7 stupid ways to screw up your direct mail

Screw up Direct MailA famous chess player once revealed to me how he wins so many games, often against far more experienced players. I had expected some arcane theory or secret formula. However, what he said was this: “I try to avoid making mistakes.”

I’ve never forgotten that bit of wisdom. In fact, I routinely give similar advice to my direct mail clients. Yes, I have all kinds of deep and well-thought-out ideas about creating effective direct mail, but the first thing I tell them is this: “Avoid mistakes before seeking brilliance.”

What sort of mistakes? After working with over 250 clients in the U.S. and abroad, I’ve seen lots of smart people making lots of stupid mistakes. But there are a few particularly stupid things I see again and again, each guaranteed to screw up your direct mail big time.

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FTC cracks down on endorsements and testimonials

FTC Testimonial CrackdownTestimonials have been a powerful advertising tool for generations. But now the FTC is stepping in to rewrite the rules for how you can use testimonials and endorsements.

While I’m not clear on how this will shake out, the press release issued by the FTC doesn’t look pretty.

The guidelines will not only affect the testimonials used in ads, they will also affect consumers, experts, bloggers, organizations, and celebrities who endorse products.

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Snap Pack Facts: part deux

Back in March, I posted an interesting interview with Ted Grigg about snap packs, the red-headed step child of direct mail.

Like so many things in direct mail, snap packs work far better than they look, in part because they look personal and important rather than flashy.

If you haven’t read that interview, read it now. Then watch this video from Ballantine Blog showing two types of modern snap packs.

I love the Ballantine Blog videos. Yes, they’re meant to promote printing services, but they’re highly educational for anyone interested in direct mail.

And you should be interested in direct mail. For those of you who think direct mail is going away and everything will be online in about 5 minutes, heed my warning: Direct mail will be with us for many, many years. It works like gangbusters and you ignore it at your peril.

You can see what I have to say about the death of direct mail at DM News.

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Design and legibility: 7 tips for high ad readership

This is part 2 of a 2-part post on ad design and legibility. In this part, we’ll look at how to use basic reading concepts to get more people to read your advertising.

Meaningful sales messages are transmitted through language, not design. The goal of design, therefore, is to encourage and support readership. In general, a designer should strive to:

1. Draw attention to the copy and help the reader get started reading.

2. Make reading easy by applying the basic rules of layout and typography.

3. Help communicate the writer’s message (not produce a work of art).

Specifically, a designer should make every effort to work with the realities of how people read and make the process as easy and transparent as possible.

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