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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What if a corporation created the STOP sign?

I have often remarked that the stop sign is a lesson in simple, direct copywriting and design.

But what if the creation of the stop sign were directed by a corporate marketing department?

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Interview reveals my mysterious past

Curious about my sordid past? Want to know some of my secret thoughts about freelancing and the copywriting business?

Well, this is your lucky day. I often do interviews with people who are curious about such things and one of them just appeared over at The Web Shop’s Best Practices Blog.

People find it curious that I started out in the weird and wonderful world of television before finding my way (with many twists and turns) into the world of direct mail and direct marketing. But it’s true.

I was a television producer (which sounds more glamorous than it is). My job was to promote syndicated shows on NBC, including The Muppet Show, Dukes of Hazzard, and Laverne & Shirley. Yep, those were real shows, for those of you too young to remember.

General LeeI gained some notoriety for driving around in an authentic replica of the “General Lee,” an orange 1969 Dodge Charger, to promote the Dukes of Hazzard. A fellow employee and I whooped and hollered and generally made asses of ourselves, but achieved our objective of getting attention for the show. It was an early lesson in how not to be subtle if you want to achieve an objective.

Other tidbits, if you’re at all curious: Read more

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Yogi Berra: Master Copywriter?

Yogi BerraA while back, I published this article on Copyblogger. It turned out to be quite popular. So in case you missed it there, I’ll rerun it here.

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra is a fifteen-time All Star and three-time MVP. He played in 14 World Series games. But what is he famous for? Mixed up quotes.

Someone once asked him what he would do if he found a million dollars. Yogi said, “I’d find the fellow who lost it, and, if he was poor, I’d return it.” When discussing a Steve McQueen movie, Yogi observed, “He must have made that before he died.” Commenting on a pair of gloves, he said, “The only reason I need these gloves is ’cause of my hands.”

On the surface, Yogi seems confused. But perhaps he is trying to convey a deeper meaning for those who care to consider his words carefully. In fact, I think Yogi can teach us about the art of sell copy, the sort of copywriting intended to persuade and motivate.

Let’s listen to what he has to say, and I’ll translate his “yogisms” into clear English.

Yogi: “This is like deja vu all over again.”
Translation: Study proven selling techniques. Every generation of writers thinks they are discovering selling for the first time. Many online writers think writing and selling began with the Web. But selling is based on human psychology and has been going on for thousands of years. If you want to learn how to sell today, study the sales techniques of yesterday. To get started, read Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples and Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins.

Yogi: “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”
Translation: Start with a goal. After all, how can you get someplace if you don’t know where you want to go? Your goal must be specific and measurable: 5,000 subscribers, 135 sales, 750 site hits per day, whatever. This tells you where you’re going and gives you a way to know when you’ve arrived. Read more

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Is it hypocritical for a professional copywriter to hate the commercialism of Christmas?

The holidays are over. And I have to admit that I’m glad.

That sounds so incredibly cynical. But there it is.

I’m a professional copywriter. I’ve helped over 200 businesses sell all manner of products and services: books, magazine subscriptions, insurance, credit cards, software, sex education videos, corporate training materials, Internet services, computers, newsletters, high-end fashion, mailing lists, nutritional supplements, sports equipment, and on and on.

In other words I sell stuff. Lots of stuff. Yet, I dislike buying stuff. I loath shopping. And when Christmas rolls around, I feel oppressed by the incessant push to buy, buy, buy.

There are things I love about Christmas, though, particularly doing good things for others. At my wife’s workplace, the corporation has a “giving tree” where tags are hung bearing the names and wishes of poor local children.

Employees take the tags and buy gifts for the children. Most people take one tag. My wife waits a few days, then strips the tree of all remaining tags.

We then choose a store or two and begin filling shopping carts with clothing, toys, and games. And I enjoy it. Why? Because I know I’m doing something worthwhile. Because I know the gifts will make the kids happy. Mostly, because it’s my choice to buy the gifts.

Now if someone told me I “must” buy those gifts, I wouldn’t enjoy it at all. And I think that’s my problem with all the other Christmas gifts I buy. I feel I “must” buy them. The season demands it. It’s the culmination of a year of holidays and birthdays where cards and gifts seem mandatory.

But is a gift you are forced to buy really a gift? What would my family think if I took all the money I spent on gifts for them and bought more gifts for needy children? Could I convince my wife to try it? I floated the idea to her, but it didn’t go over very well.

My wife is incredibly generous. But she loves to shop for family, even if none of them really need anything.

So am I a hypocrite for loathing holiday commercialism? Do you feel this way sometimes?

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Welcome to the Direct Creative Blog!

I’ve been wanting to add a blog to my main Web site for some time. I enjoy talking shop and sharing know-how, and that’s what this blog will be all about.

I’m not going to constrain myself too much on subject matter, but it will revolve around direct marketing topics, specifically creating various forms of direct response advertising, such as direct mail, e-mail, ads, sales letters, lead generation, etc. I might touch on freelancing and general business matters from time to time. And I’m likely to veer off road into other subjects too.

The way I see it, since direct marketing is about selling, and since selling is about people and life, pretty much any topic is fair game because to understand people you have to live life and observe how people think and how things work in the real world. The best copywriters and salesmen are men and women of the world with the capacity to think widely and deeply about the biggest and smallest of things.

Subscribe to the blog, ask questions, and comment. I’d like this to be a conversation rather than a lecture.

And don’t forget to subscribe to my popular newsletter. I’m a nice guy, so I’ll even give you a free report after you sign up — 99 Easy Ways to Boost Your Direct Mail Response.

So am I supposed to launch this blog by smashing a bottle of champaign against my computer or something?

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