I'm sorry I haven't been able to get this out sooner, but I have a good reason.
And it's not that I've been in Japan these past two months!
My assistant Jodi Maffioli gave birth to a beautiful baby boy last month, and she's been out on maternity leave.
And after almost 7 years of working together, I'm just not functioning well without her.
All the best, Alan
While I was in Japan, I had the chance to view the winning work in Japan's version of the Echo's.
And I noticed a real difference between their work and most of ours. Their direct mail is much more graphic, with greater emphasis on visuals.
It makes sense in a country where Manga (books written in a comic book format) is read by more adults than children, and where the language itself originates from pictographs.
But visualizing benefits and showing people actually using your product works in any country and in any language.
Remember the old rule: people remember less than 10% of what they hear, and 60% of what they see.
And no one gives a better illustration of this than Professor Edward Tufte.
You may know the name from his landmark book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
You may also have received his seminar mailings, which include a famous chart of Napoleon's March on Moscow in 1812.
Tufte is a Professor Emeritus at Yale University and his seminars focus on how human beings perceive information. I loved it and I recommend it to anyone in direct marketing.
Let me share two of his most important points:
1. Charts and graphs can do much more than inform people, they can be powerful tools of persuasion.
Tufte described how the New York Mafia boss John Gotti was acquitted back in 1987.
The main evidence against Gotti was the testimony of other gang members who became government informants. These witnesses received immunity for agreeing to testify.
In his defense, Gotti's attorney's put together a chart that listed all seven government informants and also all the crimes that they committed. These included multiple counts of murder, bribery, kidnapping, extortion you get the picture.
And so did the jury.
All together, these seven government witnesses had committed 69 major crimes far more than John Gotti was charged with. And this chart was the only piece of evidence the jury asked to review before acquitting Gotti of all charges.
2. Charts and visuals have enormous credibility.
The example Tufte used was Gallileo, who with his telescope observed that the Earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around.
But Gallileo accomplished much more than that. With this discovery, he introduced the concept of "Oculata Certitude" which is Latin for "Visual Certainty." And which can be further translated as "Seeing is Believing."
This was the radical idea that the truth wasn't just the best story, or the best interpretation, but what could actually be observed and proven.
You can apply this principle to direct marketing by using charts and
graphs that prove just how good your product works, or how people benefit
from using it.
As you may know, the John Caples International Awards honor the most innovative and creative direct marketing campaigns.
The awards, which were founded in 1984 by Andi Emerson, are named after John Caples.
John was a copywriter extraordinaire and is probably most famous for his classic ad for piano lessons. The headline read, "They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano...but then when I started to play!"
It's a little odd that the Caples Awards honor creativity because John Caples was really interested in results. He was one of the first to use scientific methods to test the effectiveness of advertising, and shared them in his landmark book, Tested Advertising Methods.
The book is still as useful and relevant as the day it was published, and includes chapters like:
In the introduction, David Ogilvy wrote, "An earlier edition (of the book) taught me most of what I know about writing advertisements." And "This is, without doubt, the most useful book about advertising I have ever read."
If you don't have your own copy of the book (mine is falling apart from use) you're really missing out.
It's amazing how much great direct marketing is done around the world these days and not just in the U.S.
I attended the 2006 Caples Award Show in New York City and the Best of Show Award went to The Republic of Singapore Navy.
It was called "Navy Page Turner" and the objective was daunting. The purpose of the campaign was to encourage 17-year olds to join the Singapore Navy.
It sounds like fun until you learn it's a 10-year commitment.
Saatchi & Saatchi of Singapore were up to the task. They send out bound paperback books, with titles that were personalized on the cover, the spine and the back cover.
The titles were designed to attract the attention of their market and also get excited about the adventures that lay ahead. They included:
Sample A. Sample in
Sample A. Sample in
The books were blank inside to dramatize the point that the story your story was waiting to be written.
And the copy in the enclosed letter asked the provocative question, "If your life was a book, would anyone read it?"
Let me confess: John Caples came to mind because I won an award at the Show the Andi Emerson Award for Outstanding Service to the Creative Community.
Here's what I said when I accepted it which I also want to share
While dining out in Japan, my wife and I noticed a small push-button bell on the table.
It read, "Please ring for service when you are ready."
So instead of a waitress or waiter coming up to you every few minutes, you can study the menu at your leisure and then push the bell when you're ready.
No, it's not a giant leap in customer service but it is convenient. And believe it or not, there's a lesson here for direct marketing.
Travel companies have been using this technique very successfully for quite some time. What they usually include on every reply card is some version of the question:
"When are you planning to travel?"
Obviously, the key word here is "When." The answer allows the travel company to prioritize the leads as (1) a hot prospect that needs to be contacted right away, (2) a cooler prospect who doesn't have an immediate need, but might be motivated, or (3) a "tire-kicker" who doesn't have any plans to travel any time soon.
This timing question can also be used very effectively in B2B where you might be reaching some prospects who are right in the middle of evaluating products or solutions like yours, and others who are further back in the decision process.
I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with the folks at Structural Graphics in Connecticut.
As you may know, Structural Graphics makes a huge variety of outstanding dimensional packages everything from pop-ups to interactive paper cubes.
They have over 25,000 designs in what they call their Dimensional DatabaseTM, and they will also create custom designs for their clients.
I have always been a big believer in dimensional mail but what impressed me most were the results of a 2003 study done by the Direct Marketing Association and Baylor University.
It showed that the response to dimensional mail was almost twice as much as regular direct mail, and second only to telemarketing. This was true in both B2B and B2C and surprisingly, even fundraising.
Dimensional mail was once considered too expensive but Structural graphics has patented a number of formats that are produced solely by machine. This has driven the cost down.
The highlight of the day for me was when they led me into their inventory room and loaded up a huge cardboard box of samples for me!
To request your own sample package, or to learn more, visit www.structuralgraphics.com
Recently President Bush signed a new bill that allows businesses to put their own images on first class U.S. Postage Stamps.
Previously, this program was limited only to individuals, but now businesses can do the same thing.
That means you can put a photograph of your product on the stamp, or your logo, or anything else you want. So far, I haven't seen any examples, but I thought of an interesting idea.
Why not send your company's Personalized Stamps as a free gift to your customers?
Your customers will benefit because they don't have to pay for the stamps. Your company benefits because each time they send out a letter, your name or logo is right in front of them!
As far as I know, no one's done it yet to my knowledge you can be the first.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article that stated "the most powerful word in direct marketing isn't "Free" it's "You."
My reason was when you use the word "you" in a headline or in a letter, it forces you to focus on the prospect or the customer and not your product or your company.
And I truly believe that is one of the great secrets of advertising, direct marketing and business in general.
But today, it's not enough to focus on the prospect or the customer you need to have the right attitude towards them. There are so many TV commercials, ads and direct marketing packages that make their customers look like idiots.
Don't believe me? Here are a couple of good and bad examples:
Let's face it. If a lot of people are telling you to get lost a Kia probably isn't going to help.
Do them the honor of subscribing? That sounds like they really respect me and want my business.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "Treat your enemies so well...they will do anything to be your friends."
When you treat your prospects with respect and intelligence , they will always want to become your customers.
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