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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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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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