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

Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter
Issue # 48: Spring 2007 Issue



1. Calendar Calamity

2. Better Letters

3. "The Brand in Your Hand"

4. Personalized Television

5. Getting Creative With Direct Mail

6. Caples Winners

7. Bob Stone

8. Calendar Calamity II




Dear Friends,

You're absolutely right — it's not really spring yet. And the temperature in Boston plummeted to 2 degrees just about a week ago.

But the spirit of spring, one of hope and renewal, is appropriate at any time. And that's what I'd like to share with you.

This newsletter includes information on two new high technology marketing solutions as well as some basic (but important) lessons.

I hope you find it useful to you in your business.


All the best,



Calendar Calamity

One of my travel clients called me recently with an urgent problem.

At the very last minute, they had decided to create and mail a beautiful calendar to past customers. This is an excellent technique, since it has the potential to be in front of people for an entire year.

However, they were in a bit too much of a rush and the printed calendar had a number of unfortunate mistakes. For example, September had 29 days — but to be fair, so did February.

My client wanted to know — whether they should mail everyone a new, corrected calendar at a cost of about $20,000; send a letter asking people to call for the corrected calendar; or simply ignore the issue.

What would you do?

Please see my recommendation — which they used — at the end of this newsletter.


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Better Letters

Most of the direct marketing letters we receive these days are dull and dry. The thinking is — let's just get to the point — people are too busy to read.

I am delighted that most companies feel that way — because it makes it easier for good letters to stand out. Let me give you two recent examples:

1. Smithsonian Journeys is another travel client of mine. (By the way, it wasn't their calendar.) They needed a letter to promote a Trans Canada railway vacation.

A regular letter might begin with something like, " I am writing to invite you on an exciting railway tour through Canada."

I wanted to capture the drama of the trip, and tell a story, and so I did some research. My letter begins:

Dear <Sample A. Sample,>

          They said it couldn't be done.

          It was 1882, and the Canadian Pacific Railway came to an
abrupt halt at the foot of the Canadian Rockies.

          The towering Selkirk range, with its sheer walls, dense
forests and year-round ice fields loomed as an almost
impossible barrier to transportation. There was no way to go
through them...or was there?

          The Railway offered a bonus of $5,000 (a fortune at the
time) to anyone who could find a way through. And one
courageous surveyor, Major A.B. Roberts found a possible

          Three years later, the final leg of the famous Trans
Canada Railroad was completed between Toronto and Vancouver
and with that began the golden age of travel from coast to


2. Another one of my clients offers health insurance for pets. This is a rapidly growing industry that has been highly successful in several European countries and is just beginning to catch on here in the States.

As part of our consulting, we recommend that they tie in with a "pet-oriented" organization such as the ASPCA, which they did. In fact, they even negotiated to use the name, "ASPCA Pet Health Insurance" which gave them instant name recognition and credibility.

The letter needed to look and sound important — and so this is how it began:



It provides important, even life-saving benefits
for your pet at any licensed veterinarian


Dear <Sample A. Sample>,

          Your health care costs have indoubtedly gone up in
the past ten years...

          ...but are you aware that the average costs of
veterinary treatment have more than doubled?

          And that costs for certain kinds of treatments —
including surgery, chemotherapy and even routine
preventative procedures — have risen even faster?

                  The fact is that the costs of keeping your pet
                  healthy — or even saving their life — has never
                  been higher.

                  That's why, in response to this growing problem,
                  we are proud to introduce ASPCA Pet Health


Just to remind you — the letter is the most important part of a direct mail package. Reasearch by Ogilvy & Mather showed that the letter is responsible for 65-75% of the response.

I'm not quite sure how they measured that but I believe it.

Never settle for just an ordinary letter, and you'll never have to settle for a poor response.


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"The Brand In Your Hand"

Marketing has become like VISA — except "it's everywhere you don't want it to be."

As you may know, the use of SMS Text Messaging has arrived — and that's banner ads on your cell phone.

Fareen Sultan, a marketing professor at Northeastern University, calls it "the brand in your hand".

The benefits are reaching people 18-34 who are virtually immune to most forms of regular advertising. They get their news online — so print won't work. They TiVo® the shows they want to see, skipping the commercials.

Most companies are approaching this new media cautiously — afraid of the backlash. However, companies that are using it report click-through rates of 3-6%.

But there's another new technique that might be even more exciting...


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Personalized TV

Wendy's is testing versioning its TV commercial based on the weather in a specific market.

The fast food company developed two different TV commercials, with specific instructions to the stations on which one to play.

  • If the temperature was above 60°, the commercial advertised Wendy's milkshakes.
  • If the temperature was below 60°, the commercial advertised Wendy's hot chili.

Now this isn't groundbreaking. Back when I worked on Allerest, the allergy relief medicine, we used to do similar things on radio.

But it's the next step that's really remarkable.

The technology is beginning to evolve where companies can deliver personalized TV commercials to specific households.

Certain zip codes might get specific messages while others get different ones.

For example, Scotts Lawn Service might only be interested in talking to people living in suburbs and not in crowded (and mostly lawn-less) cities.

And believe it or not, one company has developed technology that will recognize whether a man or a woman is watching a particular show.

This is based on measuring how the person uses the remote — and they claim 95% accuracy.

So an advertiser will be able to instantly exchange one commercial, targeted to men, for another commercial, which is targeted to women.


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Getting Creative With Direct Mail

The DMA just published their first-ever report on the benchmarks and preferred practices in direct mail, for both B2B and B2C.

It evaluates 11 crucial elements of a direct mail package, including Outer Envelopes, Postage, Letters, Reply Devices and even Offers.

For example, a Free Gift is the most widely used offer, and worked better than discounts.

This is consistent with my own findings — adding value (a Free Gift) is almost always more effective than discounting.

The reason is that when you add value, the responder gets more. When you discount, they get the same thing, but they just pay less.

The DMA report also shows you what percentage of advertisers test each element, and their reported results.

I have just begun diving into it — but it's something that no serious direct mail company should be without. (If you get even one idea, or learn even one lesson, it pays for itself many times over.)

You can order your copy — or receive more information — at


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Caples Winners

I just came back from the John Caples Award Show — where I had the great pleasure of watching Nancy Harhut receive the Andi Emerson Award for outstanding service to the direct marketing community.

I have admired Nancy for many years, and I was delighted to see her gain the recognition she deserves. I also saw some terrific work — which I'd like to share with you.

  • The IDO agency in Belgium created a brilliant direct mail package for their client, Staedler Erasers.

They wanted to prove just how effective the product is — and also involve the reader. So they sent out letters written entirely in pencil.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

The package also included a sample eraser. The headline read, " Erase this Letter and then decide whether or not to stock our product."


  • OgilvyOne in Germany did a terrific letter from the Evangelical Church, inviting ministers to attend a special event about declining church attendance.

The letter consisted of only one sentence .... with the words sparsely distributed down the page. The sentence:

Dear <Name>,

Does this




remind you



of your




last church





  • Aim Proximity of New Zealand won a Caples for their "Body Parts" campaign, created on behalf of The Bank of New Zealand.

The agency created a fictitious campany that encouraged students to sell spare body parts to pay for college.

The creative work included outrageous handouts that included a price list for every part of the body, text messaging, and banner ads. But when you clicked on the banner (presumably to sell a part of your body,) a new message popped up.

"Don't get Desperate. Get a Campus Pack" which spelled out all the details of the Bank of New Zealand ATM/Student Discount card.


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Bob Stone

Bob Stone, one of the giants of direct marketing, passed away last month at the age of 88.

Among his many accomplishments, he was the author of the classic book, Successful Direct Marketing Methods.

The book was so valuable and so important, that when a new edition appeared, the headline read, "Bob Stone Just Updated The Bible." It was translated into 10 different languages.

On a personal note, Bob was a warm and generous man, always approachable, always eager to share his wisdom and experience.

When I asked him to review my book several years ago, he was the first person to respond, and provided me with a wonderful quote.


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Calendar Calamity II

The travel company decided to have fun with their mistake — but you probably guessed that, didn't you?

They sent out a letter to their customers that admitted their mistakes; and offered a Free World Wildlife Fund Calendar to anyone who called.

I also recommended that they include:

"P.S. It would be a real mistake if you missed out on any of our wonderful tours."

As the client wrote me, "The apology for the crappy calendar was a huge hit. We've not only received 400 requests for the new calendar, but people e-mailed saying they liked our approach."

One person wrote, "Some companies would try to ignore or cover up their mistakes, but you addressed the problem head-on and came up with creative ways to make the best of it. I very much admire that you have kept not only your perspective but also your sense of humor about this. In order to save paper, I will not be asking for a replacement calendar, or trying for a copy of the Andes book, but it was generous of you to make the offer."

It works just as well in direct mail as it does in life:

Admit your mistakes. Be human. And don't attempt to "cover up" things — be the first one to point them out and poke fun at it.


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Thank you,



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