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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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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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