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The b direct logo Hive

Take it Away

As marketers, we spend most of our time trying to persuade someone to do something — to read further, to turn the page, to visit the website, to make the phone call. But, have you ever tried to persuade your target customer not to do something?

In direct marketing we call that a "take-away." And, in many cases, it can be a copywriter's best friend.

When you decide to employ a take-away, what you essentially do is persuade the person to whom you're communicating that they want what you're selling. Then, as the name implies, you take it away.

Imagine you're in a store, shopping for something that has been notoriously hard to find (a bridal gown, for example, or a rare antique, a piece of sports memorabilia signed by your childhood hero ... you get the idea). After days, months or even years, you finally find exactly what you've been looking for. You're all set to make the purchase of a lifetime. But then, Oh no!, the salesperson sheepishly explains that the long sought after, much coveted item shoudn't have been on the sales floor after all. Someone has already purchased it.

Sacre bleu!

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A New Website? Now, That's Refreshing

Over the years, we've been asked to revamp websites for many clients — from colleges and universities, to high tech corporations, to financial advisors, to one of the area’s premier direct marketing companies. Regardless of their industry segment, these clients come to us with similar objectives:

• Develop a more contemporary and visually engaging website that better creates and communicates their unique brand

• Establish a single voice and go-to-market message that can be leveraged across all channels, targeting multiple constituents

• And develop a new website that works quantifiably harder from a business generation, direct marketing, and customer acquisition perspective.

You may be thinking, "Wow, that's a big ask." Maybe, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. Happily, these objectives are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the smartest, hardest-working marketing communications solutions (like a website) can effectively build brand and demand.

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Mailbox Monday

In Hollywood, actors are warned never to share their screentime with children or animals. Small or cute (or small and cute) will steal the show every time.

How fortunate then for marketers like the folks at chewy.com. Their products not only can but should be promoted using the cutest pets they can find. Like the two adorable pups on their recent self-mailer.

The three-panel, barrel-fold arrived in the mail and immediately stood out, thanks to its bright colors, animated typography, and — yes — the baby bulldog. You can't miss who the card is from; "chewy.com" appears prominently on both the address and art sides of the closed piece. There's also quite a lot of promotional copy; in fact, there's a little too much to absorb.

LIMITED TIME OFFER! $15 OFF your next pet food & supplies order of $49 or more*Plus, FREE 1-2 day shipping!

There's a checkout code (included on both sides) and a teaser line near the address that encourages us to "SHOP OVER 1,000 BRANDS OF PET FOOD & SUPPLES!" All the caps and exclamation points would bother us if the type itself weren't so playful.

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Mailbox Monday

A simple little postcard that arrived today has us scratching our heads.

It's addressed simply to "Resident" at the Queen B's house. It's been a while since we received anything addressed to "Resident." And, when we did, it was probably something that had mass appeal. A flyer for a sale at a local super market. A postcard from a local realtor. An offer for cable TV. A self-mailer from one of the seemingly dozens of 2020 presidential candidates.

In this case, oddly enough, it's for diabetes supplies.

As of 2015, 9.4% of the U.S. population has diabetes.

As of 2019, 0% of the residents at the Queen B's house do.

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Logo-rama

Clients sometimes ask us to create logos for them — either for their company, a product, an event, or a promotion.

Other clients sometimes ask us why they should use a direct marketing creative shop (ie. us) to create a logo for them.

We tell them it's because there's more to good design than pretty pictures.

At B Direct, we approach every project — yes, even if it’s a logo — with a clear understanding of how our design fits into the client's overall marketing conversation. We think about all the ways it will be used, online and off. And, most important, we think about our client's business objectives, whether that's earning new customers, keeping old customers, increasing revenue, or simply attracting attention.

So, what makes a good logo ... well ... good? There are several things.

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Mailbox Monday

This week, we once again turn to our digital mailboxes for "Mailbox Monday." Along with the usual newsletters we subscribe to (and the usual newsletters we don't subscribe to), the correspondence from clients and colleagues, special offers from vendors, and ads for Viagra, identity theft protection, ambulance chasers, and real estate agents, there was one that caught our eye for a number of reasons.

The solicitation from Ooma Office starts with a concept, which looks like a mini print ad or emailed postcard. It depicts two Swiss Army knives. One, very simple, with just a single blade, is labelled "AT&T business phone & others." The second, including multiple blades, a corkscrew, scissors, pliars, and sundry other instruments, is labelled "Ooma Office." Not a new idea (in fact, the Bs used the same analogy in a 3D direct mail package years ago), but clean, simple, and eye-catching. Beneath the image, the headline reads "Finally, a business phone service assorted with sharp features, not costs." Nice payoff, guys.

Scrolling down the email, the next section is html copy that explains why Ooma is better than AT&T and all the benefits of switching. We also learn that Ooma has been "rated the #1 VoIP business phone service 5 years running." There's a special offer, a call-to-action, and a button to "Start saving."

The next section, moving down the email, includes 6 features with icons and 2 quick lines of copy. It has the clean and contemporary look of an infographic. It offers a lot of valuable information without bogging us down in body copy.

Another section follows with an endorsement from PC Magazine, the low price ($19.95 per month), yet another call to action "Start saving today!" and a toll-free number. Finally, we have what we call a "housekeeping" area with links to various (pretty much all) social media and legal copy.

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Augmented Reality: Enhanced Engagement, Increased Results

Earlier this year, the Queen B was asked to write a story for DMAW's magazine AdVents. With their permission, we're reposting it here ...

 

Augmented Reality: Enhanced Engagement, Increased Results

The late great John Lennon once said that "Reality leaves a lot to the imagination."

Today, some of the most creative people in the direct marketing business are adding a lot of imagination to reality — by augmenting traditional print material with a digital experience.

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Mailbox Monday

Some types of insurance are necessary evils: health, auto, homeowner's. Other policies can be a very hard sell. For example, you're planning a dream vacation. You've saved all year, requested the time off, arranged for a dogsitter, maybe even dieted and exercised to attain a reasonably respectable beach body. When an insurance provider urges you to protect your investment because bad things might happen, it's a bit of a downer.

Okay, it's a major downer.

Marketing for travel insurance has to achieve two things: one, scare you and two, reassure you. The self-mailer we just received from carrier AIG succeeds at both. And, against the odds, it even entertains.

The mail panel has a spot image of a tropical drink and a teaser that reads "You planned the perfect vacation. But stuff happens. Rest easy, we've got your back."

On the art side, there's a photo of a vacationer relaxing in a hammock with an idyllic beachfront scene behind her. A headline reads: "How to make sure you get the vacation you deserve." Both outside panels are branded with AIG's logo and their insurance product Travel Guard.

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The Bs' Bookshelf

When we launched B Direct, nearly 16 years ago, a friend and former colleague who had started her design business a few years prior, gave us some excellent advice. "You may not have a lot of revenue at first," she warned us, "So, if you feel like going on a shopping spree, make sure everything you buy is tax deductible."

Office supplies? Check. Art supplies? Check.

And books? Check. Lots of marketing books.

Here are some of our favorites along with quick descriptions. They're great for browsing when you're stuck on a concept or experiencing writer's block. They're instructional, motivational, and often inspirational too.

Ogilvy on AdvertisingDavid Ogilvy

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Mailbox Monday

Just because you can do something, it doesn't mean you should.

Just because you're sending an 8.5" x 11" postcard, it doesn't mean you should include content on every single square inch of space.

We recently received this oversized card from a local home improvements company. When it comes to spreading ink on paper, they definitely got their moey's worth. But, when it comes to encouraging prospects to notice, read, absorb, and act on a special offer, they may be very disappointed.

More isn't always more. In fact, in direct mail, more can be overwhelming, confusing, and even paralysing.

The mail side of the postcard (it's hard at first to even tell which side is the mail side) includes the address area, return address and indicia, PLUS a headline, an offer for a free estimate, body copy in the form of a letter with ten bullet points, a photo of the owners, a list of services, five logos, three reviews, a URL, a toll-free number (and a partridge in a pear tree).

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Mailbox Monday

Here at B Direct, we were overdue for a "Mailbox Monday." But, what to write about? Business services from American Express? Fundraising from the ASPCA? 178-day world cruises we can't afford? The fake check from Gladiator Lending (grrrrrrrrrrrrrr)?

We were about to find an oldie but goodie from our "swipe file," when a wonderful email arrived. So, today's "Mailbox Monday" is really an "Inbox Monday." And this particular piece of marketing has captured our hearts and imagination.

For a bit of background, the Queen B recently ordered a package of mini bully sticks for her mini dachshund. They are just about his favorite treat (and, trust us, you really don't want to know what they're made out of). An email arrived this morning with the subject line "Important Update to your Amazon Order." Naturally, we assumed that the item was backordered or the order was delayed for some other reason. However, when we clicked and opened the message, we found an adorable note addressed to "Alexandra's dog."

Here's the text ...

 

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Get Smart

When it comes to direct marketing, the list is important. The creative is important. But, the offer is king.

Basically, the offer spells out what the customer or prospect needs to GIVE and what he or she will GET in return.

We call this the Give/Get Ratio. And, an offer is only as good as the recipient perceives that ratio to be. If you aren't asking them to GIVE much and you've convinced them that what they'll GET is worth more than they have to GIVE, you have a compelling offer.

For example, when we used to work in cable television, a typical offer to a new subscriber might be: "Free Installation and $4.95 for 250 channels your first month." 250 channels sound like a lot, don't they? And, $4.95 doesn't sound like too much. So, the prospect thinks "I'm being asked to GIVE $4.95, and in exchange I'll GET 250 cable channels. Gee!" Assuming they watched television, this was a strong offer.

When choosing and articulating an offer, you always want to make it sound like the customer is getting the better part of the deal. But, did you know that you need to think about the Give/Get Ratio before an offer is even made? At every milestone of your campaign, your audience has a choice to continue or to abort. You may not have asked for money yet, but you are asking them to give their time and attention. They have to believe they will GET more than they GIVE every step of the way.

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Mailbox Monday

An old direct marketing mentor of ours used to joke, "If you can't make it big, make it red."

Actualy, he wasn't joking.

When you're designing direct mail, you want to make an impression and one way to do that is to make your headlines or your graphics or your entire package as BIG as possible.

Another way is to make your campaign small.

When a person empties the contents of their mailbox, they are naturally drawn to anomalies. In the sea of business correspondence and credit card statements they receive on a regular basis, the campaigns that are bigger, smaller, an unusual shape or texture tend to stand out.

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Fight for the Right to be Creative

Next week, the Queen B will be speaking at NEDMA's annual Direct Mail Symposium. Her presentation is called, "From Blank Page to Killer Creative." She'll be sharing several campaigns, showcasing the successful concepts that were produced and mailed, but also the two or three in each case that didn't ever see the light of day. The goal is to illuminate the creative process.

If you're interested in attending, visit: https://www.nedma.com/dm-symposium-5-ds

When the Bs sit down to brainstorm, there are generally two different categories of input that we work with. The first is a formal Creative Strategy. You can think of this as all the left brain data and insight. It usually includes:

The creative challengeIndustry overviewProduct overviewCompetitionObjectivesTarget audienceMessage strategyFormatLists/Media strategyOffersMisc. (mandatories and/or “sacred cows”)

This information can come from the client in the form of a Strategy Brief. It can be generated by B Direct, after various input conversations. Or, it can be the result of collaboration between client and agency. No matter how it's built (or which of dozens of templates we use), it's critical that these articulated and agreed upon.

Concept presentation is NOT the time to determine strategy. The goal, always, is to present mutiple options that ALL adhere to a predetermined strategy.

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Mailbox Monday

Are "Thank You" notes a lost art? It certainly seems so — at least the ones that arrive in the mail. (As baby boomers, we've never really warmed up to "Thank You" tweets, texts, PMs, or Facebook posts.)

B Direct is a busy agency, so we order a lot of supplies for ourselves and on behalf of our clients. We usually get email confirmations. Sometimes they even include a nice modern convenience, like one-click tracking. And, yes, the words "Thank you for your order" appear on most of them.

But, it's just not the same.

Bravo then to ULine! We ordered several hundred shipping boxes recently — which, btw, were a great price and arrived in a single day — and two days later we received this neat little piece. Mail often stands out when it's oversized, but at 4.5" x 6", this stood out because it was small. The size felt personal and more like a greeting or note card than business mail. The teaser reads: "Thank you for your Uline order."

Inside, a single folded card continues with the outside message "THANK YOU for ordering shipping supplies from Uline."

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Everything New is Old Again

At B Direct, we worry about many little things — 800-numbers, URLs, indicias, spelling. We take accuracy (and effectiveness) seriously. But, we're only human. And, it's somehow reassuring that much bigger marketers can make mistakes too.

Remember 1985? Ronald Reagan was president (again). USA for Africa released "We Are the World," featuring superstars Tina Turner, Lional Richie, Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, and Michael Jackson. The Iran-Contra Affair began. And, Back to the Future was the top-grossing film.

1985 was also the year of New Coke. Coca-Cola was struggling with a steep decline in sales (Coke only had a 24% share, less than half of its 60% share right after WWII). The company's researchers and strategists theorized that the drop was due to baby boomers preferring the sweeter taste of competitor Pepsi. So, they created a new, sweeter formula and in April launched New Coke. They quickly stopped production of traditional Coke.

As Vivian would soon say in Pretty Woman (just five years later), "Big mistake. Big. Huge."

The reaction was swift and emotionally charged — especially among Southerners. Coca-Cola's headquarters was a fixture in Atlanta, GA, and fans in the South saw the switch as a betrayal. It was as if General Lee had surrendered to Yankee General Grant all over again. The company received 40,000 letters and phone calls complaining. And, that's not all. There were boycotts, grassroots protests, and lawsuits brought by Coke's bottlers and distributors.

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Mailing to the Elusive C-Suite

In B2B high tech direct marketing — of which we have done a ton of campaigns as B Direct and prior when we all worked at Direct Results Group — you're often selling a very high ticket solution, ten or hundreds of thousands of dollars or even more. Sending an email or postcard just doesn't feel sufficient. You need to make sure the medium matches the message. Or, in this case, the money.

At the same time, there are other challenges. You may need to reach a decision-maker or influencer in the C-suite (CEO, COO, CMO, CFO, CTO, etc...). She or he is strapped for time, bombarded by marketing, and focusing on other important things — not your marketing piece. Chances are, she or he has an assistant or "gatekeeper," who has been asked to sort out (and throw out) the dreaded "junk mail." At the same time, you'll be hard-pressed to reach them through other traditional means. Email? Don't bother. Print ads? Maybe, but you'd better have a big budget (a full-page in Fortune magazine costs $188,500). We had some success placing illuminated airport ads at major business hubs, and sponsorships of upscale events can be helpful too.

Still, we typically fall back on direct mail. Specifically, high-impact 3-dimensional mail. But, even that tried-and-true tactic needs a good deal of strategic thinking.

First of all, you have to make sure your package gets noticed and opened. We do this in a couple of ways. We typically recommend sending an email teaser "A package is coming your way; watch for it." We often recommend sending it Priority or Express Mail, or FedEx. This makes the package seem urgent and important, and it enables us to track deliverability. We very carefully check and re-check and re-check once again the list we're using. To this VIP audience, you definitely don't want to send a package with a misspelled name or out-of-date title.

An aside ... A list we worked on recently not only had typos, it had dead people. (This generated irresistible references to The Sixth Sense: "I see dead people.") Besides making your campaign more succesful, you don't want to waste money (as much as $25 or more per piece) sending something to someone who is ... um ... no longer in a position to buy.

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Focus!

Interesting things happen in focus groups.

No, we're not talking about the copious amounts of M&Ms that are ingested (although, from a purely scientific perspective, that's pretty interesting too). We're talking about what marketers can see, hear, and learn from this kind of research. Here are two examples ...

In a focus group for our client Polaroid (yes, we know that dates us a little ... okay, a lot; it dates us a lot), we were asking EMTs to look at a new instant camera product that had been designed for their use as first responders. It was a very exciting project for us; post-focus group, we would be developing videos to train police, firefighters, and EMTs on how instant imaging could help them provide a clearer picture of an accident scene to ER doctors. As the professional moderator guided the group, our client — who was in the secret viewing room behind the mirror with the M&Ms and all of us — became more and more agitated. She (the moderator) didn't understand some of the camera's functionality. He (the client) was desperate to correct her.

"Please," we pleaded, "It doesn't matter."

"No," we explained, "You can't go in there."

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Mailbox Monday

Here is a hair-raising fact:

In ancient Rome, women used to dye their hair blonde with pigeon dung.

Okay, then.

This self-mailer from online hair color company Madison Reed stood out in a recent mail delivery for a number of reasons.

First of all, size. The four-panel, double gate self mailer is 6" x 10.5", significantly bigger than most business correspondence and credit card bills.

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Retire Stereotypes

At B Direct, we've created many campaigns that targeted retirees. Some were for financial services companies; some for healthcare companies; some even for travel companies. Different industries, different clients, but the same target audience: seniors aged 65+.

We didn't show these folks pictures of 30- or 40-somethings. Flattery will get you everywhere ... unless it's such an obvious (and borderline deceitful) marketing tactic that it pisses off your audience. Instead, we looked for the absolutely best-looking models who could conceivably be in their 60s or 70s. Our images were complimentary and aspirational, not impossible.

Too often, marketing aimed at seniors assumes that they're frail if not downright infirm. We've always had better luck (and pulled better response) when we show active, engaged, satisfied seniors. The idea of the retiree sitting in a rocking chair knitting is as obsolete as The Waltons. (And, after all, Grandma and Grandpa Walton were pretty active themselves.)

Let's take a closer look at this not-so-retiring demographic:

82% of people in their 60s plan to work past age 65 and/or don't plan to stop at all

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An Infographic's Worth a Thousand Words

We have a strategic partner who has launched a very smart new way for colleges and universities to target and nurture prospective students. It's one of those ideas that make you smack your forehead and say "Of course. Why didn't I think of that?" But, there was a problem, school admissions departments have been using the same old student data and same old marketing tactics for years.

And, the new solution is ... well ... new.

So, we created an infographic that explains — in words and pictures — why our partner's solution is better.

The old adage "A picture's worth a thousand words" rings particularly true in today's fast-paced, cyber-based world. An infographic, essentially a collection of imagery, charts, icons, and minimal text that gives an easy-to-understand overview of a topic, is one of the best ways to communicate complicated products, services or ideas. Here's why.

People are being inundated with more information than ever before ...

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Mailbox Monday

When it comes to a direct mail campaign, what is the main purpose of an outer envelope?

It's not to build brand (although it's nice if you can do so). It's not to make the recipient smile or laugh (although that's nice too). It's not to present features and benefits. Or make a special offer. Or serve up a testimonial.

Whatever else an outer envelope does, its main purpose is to get opened.

But, there's a fine line between getting opened and misrepresentation.

Here's a package we just received and felt compelled to open. But, after we did so, the whole thing left a bad taste in our mouths.

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How To Win Friends and Influence People

After ohmigodyougottabekiddinme years in this business, we've learned a lot of the so-called "rules" of direct marketing. But, we've also learned a lot — and achieved great results for clients — by ignoring or rewriting some of the rules as we went along.

For example, "Don't be negative," is a rule we hear all the time. Yet, we built a very successful campaign for a high tech client around The Worst Case Scenario Handbook.

Or this one: "Short copy outpulls long copy." Sorry, but in a head-to-head test, we saw an email that was at least three times longer beat one with the same message and offer and a fraction of the word count.

If the creative is ... well ... creative — entertaining, educational, engaging — you can break some little rules and still end up with a big success.

So, how do you put together a recipe for success? Here are what we'll call B Direct's "helpful hints," rather than "rules." Because, you know, rules are so yesterday's news.

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Pass the Popcorn: the Agency Goes to the Movies

It's been three years, seven months and twenty-one days (and no, that's not a Sinead O'Connor song) since they aired the final episode of Mad Men. That's a long time. For those of us who work at agencies, where everything is always due yesterday, that's a really long time. Without Don and Peggy and Roger and Joan, Pete Campbell and Ken Cosgrove, and the rest of Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce) to keep us entertained, what are we to do?

Find new (or not so new) ad agency heroes on the big screen.

Here are some of our favorite films that feature copywriters and art directors ...

The Hucksters (1947)

Clark Gable (audible sigh) plays Vic Norman, a returning vet, eager to reestablish his advertising career after the war. He convinces Adolphe Menjou (a powerful ad exec) that he can secure the elusive account of Evans Beauty Soap, run by an eccentric Sydney Greenstreet. Vic pitches an idea that centers around an earnest war widow, Deborah Kerr (pre-King and I or An Affair to Remember). Of course Vic ends up falling hard for the widow and has to decide what's more important, being straight with her or succeeding at work.Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jaaccInPes

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Mailbox Monday

Here in the Boston area, there used to be a chain of odd lot stores called Building 19. It was the kind of place where you needed to walk in with an open mind, with no specific expectations. You just had to be receptive to the weird and often wonderful things you could find, for pennies on the dollar. Building 19 was always an adventure. And, from a marketing perspective, they had the single best tagline ever ...

Good Stuff Cheap.

Really, that's the kind of clean, clear, catchy, and utterly irresistible tagline we should all aspire too.

We were reminded of this masterpiece of copywriting when we received an efficient little self-mailer from Square, the company that allows small businesses and entrepreneurs to accept credit card payments right on their smartphones.

The cover of the two-panel, folding mailer is as brief and to the point as you can be:

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FOMO

If you are the parent of a teenager, you've probably seen FOMO in action.

FOMO stands for "Fear Of Missing Out."

It's not a new idea, but it's changing. When the Bs were teenagers (we won't bore you with how long ago that was), we might have been aware that we'd been excluded from a party, but aside from some twinges of jealousy, we could distract ourselves and move on. Today, if a teen is left out of a gathering, she can be there virtually. She can go on myriad social media sites and vicariously participate. "Oh look, there's the birthday boy blowing out his candles!" "Oh look, there's my crush with his arm around another girl!" "Oh look, there are five of my closest BFFs having a blast and not giving my absence a second thought!" With social media, you're a digital fly on the wall. 24/7. Kinda creepy, isn't it? FOMO's not just for teens either. Most people these days worry that they might be missing something. So, they check social media incessantly. And — guess what? — they're always going to be missing something. Someone will always have a better job, a bigger house. And all that envy is exhausting. So, they weave better, bigger versions of themselves to post.

"Hey. If we're going to suffer from FOMO, we're going to make damn sure that other people do too. Right?" And so the vicious circle continues.

The idea that you might miss out on something is also a super powerful marketing motivator.

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In Praise of Chameleons

One of the Queen B's earliest creative inspirations was a copywriter and agency executive named Joy Golden (June 30, 1930 - August 29, 2015). According to her Ad Age obituary ...

"In 1984, she gained international recognition when a client asked her to write a 'little schtick' about Laughing Cow Cheese. That 'schtick' became a hit, winning her shelves full of awards that included ADDY, Clio, One Show, Effie, Mercury, Andy, IBA, International Festival Grand Prix, among others.

'Little did I know that would make me famous,' Ms. Golden said in a 1992 interview. 'I went from nothing to international fame. I was in the New York Times, Museum of Television and Radio and I said, 'Goodbye' to the world and said 'I'm opening my own business.' I was 55 and I was a hit, kids.'"

Golden developed a particular voice and built a successful career putting that voice to work for a variety of clients. Of course, there were many companies (and entire industries) for which "Joy Radio" would not have been appropriate. (Funeral Parlors and Cancer Hospitals come to mind.)

The industry's best copywriters (and Golden was certainly one of them until that signature moment in the 1980s when she started to specialize), don't have a single voice or a signature 'schtick.'

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May Your Days B Merry and Bright

As we wrap up another year here at B Direct (we just celebrated our 15th annniversary - WOW!), we realize how fortunate we are to work with so many wonderful clients and colleagues. We're enormously proud of the campaigns we create for companies of every industry, every shape and every size — from start-ups to some of the biggest names in technology, banking, and publishing.

We know we've got it good. We flex our creative muscles every day. We learn about exciting new products and solutions all the time. And, most important, we help our clients succeed by reaching and often exceeding their goals. When that happens, we're all superstars.

That's why we can say with confidence, "There's no business like direct marketing."

In honor of our clients, colleagues, friends, and family, this year B Direct is donating to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. This organization helps men, women, and children across the country and across the street receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling, and emergency financial assistance.

May this season be filled with holiday hits, standing ovations, and rave reviews.

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The Ones That Got Away

In the new "Mary Poppins Returns," Emily Blunt sings a lovely song called, "The Place Where Lost Things Go." (It's beautiful. In fact, the entire film is beautiful. Do yourself a holiday favor and see it!)

As agency creatives, the Bs at B Direct have a different fantasy world to cherish. It's called "The Place Where Concepts Go To Die." We're talking about the ones that got away. The concepts that were too risky, too sexy, too sophisticated, or too playful. Basically, the concepts that were too ... well ... too too. Too much.

We remember them fondly. We vow to find another way to use them. But, eventually, we resign ourselves to the fact that no matter how much we loved them, no matter how promising we thought they were, they are dead.

For example, we presented concepts for a 3-dimensional campaign to an identity theft solutions client. We really liked the option they chose (an RFID, theft-proof, wallet with credit card shaped inserts that promoted individual benefits of our client's product).

But, we really loved the idea of sending a glow-in-the-dark zombie apocalypse set.

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Mailbox Monday

We have created (hundreds? thousands? countless!) self-mailers for clients ranging from The Boston Globe to IBM to Healthy Pet veterinary clinics. We love self-mailers — they're like postcards on steroids. They can be high impact. They can be highly informative. They can be creatively personalized. They can buy our clients "real estate" in their audience's homes or offices.

The point is ... we have nothing against self-mailers.

We also respect direct mail packages that work hard. Offer? Check. Call to action? Check. Testimonial quote? Check. No matter what format we're designing, we try to accommodate different browsing styles, taking into account where the recipient might — or might not — look first, second, third, or last.

The point is ... we have nothing against including lots of promotional information.

BUT (you knew there was a "but" coming, didn't you?), sometimes a self-mailer isn't the right vehicle for the message, the audience, or the sender. And, sometimes including too much content, without guiding the recipient through it, causes "analysis paralysis." Or, worse, just makes a big mess.

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Are You Talking To Yourself Again?

Picture yourself at a dinner party.  You are seated between two people you have never met before.  Both are attractive, intelligent and well-spoken.

The person to your right introduces himself and starts talking ... and talking ... and talking.  He doesn't stop to ask if what he is talking about is of interest to you.  In fact, he doesn't let you get a word in edgewise.  Because he is engaged in his topic, he assumes you are.  When you do manage to ask a question, he either ignores it or rushes through an answer in order to get back to his own monotonous monologue.  You get the sense that there might be something interesting in what he's saying, but he hasn't given you a chance to find out for sure.

Now, the person to your left introduces herself.  She tells you a little about herself but also asks you some questions -- about your family, what you do for a living, where you're from.  She asks if you're interested in something and waits until you affirm that you are before sharing her perspective on it.  She stops talking frequently to allow you to contribute.  She listens attentively and answers your questions.  She actually shifts her train of thought in response to what you've shown interest in.

With which guest would you rather converse?  And with whom would you rather reconnect at a later date?

The problem with so much marketing is that while it may attempt to engage the customer or prospect, it's really taking the role of the first person we've just described.  Even committed direct marketers, professionals who champion the concept of two-way communication, spend most of their time, effort and money talking about their own product or service.  Too often, marketers don't listen.

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Privacy or Personalization?

This week, B Direct attended MTech, the New England Direct Marketing Association's annual Marketing Technology Summit.

As always, the event was very well-attended (practically standing room only). There were informative and inspiring keynotes and general sessions, a number of exhibiting sponsors, a networking lunch. Then, early afternoon, attendees broke into two groups for presentations on channel marketing or video.

The video session was led by two very polished (and very young) Google executives. At least 100 of us learned about new ways to use online YouTube video to drive and track consumer behavior. It was fascinating and the marketing opportunities were exciting.

And, no wonder.

Video is quickly taking over the Internet. In fact, as we learned, by 2020, video will be 82% of consumer web traffic, and by 2021,digital video ad spend will rise to $22.2 billion. So marketers really do need to understand how to use it — and use it well.

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Voted Most Likely to Misuse

Proofreading. It's the bane of many (otherwise talented) copywriters' existence. And, a really crackerjack proofreader is a valuable member of any team.

Last year, we talked about proofreading and offered some helpful tips. (See: http://www.bdirectmktg.com/blog/the-proof-is-in-the-proofreading.)

Now, we want to review some of the common words that are way too commonly misused. This list can help you in two ways. First, hopefully it will clear up any confusion you might have about which version of what word to use when. Second, it's a good idea to doubly proof any section of your copy that uses one of these potentially tricky words.

• Your and you're are not interchangeable. Your is possessive second person. You're is the contraction of the words you and are."Your campaign is so great, you're going to win a lot of industry awards."

• Then and than are two different words. Then means at that time or next. Than is used for comparisons."Then the client told the agency that the results were better than the year before."

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Mailbox Monday

We all know not to judge a book by its cover. But, as direct mail marketers, we also have to admit that many (maybe most) people have no problem judging our campaigns by their outer envelopes.

And the walk from the mailbox to the waste basket in most homes takes about twelve seconds.

Some mailers respond to this sad fact by putting everything — and we do mean everything — on the outer envelope. Product, features, benefits, offer, and even call-to-action. Others take a stealth approach and send their solicitation in a completely blank envelope, hoping that the recipient's curiosity will get the better of them and they'll be compelled to open.

One such stealthy campaign arrived the other day.

The 6" x 9.5" white window envelope was completely blank except for postage. It didn't have a printed indicia, but had been metered with non profit postage.

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Millennials Mind Their Mail

Years ago, we did a 3-dimensional package for a technology company. Our audience was web-based software developers. These geeks (and we say that with affection) lived and breathed, ate, drank and slept online. The client, logically enough, assumed that any responses to our campaign would come in via an electronic channel. He didn't want to spend the money on a mail-back option (a BRC, or in this case, a form that folded into its own BRE).

As direct marketers, we felt strongly that incorporating multiple response options — including a traditional postal one — was the right way to go. We all agreed to a test.

Here's where it got interesting. Not only did a significant percentage of the responses come in via the BRE, but all other response options (phone, email, and microsite) saw a lift when there was a mail option.

We're always reminded of this test and its counterintuitive results when clients or colleagues assume that millennials, a generation raised online, aren't interested in mail.

The USPS's Mail Moments study confirms our opinion that mail matters to this audience. What's really interesting is that in many ways it matters slightly more to the digital generation than to older people.

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Engagement: Why Mail Still Matters

Remember the song from 1980, "Video Killed the Radio Star?" Some marketers today seem to think that digital killed direct mail.

We disagree.

And — happily — so do most American consumers.

The recent USPS Mail Moments study confimed that people still enjoy receiving mail. Even millennials. In fact, despite the fact that they are digital natives, millennials engage with mail as much or more than non-millennials.

Here are some overall findings across the three demographics surveyed (baby boomers, gen x, and millennials):

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Mailbox Monday

At B Direct, we do a lot of digital marketing. But, we still love direct mail. We enjoy working on mail campaigns for our clients, and we enjoy receiving (yes, and critiquing) mail packages from others. Some make us smile. Some make us laugh out loud. And, some make us scratch our heads.

This is one of those.

It's a big postcard from Verizon. A really big postcard: 6" x 10.5". So, it succeeds at direct mail's job one: get noticed. We definitely noticed the postcard.

The art side has a brief message reversed out: 100% thanks. And, then the fios name and checkmark appear below it.

When we flipped the card over, there's a bold message above the address area: Thank you for being phenomenal. On the left side, type announces A personal thank you from a Fios employee. Beneath this is a handwritten (or "handwritten") note:

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Blogs: Writing for Non-Writers

Some of our clients have very sophisticated content marketing programs. Others need ... well ... a little more convincing.

"But, I'm not a writer," is what we hear most often. Followed soon thereafter by "But, I don't have time."

Starting a blog is easy. Sadly, letting it lapse is easy too.

And, the key to any business blog's success is consistency.

Fortunately, there are no steadfast rules for blogs. There's no minimum wordcount or stylistic structure that has to be observed. A blog isn't like a term paper or an essay for English 101.

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Mailbox Monday

No one wants to be treated like a number, right? Of course, right.

Unfortunately, as the medical industry has taken more and more advantage of technology, the person-to-person aspect of a patient and doctor relationship has diminished.

Recognizing this, and — more importantly — recognizing that it isn't what patients want, Lahey Health Primary Care developed a simple but effective self-mailer.

The outside art panel uses a (presumably) stock photo of an older couple enjoying time together. The headline reads:

Accepting new patients. Or as we like to call them, people.

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Science Fiction Double Feature

It's Halloween, the holiday of ghosts and ghouls and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. It's the only holiday designed to scare people (unless you've been in Times Square on New Year's Eve, of course).

But, there are plenty of scares available the other 364 days of the year — if you work with or for an ad agency. In fact, the next time they decide to reboot the saga of Michael Myers (see the Queen B's recent review here: https://womensvoicesforchange.org/laurie-strodes-revenge-the-new-metoo-version-of-halloween.htm), maybe they should look at our industry for terrifying new plots.

Here are half a dozen examples:

 

The BlobAn enterprising young marketer is tasked with positioning and promoting an exciting new product — only to realize that the product is virtually impossible to describe in human language. She has recurring nightmares about the words "scalable," "cloud,""enterprise," and "legacy systems."

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Your Logo Here

For a direct marketing agency, we've designed quite a lot of logos. The process is a mix of the aesthetic and the practical. In other words, we think about applications from day one.

We know firsthand, how hard it is to reduce the size of an overcomplicated logo, or to watch a dynamic colorful logo turn into a muddy blur when it needs to be printed in black.

Here are some good ABCs for logo design:

A. Start with way too many ideas. These can be loose sketches or digital renderings. More is more at the beginnning of a logo project. You'll have time to fine-tune later once you've narrowed down the options.

B. Think through the different ways your logo will be used. Make sure it looks as good on a business card as it does on a billboard.

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Mailbox Monday

At B Direct, we enjoy getting direct mail.

Really. There's no punchline coming.

We actually get excited when we receive unsolicited direct marketing. And, we enjoy critiquing it even more!

So we were thrilled when one of our favorite production partners, Matt Magnarelli at Q1Media, sent us a package his wife recently received.

The outside of the piece wished Mrs. Magnarelli a personalized "Happy Birthday," while the mail panel teaser advised her to "Open Immediately. Complimentary Gift Cards Enclosed."

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True Colors

  When you've been in the business as long as the Bs have, you rack up some pretty entertaining war stories. One time, for example, we were creating a custom sales binder for one of Boston's leading financial services companies. The specific program we were supporting had its own color palette, separate from the corporate standards. For some r...
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Offensive Reading Material?

We've all seen ads that reinforce gender stereotypes. In fact, some of us have had to work on them (next time you talk to Walter, ask him about the Creative Director who made him include a scantily clad model in a car ad for no good reason). No matter how much we all enjoyed seven seasons of Mad Men , I don't think any of us really want to go back ...
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The Take-Away

There's an effective sales technique that works particularly well in direct marketing. It's called "The Take-Away." Essentially, the strategy is to play up your offer, then, when your audience is fairly interested, take it away from them. Here are some examples of the kind of language you may have read in direct marketing campaigns. It's all of man...
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Mailbox Monday

Have you ever seen those little stick figure families on the back window of SUVs? Of course you have; we all have. (Do you have a set yourself? Please get in touch with one of art directors for some style tips at your earliest convenience.)  Just kidding. Whether they are simply moms, dads, boys and girls, or something fancier and more concept...
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What's Your Position On That?

According to Google's dictionary, POSITION (or po-si-tion) is a noun that's defined as a place where someone or something has been placed. As marketers, we look at positioning in much the same way. The positioning for our brand is the specific and unique place we occupy in our customer's mind (or, if we're lucky, in their heart). A classic position...
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Mailbox Monday

There's a saying that often rings true for direct mail marketing: "Less is more." But, sometimes, less isn't quite enough. We like postcards and simple self-mailers with lean copy as much as the next direct marketing agency. But, the piece we recently received from jet.com was a little light in the loafers.  There was no there there. "What is ...
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Conditioners

​Have you ever opened a magazine you subscribe to and watched a BRC fall out that offered a deep discount (much less than you paid) "for new subscribers only." Yeah, we have too. And, it stinks. Here you are a loyal subscriber for however many years and you're paying twice what they're charging some Johnny-come-lately. It isn't fair.  Loyal cu...
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Mailbox Monday

We love it when the medium and the message are one and the same. So, we think that Vistaprint made a solid choice about how to promote the company's heavier stock business cards. They didn't just tell us about it, they sent a sample, packaged in a simple little self-mailer. The cover teased us with what appeared to be a riddle: "What's 40% heavier ...
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