle.
  • Using an apple to represent education.

6. Alliteration. Alliteration is a repetition of the first consonant sounds in several words. An example:

  • Wide-eyed and wondering while we wait for the other ones to waken

7. Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is the use of words that sound like their meaning, or mimic sounds. They add a level of fun and reality to writing. Here are some examples:

  • The burning wood hissed and crackled
  • The words: beep, boom, bong, click, clang, click, crunch, gobble, hum, meow, munch, oink, pow, quack, smash, swish, tweet, wham, whoosh, zap and zing.

Regardless of the type of words used, figurative language can help people visualize your product or service more instinctively. With tasty copy, you heighten senses that immerse prospects and customers to more powerfully see themselves possessing what you have to offer.

The Fun of Marketing Lexicons

The first time I heard Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie referred to as “Brangelina,” I admit I laughed out loud. Not only did it reflect the “mergement” of their individual brands and personalities, but it was the perfect way to describe the famous “let’s-do-everything-together” couple

The first time I heard Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie referred to as “Brangelina,” I admit I laughed out loud. Not only did it reflect the “mergement” of their individual brands and personalities, but it was the perfect way to describe the famous “let’s-do-everything-together” couple.

From Bennifer to A-Rod, many clever neologisms have crept into our everyday vernacular—but these new portmanteaux (a combination of two, or more, words and their definitions into one word) are not just for celebrities any more.

The history of portmanteau words is a long one. Words like “smog” (coined by blending smoke and fog), “motel(motor and hotel) and “newscast(news and broadcast) have become familiar and instantly recognizable parts of the English language.

More recently, portmanteaux have crept into our marketing speak, as they can provide the ideal way to describe a complex idea in just one or two cleverly crafted words that will be instantly understood by readers/listeners.

Call it creative grammar or the result of a 140-character limit, these new memorable mashups are rapidly becoming part of our cultural landscape. While you may not find these useful in your day-to-day copywriting, I promise you’ll find a way to incorporate them into your everyday conversations:

  • Glamping: Headed on an African safari? Who would choose to sleep on a bedroll on the hard ground when you can spend the night in a beautiful white tent, on a raised platform (to avoid snakes!), tucked into a cozy bed covered in a down comforter? The word has become so popular an entire travel company took ownership by rebranding itself.
  • Frenemy: You shared your big idea with your boss. They sold it up the food chain as their idea and got a raise, a promotion and the corner office. You hold friends close, but hold these folks closer.
  • Hangry: How you feel at 7 p.m. after you learn what your boss did with your idea. Pass the ketchup.
  • Fauxthority: Just because they wrote a book on a topic doesn’t mean they know anything about it. (Can you say “ghost writer”?)
  • Fandemonium: Fans of a celeb/performer/event take over the sidewalk, road, and surrounding area.
  • Socially bipolar: You’re successful, popular and well paid. You get to a business conference, don’t recognize anyone and stand alone, sipping your Merlot. Okay, perhaps not an official portmanteau, but you get the picture.
  • Scentsational: It smells as good as it looks and tastes.
  • Sexting: Um … I think this is self-explanatory.

And, of course, what list of portmanteaux would be complete without the word “Wikipedia”—the blending of the Hawaiian word “wiki” (which means fast) and “encyclopedia.” Interestingly, if you search the word “wiki,” you’ll find that it now refers to a web application that “allows people to add, modify or delete content in collaboration with others.” That definition, of course, comes from Wikipedia.

Who’s Your Scapegoat?

I find it interesting that machines and procedures often become scapegoats for “human” errors. Remember the time when the word “mainframe” was a dirty word? As if those pieces of hardware were contaminated by some failure-inducing agents. Yeah, sure. All your worries will disappear along with those darn mainframes. Or did they?

I find it interesting that machines and procedures often become scapegoats for “human” errors. Remember the time when the word “mainframe” was a dirty word? As if those pieces of hardware were contaminated by some failure-inducing agents. Yeah, sure. All your worries will disappear along with those darn mainframes. Or did they? I don’t know what specific hardware is running behind those intangible “clouds” nowadays, but in the age when anyone can run any operating system on any type of hardware, the fact that such distinctions made so much mayhem in organizations is just ridiculous. I mean really, when most of computing and storage are taken care of in the big cloud, how is the screen that you’re looking at any different than a dummy terminal from the old days? Well, of course they are in (or near) retina display now, but I mean conceptually. The machines were just doing the work that they were designed to do. Someone started blaming the hardware for their own shortcomings, and soon, another dirty word was created.

In some circles of marketers, you don’t want to utter “CRM” either. I wasn’t a big fan of that word even when it was indeed popular. For a while, everything was CRM this or CRM that. Companies spent seven-figure sums on some automated CRM solution packages, or hired a whole bunch of specialists whose titles included the word CRM. Evidently, not every company broke even on that investment, and the very concept “CRM” became the scapegoat in many places. When the procedure itself is the bad guy, I guess fewer heads will roll—unless, of course, one’s title includes that dirty word. But really, how is that “Customer Relationship Management” could be all that bad? Delivering the right products and offers to the right person through the right channel can’t be that wrong, can it? Isn’t that the whole premise of one-to-one marketing, after all?

Now, if someone overinvested on some it-can-walk-on-the-water automated system, or just poorly managed the whole thing, let’s get the record straight. Someone just messed it all up. But the concept of taking care of customers with data-based marketing and sales programs was never the problem. If an unqualified driver creates a major car accident, is that the car’s fault? It would be easier to blame the internal combustion engine for human errors, but it just ain’t fair. Fair or not, however, over-investment or blind investment on anything will inevitably call for a scapegoat. If not now, in the near future. My prediction? The next scapegoat will be “Big Data” if that concept doesn’t create steady revenue streams for investors soon. But more on that later.

I’ve seen some folks who think “analytics” is bad, too. That one is tricky, as the word “analytics” doesn’t mean just one thing. It could be about knowing what is going on around us (like having a dashboard in a car). Or it could be about describing the target (where are the customers and what do they look like?). Or it could be about predicting the future (who is going to buy what and where?). So, when I hear that “analytics” didn’t work out for them, I am immediately thinking someone screwed things up dearly after overspending on that thing called “analytics,” and then started blaming everything else but themselves. But come on, if you bought a $30,000 grand piano for your kids to play chopsticks on it, is that the piano’s fault?

In the field of predictive analytics for marketing, the main goals come down to these two:

  1. To whom should you be talking, and
  2. If you decided to talk to someone, what are you going to offer? (Please don’t tell me “the same thing for everyone”.)

And that’s really it. Sure, we can talk about products and channels too, but those are all part of No. 2.

No. 1 is relatively simple. Let’s say you have an opportunity to talk to 1 million people, and let’s assume it will cost about $1 to talk to each of them. Now, if you can figure out who is more likely to respond to your offer “before” you start talking to them, you can obviously save a lot of money. Even with a rudimentary model with some clunky data, we can safely cut that list down to 1/10 without giving up much opportunity and save you $900,000. Even if your cost is a fraction of that figure, there still is a thing called “opportunity cost,” and you really don’t want to annoy people by over-communicating (as in “You’re spamming me!”). This has been the No. 1 reason why marketers have been employing predictive models, going back to the punchcard age of the ’60s. Of course, there have been carpet-bombers like AOL, but we can agree that such a practice calls for a really deep pocket.

No. 2 gets more interesting. In the age of ubiquitous data and communication channels, it must become the center of attention. Analytics are no longer about marketers deciding to whom to talk, as marketers are no longer the sole dictators of the communication. Now that it is driven by the person behind the screen in real-time, marketers don’t even get to decide whether they should talk to them or not. Yes, in traditional direct marketing or email channels, “selection” may still matter, but the age of “marketers ranking the list of prospects” is being rapidly replaced by “marketers having to match the right product and offer to the person behind the screen in real-time.” If someone is giving you about half a second for you to respond, then you’d best find the most suitable offer in that time, too. It’s all about the buyers now, not the marketers or the channels. And analytics drive such personalization. Without the analytics, everyone who lands on some website or passes by some screen will get the same offer. That is so “1984,” isn’t it?

Furthermore, the analytics that truly drive personalization at this level are not some simple segmentation techniques either. By design, segmentation techniques put millions of people in the same bucket, if a few commonalities are found among them. And such common variables could be as basic as age, income, region and number of children—hardly the whole picture of a person. The trouble with that type of simplistic approach is also very simple: Nobody is one-dimensional. Just because a few million other people in the same segment to which I happen to be assigned are more “likely” to be into outdoor sports, should I be getting camping equipment offers whenever I go to ESPN.com? No siree. Someone can be a green product user, avid golfer, gun owner, children’s product buyer, foreign traveler, frequent family restaurant visitor and conservative investor, all at the same time. And no, he may not even have multiple personalities; and no, don’t label him with this “one” segment name, no matter how cute that name may be.

To deal with this reality, marketers must embrace analytics even more. Yes, we can estimate the likelihood measures of all these human characteristics, and start customizing our products and offers accordingly. Once complex data variables are summarized into the form of “personas” based on model scores, one doesn’t have to be a math genius to know this particular guy would appreciate the discount offer for cruise tickets more than a 10 percent-off coupon for home theater systems.

Often people are afraid of the unknowns. But that’s OK. We all watch TV without really understanding how HD quality pictures show up on it. Let’s embrace the analytics that way, too. Let’s not worry about all the complex techniques and mystiques behind it. Making it easy for the users should be the job of analysts and data scientists, anyway. The only thing that the technical folks would want from the marketers is asking the right questions. That still is the human element in all this, and no one can provide a right answer to a wrong question. Then again, is that how analytics became a dirty word?

Slapping Lipstick on It Doesn’t Mean It’s Content

Adding a forward-facing camera to a smartphone was truly one of those “tipping point” moments. So it was no surprise when the word “selfie” was proclaimed the “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year.” In return, I’d like to nominate the word “content” as the “Marketing Word of the Year.” But unlike the word “selfie,” which can be somewhat self-explanatory, the word “content” seems to be completely misunderstood.

Adding a forward-facing camera to a smartphone was truly one of those “tipping point” moments. Not only does it allow us to take a spur of the moment picture, but it feeds into society’s obsession with “look-at-me-now!” social media. So it was no surprise when the word “selfie” was proclaimed the “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year.”

In return, I’d like to nominate the word “content” as the “Marketing Word of the Year.” But unlike the word “selfie,” which can be somewhat self-explanatory, the word “content” seems to be completely misunderstood.

In the strictest sense of the word, content is the subject or topic covered in a book, document, website, blog, video or webinar. And Content Marketing is the new black.

Just a few years ago, you could generate attention with a few media placements and a well-crafted message. But now consumers, especially in the B-to-B space, want more—more insight into how your product/service will make a difference in their business, more case studies that demonstrate how others have leveraged your product/service to increase ROI, more proof of concept.

The trouble is, many B-to-B marketers (and B-to-C for that matter) haven’t figured out what makes good content. And since the content-to-noise ratio is increasing daily, it’s important that marketers get a clear view of what defines great and valuable content, and why.

Since I’ve not been impressed with many attempts at content marketing, I want to share a few “what NOT to do” examples:

  • Content is different from advertisement. Recently, Boston Private Bank Trust Company was running a leaderboard banner ad with a stock image of a family, in front of an American flag, and a huge headline: “Watch our new video >”. Shaking my head at the banality of the message, I went ahead and clicked just to see if maybe the problem was with the packaging of the content. It took me to the home page of their website, where the video dominated my screen. I started to watch and discovered it was merely a 90 second advertisement. Although it was beautifully shot and artfully directed, it only took 12 seconds for the announcer to start talking about the benefits of banking with Boston. Scanning the rest of the home page (very difficult since the top 2/3 were covered with the video and “Look how great we are!” messaging), I didn’t see one case study, whitepaper/POV document on managing wealth that might help me feel, “Hey, I like what these guys are saying; I’d like to talk to someone at Boston about my needs.”
  • Heavily gated content just irritates me. I understand the strategy: Create content, offer it up to your targets, require they “register” before they can get access so you can fill your lead funnel. But, often, landing pages that require so much information are a deterrent to completion. Sometimes, I’ll provide “Mickey Mouse” types of answers, just so I can complete the process and get to the paper. Do you really need me to answer six questions beyond name and email address so you can pre-qualify me and make sure your sales guy isn’t wasting his time following up? Good content marketing strategies look at a longer term contact strategy, not a one-and-done process. If I download the article, then try dripping on me with more emails with more content. If I keep downloading, chances are I might be a solid lead, so reach out to me via email and, if qualifying me by company size or # of employees is critical, then do a little homework. A few clicks of the mouse will probably find that information for you.
  • Understand the difference between whitepapers and case studies. A whitepaper is called a whitepaper for a reason—it’s supposed to be an independent point of view around a topic. Too many whitepapers are either platforms for self-aggrandizement or poorly disguised sales pitches. Well-written whitepapers are informative, insightful and topical. It takes professional writing skill to add nuances that paint your product/service in a positive light—and not as a thump to the head with a frying pan. Case Studies, on the other hand, are an opportunity to let one of your customers formally endorse your brand. They should include the situation/problem and how it was solved, and, if possible, a quote attributed to a name/title at the buyers organization.

Designing your content so it is attractive, easy to read, and a combination of text, graphs and images, is a given. But don’t, for a minute, think you can take your advertising (video or otherwise), market it as content and check the box for content marketing off on your list.

38 Marketing Words That Sell in Social Media

Are the words that generate response from social media and blogs different than words that work for direct mail? Or are digital marketers finally figuring out the most responsive words that direct marketing copywriters have known for generations? Whether this is new information to you, or confirms what you already knew, today’s blog is about words, and how response to specific words in the online space could strengthen your

Are the words that generate response from social media and blogs different than words that work for direct mail? Or are digital marketers finally figuring out the most responsive words that direct marketing copywriters have known for generations? Whether this is new information to you, or confirms what you already knew, today’s blog is about words, and how response to specific words in the online space could strengthen your offline marketing initiatives.

A blog post titled “A scientific guide to writing great headlines on Twitter, Facebook and your blog” got me to thinking about how their findings correspond with that of direct marketer’s experience. In that blog, Leo Widrich answers his most asked question: “How can I write great headlines for social networks and my blog?” So with credit to Widrich’s research, and other research I’ll acknowledge in a moment, let’s compare how these findings relate to direct marketing.

Twitter Words
Here are two headlines tested in Twitter, both leading to the same blog post, and each tweeted to the same audience within an hour of each other. Which do you think had higher clicks and was considered a “top tweet?”

  1. How many hours should we work every day? The science of mental strength.
  2. The origin of the 8 hour work day and why we should rethink it.

If you answered “2,” you’re right. It had double the number of clicks.

To an experienced direct marketer, this would probably come as no surprise. A specific number was used in version “2” (8 hour work day) combined with a provocative statement (why we should rethink it). Version “1” asked a question (not always the strongest way to write a headline) and used big words (science of mental strength).

A study by Dan Zarrella of Hubspot analyzed 200,000 links containing tweets and found that tweets that contained more adverbs and verbs had higher clickthroughs (1 percent to 2.5 percent higher) than noun- and adjective-heavy tweets (2 percent to 3.5 percent lower). Once again, an experienced direct marketing copywriter would probably not be at all surprised.

Finally, the study finds that when you ask for an action in social media, it increases clicks and response. Ask for a download or a retweet (retweets are three times higher when asked), and, remarkably, people will do as told. As direct marketers, we already know that a solid call-to-action is a must to generate response.

The 20 most retweetable words (some of which, by the way, could be well suited to be used in subject lines in emails):

  • you
  • twitter
  • please
  • retweet
  • post
  • blog
  • social
  • free
  • media
  • help
  • please retweet
  • great
  • social media
  • 10
  • follow
  • how to
  • top
  • blog post
  • check out
  • new blog post

Facebook Words
The news, here, is that the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true. But it’s not just any picture. The pictures that result in better click performance tell the story within the picture. In other words, the picture must be self-explanatory, more than just a graphic.

KISSmetrics says a photo with a Facebook post get 53 percent more likes, 104 percent more comments and 84 percent more clickthroughs. In addition, posts with 80 characters or less get 66 percent more engagement. These are trends that I can validate, based on an assortment of text-only posts, posts with photos, and posts with videos I’ve placed for an organization’s Facebook page that I administer.

The action item for direct marketers using offline media: First, when you use a picture, the picture should be self-explanatory. Second, photos combined with shorter copy in headlines and leads can result in creating curiosity for the person to keep reading.

Blog Post Words
In “The Dark Science of Naming Your Post: Based on Study 100 Blogs,” author Iris Shoor reveals how much the post title has an impact on the number of opens. (Akin to a direct mail outer envelope teaser or a letter headline or an email subject line—should there be any surprise the words you choose make a difference?) What is credible about this research is that the author analyzed these words with a script that evaluated blogs and sorted all the posts from the most read, to the least shared. All good information for direct marketers writing direct mail or other print media.

Here are examples of words (called “let there be blood” by Shoor) appearing in blog titles that yielded high opens.

  • kill
  • fear
  • dark
  • bleeding
  • war
  • fantasy
  • dead

Negative words are more powerful for shares than an ordinary word, like No/Without/Stop. “The app you can’t live without” will go more viral than “The app which will improve your life,” Shoor states.

Confirmation for direct marketers: negative works.

And numbers work. Bigger numbers are better than smaller numbers. Despite what your grammar teacher told you, use digits rather than words. And place the number at the head of the sentence. No surprise here, to a seasoned direct mail copywriter.

And we like to learn. Preferably in five minutes. Titles that promise to teach tend to go viral.

Other words that tend to appear in viral posts:

  • smart
  • surprising
  • science
  • history
  • hacks (hacking, hackers, etc.)
  • huge/big
  • critical

Words that suppress:

  • announcing
  • wins
  • celebrates
  • grows

A couple of comparisons that seem to not make a difference: “I” versus “you.” Nor does “how to” have an effect on how viral a post will be.

What does all of this mean to direct marketers? First, I’d observe that many of these findings shouldn’t surprise an experienced direct marketer or direct mail copywriter. Maybe the online world is finally catching up to what we have tested and proven for generations.

But second, this is a reminder that what works in the online space can translate well into improving response offline, too. That’s a lesson to take to the bank.

Timing Really Is Everything

The recent flaps over mailings sent out by Republican fundraisers reminded me of a rule put forth years ago by the late Dick Benson: “Direct mail should be scrupulously honest.” In case you don’t know, here’s the skinny. First, the use of the word “Census” on mailings by the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee led to Congressional passage of a bill last month that required new, clarifying language on the outer.

The recent flaps over mailings sent out by Republican fundraisers reminded me of a rule put forth years ago by the late Dick Benson: “Direct mail should be scrupulously honest.”

In case you don’t know, here’s the skinny. First, the use of the word “Census” on mailings by the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee led to Congressional passage of a bill last month that required new, clarifying language on the outer. Apparently, there had been some concern that people would mistake these efforts for the big Census Bureau mailing that was due to drop. Then, someone who actually had that complaint called the number on the RNC’s donation form, only to discover that it was for a phone sex line. Coming on the heels of news about lavish RNC spending, it’s been a tough few weeks for the party.

It’s easy to dismiss the second problem as merely a vendor mistake, one that appeared on only some of the mailings. It’s also easy to brush aside criticism of using “Census” on the outer. After all, it’s legal — it had passed muster with the USPS. And, it doesn’t really look like the Census mailer. It’s pretty obvious when opened that it’s just another issues poll, with leading questions, and a request for money. There’s nothing wrong with that, both parties have been mailing surveys for many years.

But it illustrates a bigger problem. A great national political party shouldn’t rely on a gimmick, like putting “Census”, or the IRS form — like “(2009) Return Enclosed” on the outer envelope to get someone to open it. Seriously, no one at the RNC thought this through, and saw this bad publicity coming? And, given how some of the Republican base feels about the Census, and especially, the IRS, it’s an especially puzzling choice of a teaser.

Twenty-five years ago, in the newsletter Who’s Mailing What!, Roger Craver wrote that to have a successful direct mail appeal, the “donors of principle,” the heart of any political organization, must be motivated by writing that conveys mission, selectivity, urgent need and effectiveness. The GOP was way ahead of the Democratic Party in this regard for decades, but as shown in the 2008 presidential race, not anymore. It’s going to be very interesting to see how both parties will energize the faithful in this election year.