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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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Good Marketeers Play Well With Others

Silos in companies make it very difficult to live up to the customer's idea of a relationship. Too often different functional groups have their own agenda, their own objectives, and their own budgets. Some forward-thinking companies resolve this dilemma by creating new positions, like Vice President of Customer Experience, with authority across tra...
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Mailbox Monday

We've said it before over and over (and over), but it bears repeating over and over (and over). Whether you use an outer envelope (OE), a box or tube, your direct mail campaign's outer carrier has one mission: to get opened! This week, we received a handsome little piece from the USPS. Measuring 5" x 7", it arrived in a neat plastic envelope sealed...
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Mailbox Monday

"Bait and switch." "Pulling a fast one." "Faking you out." No matter how you describe it, the response is human nature. When someone tricks you, it's irritating. Given that marketers are considered irritating in even the best of circumstances (we fall somewhere under used car salespeople and above elected officials), we should all agree not to do a...
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To E or Not to E

Most of our clients are still getting their arms around GDPR and how it affects their ability to nurture prospects. But regulations aside, there are other considerations before you develop and send an email. Here are some issues we encourage our clients to think about. Noise Level According to a CampaignManager study , there are about 124.5 billion...
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Mailbox Monday

Ship ahoy! Here are two postcards from cruise companies. They present an interesting compare and contrast opportunity. CRUISE CARD ONE: With summer waning and fall client work picking up, the Bs aren't terribly interested in the postcard we received from Royal Caribbean. But, the timing may not be the only problem. Photography is, arguably, the mos...
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Taking Stock

If you've been in this business as long as the Bs have, you probably remember those halcyon days of ... photo shoots. Yes, actual shoots with a photographer, models, sets, lighting equipment, lighting people, make-up, hair, wardrobe, and a nice buffet for the clients who had flown in from Virginia or Seattle or France.  At B Direct, we have pl...
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eMailbox Monday

Good direct marketing comes down to a fairly simple equation: the right offer, sent to the right person, at the right time. Most so-called "junk mail" misses the mark because one or more of those elements is wrong rather than right. (The junkiest junk mail would be a lethal combination of wrongs: the wrong offer, sent to the wrong person, at the wr...
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Forget What You Learned in English 101

Lots of copywriters are former English majors. But it's hardly a prerequisite for a successful career in advertising or direct marketing. In fact, much of what Professor So-and-So at the University-of-Somewhere-or-Other taught you is not just unnecessary to write copy; it's downright detrimental. So, with all due respect to any proofreaders who may...
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Mailbox Monday

Dale Carnegie, in his perpetual bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People , lists "6 Ways to Make People Like You." The third of these tips is this: "Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. The average person is more interested in their own name than in all the other names in...
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Phish and Tips

phish·ing ˈ fiSHiNG/ noun the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Out of the hundreds of emails you receive every week (or maybe every day ... sorry), a third may be business and half may be commercia...
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Mailbox Monday

This October, the Queen B will have lived at her current address for twenty years. Twenty. That's right, twenty. In fact, it was still the 20th century when she moved in. So, imagine our surprise when she received an obvious "new mover" mailing from JCPenney. The self-mailer is a simple three-panel piece, closed with fugitive adhesive (or what real...
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Fifty Shades of Mail

The headline of this post is what we in the marketeering business call "borrowed interest." It's also not quite accurate. We're going to talk about five (not fifty) direct mail formats, when to use what and why. At B Direct, we're big believers in direct mail for one big reason. It works. And for anyone who thinks you can't be creative with direct ...
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Today's Subject is Subject Lines

It was a decade or two ago when virtually all our clients made the move from direct mail to email marketing. Having cut our teeth on 1990s "brochureware" websites, we were happy to apply direct marketing techniques to digital media.  Whether you're sending a campaign to someone's analog mailbox or to their Outlook inbox, a lot of the rules and...
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Mailbox Monday

Do you know the expression, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it?"  Well, that's exactly what was going through our minds as we went through the handsome — and substantial — direct mail package we just received from Brooklinen. The booklet, printed on a nice cover stock with engaging copy and attractive visuals, made a lot of promotional p...
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(Empty) Mailbox Monday

​We didn't receive any mail today (not any mail of note, not any mail period).  Hey, it happens. So, we went into our "swipe files" and pulled out a piece that impressed us a few years ago. It's a sleek little self-mailer we received from the Bank of America Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue in Boston. Never underestimate the sensory experien...
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Mailbox Monday

As cost-conscious direct marketers, we are always interested in clever hard-working mail formats.  That's why we noticed when the agency received a self-mailer from Vocus, a PR software company. It did a good job explaining the benefits of the product and offered a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card if we were willing to sit through a presentati...
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The Bs' Rules for Brainstorming

When you're being paid to conceive, develop and implement ideas, brainstorming is as much a science as an art.  And, it's all about people. At B Direct, we conduct business from separate offices and remote locations, leveraging mobile and digital technology. But, when we need to brainstorm concepts for a new campaign, we prefer to do so the ol...
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Thanks, No Thanks

Let's face it. Direct marketing is a thankless job. Despite all the talent, the skill and the sweat equity you invest, consumers are still going to resent your efforts. Most people get up and go to the kitchen (or worse) when your commercials interrupt their favorite TV show. Most people would rather not talk to telemarketers. Most people don't buy...
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Mailbox Monday

"Email is king. direct mail is dead." Yeah, yeah. And video killed the radio star.  Email has certainly become ubiquitous. And, used strategically, it can be cost-efficient and effective. But, direct mail is still pretty powerful stuff. Especially today when there is so much less paper mail in everyone's in-box. Looks like we're not the only o...
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We Interrupt this Program ... for 30 Seconds of Entertainment

There are two kinds of people who watch the Super Bowl. The first, and majority, pay rapt attention to the plays. They go get a beer, open a new bag of chips, or use the little boys' room during the commercials. The second tunes out or multitasks during the game itself, but pays rapt attention to the commercials. As you may have guessed, the Bs at ...
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Mailbox Monday

We often design oversized postcards for our clients. They stand out; they provide enough real estate for branding, copy and offers. Bigger can be better, but not always. This oversized (8.5 x 11") postcard is just too much! Help! Where do you look first? On the so-called "art side" of this postcard, we have: • An image • A headline • A subhead • So...
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3-D Results from 2-D Mail

The Bs at B Direct have done a lot of work in the B2B space, specifically with what we call, "high-tech, high-ticket, high-touch." We're selling technology solutions that carry a heavy price tag, and, to do that, we need to develop creative that is particularly noticeable and engaging. Sometimes, the audience is very focused — as few as 100 or 250 ...
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Mailbox Monday

Here at B Direct, we love direct mail.  In fact, the Queen B was President of the New England Direct Marketing Association and served on its executive board for more than a decade. When she speaks there or at other industry events, she often introduces herself by asserting, unashamedly, "I love direct mail." It isn 't quite as sensitive as adm...
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"Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want"

At B Direct, we believe that the best direct marketing approach is to establish a conversation with your customers and prospects. For your marketing conversation to work, you must use any and all the knowledge you have of the customer to start the dialogue and then commit to two-way communication going forward. Not once a quarter in a discreet dire...
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Mailbox Monday

The agency received a 6x9 direct mail package from none other than "big blue" (that would be IBM to you and me). It started with a simple envelope, first class presort indicia. Our Creative Director & Queen B's name was even spelled correctly (big kudos for that).  But, things got a little funky once we opened it. There was a color card in...
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Writing Copy for the Web: Do's and Don'ts

​Earlier this week, we talked about web copy, how it's similar to other direct marketing copy and how it's different.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that the web is personal . It's probably the most intimate of media. (Think about it, when people can't sleep, do they pull out their latest direct mail packages? Or do they go onlin...
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Writing Copy for the Web

Since our team worked on its first website back in 1994 (that's like the Paleolithic era in Internet time,  the web has evolved into an important tool for building and sustaining a marketing conversation. Many of the old rules of direct marketing copy still apply: • Ask yourself "Who am I selling to?" • Focus on benefits first, features second...
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Ads That Wouldn't Fly Today (and That's a Good Thing)

Today, we thought we'd share some ... um ... interesting old concepts from direct marketing's older brother, advertising . Take a few minutes and enjoy these oh-so-politically incorrect print ads. (How many different audiences can we insult anyway?) Sheesh! Excuse us, but we have to go find an ethnically diverse stock photo for a new campaign now. ...
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Simple Steps to Improve Your College Marketing

There are more than 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States. To call higher education "a buyer's market" is an understatement for most schools. In fact, many colleges find themselves competing for the same students. How do schools stand out? Today's students are wary of advertising; they don't want to be marketed to. They want to engag...
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Mailbox Monday

At B Direct, we love using "magacards." These oversized postcards have a short fold — typically where the card is addressed. With fugitive glue or wafer seals, the fold unfolds and ... Ta Da! Something special is revealed. We use this spotlighted real estate for offers, punch lines, answers to questions. We received a nice, colorful, oversized (6' ...
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Boston Voyager Feature

B Direct and the Queen B were just featured in Boston Voyager. In case you missed it, here's the interview ... Meet Alexandra MacAaron of B Direct Marketing Communications Today we'd like to introduce you to Alexandra MacAaron. So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don't you give us some details about you and your story...
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Mailbox Monday

Here's one that we received a while ago, but held onto because it was smart and efficient and — most of all — effective. They say "nature hates a vacuum." So, apparently, do the donors of not-for-profit organizations. Or, at least, so assumed the creative team for this surprisingly simple campaign. This nifty little package arrived, encouraging us ...
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Senior Moment

The other day, we were at a meeting with some talented New England marketers. One prescient media planner told us that she had bought Facebook stock at $40 (even with Zuckerberg's Congressional apology tour going on, the stock is trading at $167 right now). The rest of us were duly impressed.  Another marketer offered up her strategy...
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Mailbox Monday

Selling insurance is tricky. Essentially, as a marketer, you need to make something sound useful — even though your customer really hopes he or she won't ever have to use it. And, all insurance is not created equal. There's insurance you are mandated to carry (like auto insurance in the state of Massachusetts, or health insurance under the Aff...
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Zig When Others Zag

Do you have a favorite airline? We do. Southwest. They've made their mark by shaking up what passengers have come to expect as airline-business-as-usual. They zig when others zag. Exactly what do we mean by that? Here's a (probably only partial) list of innovations Southwest has ... well ... innovated: - No assigned seats - 2 free checked bags - Ea...
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Mailbox Monday

Remember the classic 1970s movie The Jerk ? One of Steve Martin's funniest (and most often quoted) lines is ... "The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!" Well, that's kind of how we feel at B Direct whenever a new J. Peterman catalog arrives. Oh wait, did we say "catalog?" Scratch that. It's not a catalog; it's "Owner's Manual No. 158...
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Things That Go Bump in The Mailbox

When we tell people that we run an ad agency, they're usually impressed. Maybe they're imagining Don Draper and company, multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercial budgets, or just a wacky way of life that makes their (insert less exciting career option here) job seem ho-hum. However ... when we add that we specialize in direct marketing, the impre...
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Mailbox Monday

With royalty-free stock photography as abundant — and inexpensive — as it is these days, it's rare that we receive direct mail with original illustrations. That's just one of the reasons this postcard from Ruby stood out. The other thing we noticed immediately was how it felt. The stock is particularly heavy, which is nice, but also has a brushed f...
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"The Envelope, Please ..."

Happily, at this year's Academy Awards, there wasn't an envelope mix-up. (If you care to relive last year's, just Google "Warren Beatty Faye Dunaway Oscar Envelope.") The powers that be at the Academy Awards (not to mention PricewaterhouseCoopers) made certain that "envelopegate" wouldn't be repeated. In direct marketing, we see plenty of envelope ...
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To Blog or Not to Blog

Remember when mobile phones first had cameras? "Why would you need a camera on your phone?" we all wondered. Now, can you imagine not having a camera on your phone? Blogs are kind of the same thing. Early enthusiasts raised a lot of marketers' eyebrows. Who would program them? Who would read them? With everything else on our plates, when — for heav...
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Mailbox Monday

Here's one from the holiday vaults. But, a nice example of personalization that goes beyond "Insert Name Here." At B Direct, we're big fans (and long-time practitioners) of VDP, variable data printing. Here's a really super use of it from online retailer American Pearl. It's an oversized (8.5 x 11) self-mailer. The outside address panel promises a ...
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Variable Data Printing: Focus on What Matters Most

Here at B Direct, we like most dogs.  On the other hand, we love Blossom, Zydeco and Princess Grossman.  Send us direct mail with a picture of some random schnauzer and we'll say "Aw, how cute!" ... right before we throw it in the trash.  But, send us direct mail with a picture of one of the beloved personal pets cited above and you'...
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Method Marketing

As agency creatives, the Bs know that inspiration can come at any time, from anywhere. For today's blog post, we're getting inspiration from a different, but equally creative field: the theatre.  And, more specifically, from the concept of method acting. It's 2018, so if you want to know more about method acting, your first stop may well be Wi...
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Mailbox Monday

Here's an oldie but a goodie.  We're posting some not-so-recent work for two reasons: (1) Nothing worth writing about arrived in the mail this week and (2) the Queen B has kept these postcards for about five years. Now, that says something! This postcard series uses VDP (variable data printing) to grab the recipient's attention. In each case, ...
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