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National Mail Order Association (NMOA)
Direct Marketing
and Mail Order

Alan Rosenspan's "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
July 2002
Issue # 13: Bonding & Motorcycle Test


• 1. Brands, Bribes & Bonds
• 2. DM in the Age of Enron
• 3. Adult Products, Inc.
• 4. Harley Davidson Contest
• 5. New e-Mail Website

I just returned from the Pan Pacific Symposium in Sydney Australia, where I did a keynote speech on "How to Boost Your Response" and a breakout session on creativity and copywriting.

I also climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge - about 500 feet above the bay, with an outstanding view of the Opera House and the entire city. It was wonderful.

But I'm glad to be back, and I have some new ideas I'd like to share with you.

Brands, Bribes and Bonds

At the Pan Pacific Symposium, one of the speakers was Don Neal, a Senior Vice President at Rapp Collins Worldwide. Don talked about loyalty and cited some surprising figures:

  • 79% of all Americans don't see a clear benefit to being loyal to any company.

  • Only 4% of consumers are delighted with service and product quality.

Don went on to discuss how companies can do more effective Customer Relationship Management.

He cited an article by Len Berry in the Sloan Management Review that said, "The level of relationship is determined by the type of bond between the buyer and the seller."

Don described three levels of bonding, each one stronger than the one before it.

  1. Financial Bond. This is where you reward customers with points, coupons, incentives, etc. It's the easiest form of bonding to break, since it's based purely on getting the best deal.

  2. Social Bond. This is where the customer has an individual relationship with a salesperson, or a company. It can also be called an Emotional Bond.

  3. Structural Bond. This is the most effective bond. It's where the customer is tied into the product or product delivery in some way.

For example, Don cited the Mobil Speed Pass as a highly successful structural bond.

As you may know, the Speed Pass is a little card that can attach to your car keys. It allows you to go into any Mobil gas station across the country, wave your pass at the pump, and have it automatically charged to a credit card.

The benefit: it allows you to buy gas without taking out your wallet, and it saves you about 3 seconds.

Not very compelling benefits, but gasoline is such a generic product, there's not a lot of value you can add. It's also a highly competitive category -- you can find two or three competing gas stations on practically any corner.

So how many people do you think have signed up for the Speed Pass? Over 7 million people -- who now will drive past the Shell and Exxon stations straight to Mobil.

Mobil now accepts the Speed Pass in their gas station convenience stores too. And they are testing a transponder - that will automatically "alert" the pump when your car pulls in.

Another example of a structural bond is the Federal Express. They'll install a computer in your office that will automatically print labels and keep track of all your shipments. Once they do, it's virtually certain you'll never switch to UPS or any other carrier.

Don's advice: get the smartest people in your company together and try to come up with a way to form a structural bond with your customers.


DM in the Age of Enron

Do people trust businesses anymore? No, they don't.

With more and more companies being exposed for shoddy accounting practices - and sometimes criminal behavior - it's not surprising that consumer trust is at an all time low.

I recently saw some statistics from The Better Business Bureau, which are positively frightening.

  • 72% of all Americans review their monthly statements from credit card companies and phone bills. (I do - and I've often found mistakes, but never in my favor)

  • 66% believe companies have gotten too big to provide reliable service.

  • Only 18% of all consumers are confident that American businesses make decisions in the consumer's best interest.

So what can direct marketers do to overcome this mistrust, and get more people to respond? I have 6 suggestions:

  1. Avoid the hype

  2. People are turned off by bragging and boasting -- and besides, how many products are truly "amazing!" and "revolutionary?"

    I've seen dozens of advertisements and direct mail packages that started off well but soon lost all credibility.

    Understating your benefits may be more effective than overstating them - and more believable.

    Of course, the most important place to avoid hype is in the subject line of your e-mails. There's no better way to make them look like SPAM and be instantly deleted.

  3. Show, don't tell

  4. In this un-trusting age, people want to see what's being offered. Show your product in use. Show your product (actual size.) Show a photograph of the offer.

    The old expression, "Seeing is believing" works very, very well in direct marketing.

  5. Use testimonials

  6. If you're already using them - use more. Testimonials are highly credible and incredibly persuasive. After all, it's not you telling me how great you are - it's your customers.

    If you don't have any testimonials, that's okay. Simply send a letter to every customer (or every new customer) asking them for feedback and comments to "use in our marketing materials."

    Note: Keeping it as broad as that will enable you to use their testimonials in ads, direct mail, and on your website without having to keep going back and getting their permission.

    Start doing this now, and before long, you'll have a bank of testimonials to draw from.

  7. Be sincere

  8. This relates to my first suggestion, but goes a little bit deeper.

    You may have heard the old line; "People don't care what you feel, until they feel that you care."

    Remember that direct marketing is a personal and private medium. You are talking to only one person at a time. Your copy should reflect that.

    In my seminars, I point out that every direct marketing letter starts with the same word --"Dear."

    If the rest of your copy keeps that tone, it will be much more effective.

  9. Give me proof.
    Now, more than ever, you need to prove your points - with charts, facts, statistics, and case-histories. Numbers always tend to work better than words. Do you remember the slogan for Wonder Bread? It "builds healthy bodies 12 ways." That's so much stronger and more believable than simply - "builds healthy bodies.

  10. Give me a guarantee
    Two years ago, I bought a scanner from the MacWarehouse. I wasn't happy with it, so I called the 800 number on the catalogue. The woman informed me that they don't have a moneyback guarantee.

    I was incredulous - and more than a little upset.

    Since then, I've spent over $12,000 on computers and software -- not one penny of it with the MacWarehouse.

    The best companies will always offer their customers a 100% moneyback or 100% satisfaction guarantee. And that's who consumers will do business with.

    I have an article called, "The Incredible Power of Credibility" which I'm happy to send you. Just e-mail me at

    And, by the way, if you like my newsletter, I'd love your feedback and comments to "use in our marketing materials."


Adult Products, Inc.

I thought you might skip right down to this one.

So I'm doing a seminar for the DMA in New York, and an attractive woman stands up and confesses that she works for the largest seller of sexual products on the web (No names, sorry. Let's just call them "Adult Products, Inc.")

We get to the section on benefits, and we go around the room and everyone has to answer two questions: (1) What's the most important benefit of your product or service, and (2) What's the most unusual benefit?

And now it's her turn.

So she says, "I chose one of our products for this exercise. It's a vibrator, and the most important benefit is that it doesn't look like a vibrator…"

"Um…okay." I say, a little embarrassed, but she did pay for the seminar, "…and what's the most unusual benefit?"

"It's dishwasher safe."

The rest of the seminar participants exploded with laughter, and we had to take a break.


Harley Davidson Contest

I've been using a new exercise in my seminars that I want to share with you. It's a bit of a creativity test - and there is a prize involved.

First, I ask participants to come up with a terrific visual for a print ad for Harley Davidson motorcycles.

You can show the motorcycle parked in an exotic place. You can show someone out of the ordinary riding it. You don't even have to show the motorcycle at all.

I usually get some great answers, but that's not the part I want you to do.

The visual that Harley Davidson used was a motorcycle parked inside a church, right at the altar. It's a beautiful shot, with the light streaming in from the stained glass windows.

The second part is to write the headline for that ad, and that's what I'm inviting you to do.

Just for fun, give it a try.

The best headline received by August 1st will win a free copy of my book, Pushing the Envelope, a $49.99 value which is due to be published (finally!) in September.

This exercise proves that visuals are much more important than headlines and that once you have a great visual, the headline practically writes itself.

I'll reveal the actual headline that they used in my next newsletter, but I'm confident you can come up with a good one.


New e-Mail Website

In Australia, I met Malcom Auld, who's written two of the best (and best-selling) books on direct marketing I've ever come across.

They're called "Direct Marketing Made Easy" and "e-Marketing Made Easy" and they're so good, I wish I had read them five years ago.

The books are packed with case-histories, as well as excellent tips on everything from How to Buy Media That Generates a Response, How to Brief an Advertising Agency, and The Essentials of Testing.

Malcom also has a website ( which has a great deal of useful information about e-marketing.


I would love to have your opinion on whether or not it works, or any comments and suggestions. Please visit when you have a moment.

Thanks, and have a wonderful summer.


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