Why “corporate” ads waste money

The money wasted on do-nothing “corporate” advertising is truly astonishing. Here’s a “corporate” style ad I chose completely at random from Target Marketing magazine.

Corporate Ad

Okay, quick … what’s it about? Don’t know? Of course not. You have to read the teeny little block of type to find out it has something to do with email. I think it’s software, but I’m not entirely sure.

This is typical of what I call “corporate” ads. These are ads that look pretty, say little, cost a lot, and don’t work very well.

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USPS offers direct mail “summer sale”

USPS Summer SaleIt’s no secret that the economy has depressed mail volume and that the USPS is suffering. But here’s a bit of surprising news:

The postal service is offering a “sale” this summer. Dead Tree Edition provides the details:

To counteract its declining revenues, the U.S. Postal Service is rolling out incentives to certain organizations that increase the number of items they mail.

Postal officials are reportedly working on a “Summer Sale” program to encourage businesses and non-profit groups to send more direct mail, catalogs, and other Standard-class mail this summer. Sources say it would offer rebates of 20% to 30% for mailers that increase their Standard mail during July, August, and September of this year.

The Postal Service will reportedly file the Summer Sale proposal with the Postal Regulatory Commission this month. The PRC would then have up to 45 days to rule on the proposal.

The program reportedly grew out of discussions between Postmaster General Jack Potter and CEOs of printing and paper companies about how to increase USPS’s volumes during the off-peak summer months. It would apparently be more politically acceptable than Potter’s other idea for countering low summer volumes — temporarily reducing deliveries to five days a week.

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Direct marketing extra credit reading list

I’ve been busy recently writing articles for everything other than this blog. So here’s a short reading list for a little direct marketing extra credit.

First, Melissa Data recently published The Ultimate Marketing Survival Guide for 2009. I wrote the lead article, “Direct mail remains the king of direct marketing.” Just in case you thought direct mail was dead or that tweeting is better than mailing, this article will disabuse you of that faulty assumption.

Next, there’s a fun little article over at Copyblogger titled The 3 Secret Persuasion Techniques Every Kid Knows. You parents will relate to this one. I don’t have children, but I know they’re often tuned into persuasion better than many adults.

Feeling a little burned out? Mary Jaksch asked me to submit some tips for Write to Done in a post titled 7 Easy Ways to Energize Your Creative Powers. If you’re a professional writer, you can’t just wait for the muse to drop by. You need a few techniques for flipping the switch on creativity when you need it.

Finally, there’s one of my regular columns for DM News, one of the most recent is Problem Solver: Is it smart for an online business to use direct mail? I discuss how you can’t let a particular medium dictate your marketing strategy and ways to use direct mail to build your online business.

This should keep you busy for a while.

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How to use “official” envelopes for direct mail

There are two basic envelope strategies for direct mail packages: the teaser envelope and the mystery envelope.

The teaser envelope is just what it sounds like. It’s a direct mail envelope covered with teaser copy about the envelope contents. This makes it clear that the contents are advertising something. Often there are photos or illustrations, copy details, even a statement of the offer.

The mystery envelope by contrast, generally gives you no clue about the envelope contents. Sometimes the envelope shows nothing more than the return address and postage or looks like a personal communication. The idea here is for the mailing to not look like advertising.

“Official” envelopes are a subset of the mystery envelope. They don’t tell you exactly what’s inside, but they raise the curiosity level by making it appear as if the contents are important and urgent.

Here’s an example I received recently:

official direct mail envelope

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Semantic noise: the copywriter’s curse

“Semantic noise” is the term communication professors use to describe what happens when words mean different things to different people.

Here’s one notorious example. A copywriter wrote the following slogan for a cough syrup company:

“Try our cough syrup. You will never get any better.”

You can see what the poor copywriter meant to say, but his slogan can be understood in two ways. It creates major semantic noise and you are left wondering why anyone would buy a product that promises to NOT work.

Here are other examples of semantic noise caused by writers from around the world.

Sign in Norwegian cocktail lounge: “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.”

Detour sign in Japan: “Stop. Drive Sideways.”

Hotel in Vienna: “In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.”

Elevator in Germany: “Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.”

Dry cleaner window in Bangkok: “Drop your pants here for best results.”

And my favorite from a Japanese hotel: “You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.”

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