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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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The ABCs (and Rs) of Email

How many unread emails are sitting in your inbox right now? How many do you actually care about? And what will you do with the rest of them? As direct marketers, we used to worry about catching and keeping a prospect's attention as he or she walked from the mailbox to the trash can. That minute or so seems downright luxurious now. In the world of e...
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Once Upon a Time ...

Storytelling became a major focus for marketers several years ago. (In fact, some of its champions were so zealous it felt like a sort of religion.) There are wonderful examples of brands built around compelling genesis stories, of larger than life founders or spokespeople, and of brands that people don't just like, but love. Passionately. Because ...
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Mailbox Monday

Many moons ago (before 9/11 and anthrax and the age of paranoia), we sometimes created "stealth" direct mail packages. These might have an intriguing teaser on the outside or the envelope might be plain. What they had in common was that we didn't reveal who the sender was until the recipient went inside the package. Well, those days are gone. For s...
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Forget Job Titles, Think Inner Vision

Here at B Direct, a lot of our work is B2B. We're not complaining, mind you. When you're marketing something like high-ticket technology solutions, you have to use both sides of your brain.  You need to appeal to the audience's analytical side. You have to back up your marketing message with facts and figures, and make a compelling case for su...
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Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Yesterday was the 52nd Annual Super Bowl. (As New Englanders, the Bs are still reeling a little over the Pats' defeat, of course. But, as Scarlett O'Hara might say, "Tomorrow is another year.")  Happily, the day marked a couple of less ... shall we say, distressing ... events too. First of all, Super Bowl LII coincided with Puppy Bowl XIV. Whi...
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Mailbox Monday

We received an early Valentine card from a company that is fast becoming one of our favorite places to find funky gifts for friends and family. The shape and size of a greeting card, it certainly didn't feel like direct mail. It happened to be upside-down when the agency's stack of mail was pulled out, so all we saw was the one-word message "Love."...
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Are You Ready for Your Close-Up?

Last week, the Bs attended a marketing association networking event. One of the topics that came up was online video. Although the marketers we met agreed that video is a "hip, hot and happenin'" option these days, many of us (the Bs included) have had trouble convincing our clients to invest in it.  That word "invest" seems to be both the big...
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Mailbox Monday

We recently received not one but two postcards from a local independent bank. They both promoted "Absolutely Free Checking" although one was for personal accounts and the other for business. The cards had a lot going for them. They were bold and big, printed on nice stock. The mailer even used one of our favorite tricks and put the "Free Gift" abov...
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Mailbox Monday

It was Kermit the Frog who originally said, "It's not that easy being green." According to a current direct mail package, the people at Discover respectfully disagree. The Bs recently received a solicitation from the credit card company that absolutely reeked of greenness. In fact, the number 10 window envelope wasn't merely green, it was shiny gre...
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One Brand, Many Voices

​In marketing communications, a consistent brand voice used to be a holy grail of sorts. It was universally accepted that Jane Consumer needed to hear the same thing when she watched a Coke commercial, saw a Coke ad, drove by a Coke billboard, or read a slogan on her Coke can.  As career direct marketers, over the years we've become adept at a...
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Mailbox Monday

The holidays are known as the season of giving. But, they're also the season of getting — getting direct mail solicitations from non-profits, to be specific. In just a couple of weeks, one of the Bs received 22 different packages looking for a year-end donation. Here are the organizations that reached out to him: The Leukemia & Lymphoma So...
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Carpe Nix: Seize the Snow

Here in the Northeast, we all learned some new weather terms this week. "Explosive Cyclogenesis." "Bombogenesis." Or the slightly more conversational, not to mention significantly more threatening, "Bomb Cyclone."  Despite the blizzard conditions, low pressure, coastal flooding, and 50 mile per hour winds of Winter Storm Grayson ("Yes, Virgina...
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A Direct Message About 2018

In the world of media and advertising, it's tempting to cry "Wolf."  When televisions became popular, the cry was "Radio is dead." When video stores opened on every other corner, it was "Cable TV is dead." And when we all got electronic inboxes (and the countless emails that filled them every day), it was "Direct mail is dead." Well, in the im...
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May Your Days B Merry and Bright

Aside from the eating and drinking and shopping and wrapping (did we mention the eating and drinking?), the holiday season is a time for reflecting back on the year that's coming to an end. At our annual agency lunch this week, we were genuinely grateful for our wonderful clients and all of the programs we had the privilege of working on in 2017.&n...
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Real Estate Boom

Alas. The chance that your direct marketing campaign will hit your target audience at exactly the right time — when they have a need, and a budget, and they're in the right mood to listen — is pretty slim. This is especially true when you're promoting a high-ticket B2B solution. Not only do you need to engage your recipient, but there may be e...
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Putting Your Design on the Line

At B Direct, we began as analog designers (although our first website project was in 1994, the primordial dawn of the Internet). As online media has evolved, we had to evolve along with it. Today, our clients rely on digital direct marketing as much as — and in some cases more than — traditional vehicles like direct mail, print advertising, outdoor...
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Right Brain, Left Brain

"When I grow up, I want to be a direct marketer," said no child ever. Astronauts, movie stars, quarterbacks, ballerinas, even nuclear physicists, maybe. But, direct marketers? Not so much. In reality, however, direct marketing is a career that more people should aspire to. It's a great way to use both sides of your brain — the right side, typically...
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7 Easy Ways to Make Your Creative Brief Work Harder

Between us, the Bs have worked at about a dozen different ad agencies. Every one of them had their own creative brief template. Some were better than others (we have a pretty solid one here at B Direct — let us know if you'd like us to send it to you). Regardless, the format was never as important as the information included and, hopefully, synthes...
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Mailbox Monday

As direct marketers, we know that mystery and suspense can engage recipients and increase open rates. But, we stopped using faux FedEx paks and "official notices" years ago. (Remember 2001 and the anthrax attacks? Stealth marketing was never quite the same after that.) In general, coming right out and saying who you are and what you're selling make...
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Catalogs Dead? Ho ho ho.

They say the average person gains five to ten pounds during the holiday season. Well, here at B Direct, we 're assuming that those stats don't include USPS mail carriers. Those diligent civil servants work particularly hard at this festive time of year. Not only are they on their feet delivering Christmas cards and gifts and fruitcakes, but they're...
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Mailbox Monday

​Let's talk about a dry subject: commercial insurance. As a small business, B Direct gets solicitations from insurance providers almost as often as we get financing offers from banks (almost, but not quite). This morning, we received an unusual package from Progressive. With it's original (and not typically business-y) art and oversized carrie...
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Talking B2B With the Queen B

A couple of years ago, the Queen B was honored to be included in Kim Ann King's marvelous book The Complete Guide to B2B Marketing (Pearson, 2015) . Here, republished with permission is the interview that's included in the book: What does your typical day look like? I founded B Direct (originally as Plan B Marketing Communications) more than 10 yea...
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Mailbox Monday

When you look up "Pep Boys" on Wikipedia, the first thing you'll find is a caution that Pep Boys is "Not to be confused with The Pet Shop Boys," an English synthpop duo from the 1980s. Well, we haven't received anything in the mail from the Pet Shop Boys lately (although their 13th album was released in 2016 and this year saw their Catalogue, a "be...
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Ask, Don't Tell

For your marketing campaigns 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 direct mail package. But continually, throughout the year and throughout your relationship with each and every customer. Focus Groups Bud...
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Why Make It So Hard?

The Queen B likes to do her holiday shopping early. A few weeks ago, she passed a store window with a cool gift item on display: a pair of sweatpants with her seaside town's longitude and latitude on them. It was a perfect present for her daughter. The offspring in question loves sweats (what college coed doesn't?). She's going to school out of sta...
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Mailbox Monday

Here at B Direct, one of the things we pride ourselves on is creating direct mail campaigns that work hard. Really hard. Often this means accommodating a variety of browsing styles by including a variety of different types of information.  Some recipients read copy beginning, middle, end. (We love these people, but they are few and far between...
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But Don't Take Our Word for It

​No one appreciates great marketing copy more than we do here at B Direct. But, sometimes copy alone just can't cut it.  You may be addressing a particularly risk-averse audience (the public sector, for example). Or, you may have a new and exciting — but also unproven — product or solution that you're trying to sell. Or, your product may ...
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Mailbox Monday

A typical day in the B Direct mailbox. We received an always massive Uline catalog. We received two different packages from Pitney Bowes, marketing the mailstation2 (an A/B test perhaps?). We received three different packages offering us business loans or lines of credit (Century Bank, American Express, Bank of America). There was a direct mar...
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The Classic Question: To Brand or Not to Brand?

Historically, direct marketing creatives have played second fiddle to brand creatives. As proud representatives of the former, we take exception to that attitude.  We don't see brand as an isolated exercise or execution. The way a customer thinks about — and even more importantly, feels about — a brand is an amalgamation of all of his or her i...
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The Proof is in the Proofreading

It's every copywriter's worst nightmare. After several (sometimes dozens) of rounds, copy is finally approved, type is set, the files go out, the job is printed, and ... there's a typo!  (Cue the slashing/screaming soundtrack of Psycho here.) Typos happen. Maybe the client added a new bullet point at the last minute. Maybe the art director had...
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Mailbox Monday

A few weeks ago, we talked about retailers and how postcards can be efficient and effective ways to promote in-store sales. The Queen B received a postcard this afternoon from one of her favorite retailers: Chico's. We'll set the stage for you. The Queen B has been a loyal (and frequent) Chico's shopper for more than 20 years. She knows their diffe...
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There's No Business like Direct Marketing

This week, the Bs had the pleasure of presenting a session at NEDMA's annual "5 Ds of Direct Mail" symposium. We were assigned the second D, Design, and it occurred to us that infusing a little show business into the presentation would make the morning more fun.  In case you couldn't join us, here's what we talked about ... What business are w...
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Subject Lines: A Few Words Can Make or Break Your Campaign

Email marketing. Love it, hate it, it's here to stay. (Well, at least for now or at least until we all have Google glasses surgically attached to our heads.)  So, let's start at the very beginning: subject lines. When we talk to old school (read, direct mail) marketers about email, one of the first things we do is compare subject lines to some...
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More About Offers Because ... Why Not?

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about offers that generate quality and those that result in quantity. But, whether you're looking for sheer numbers or highly qualified leads, coming up with a good offer can be key to whether your next campaign is a hit or a dud. Like any creative undertaking, brainstorming offers can benefit from a combination of ...
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For creative marketing that really works, it’s time for B Direct.

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