Wacky Waiving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man

When I first saw this mock commercial on Family Guy for the Wacky Waiving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, I nearly fell off the couch. It reminds me of my days as a TV producer for an NBC affiliate where I created some commercials that were nearly as outrageous.

Warning: If you’re at the office, turn down your audio a bit.

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Soup, sand, and rancid cheese: The craziest direct mail test in history

crazy direct mail testingNine years ago, I discovered an article at Improbable Research about a direct mail test that was so bizarre, I had to share it with others. So, with the permission of the author, I posted it to my website.

It turned out to be a popular article, amusing and amazing people all over the country.

Why all the fuss? Why would so many people outside the direct marketing industry want to read an article on direct mail testing?

Because it chronicles the most audacious direct mail test in history. It started as a prank, but developed into a revealing look at how good the USPS really can be at delivering mail.

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Brainstorming doesn’t work?

According to research cited by PsyBlog (one of my favorite blogs), brainstorming may not be as effective as people are lead to believe.

I wrote about brainstorming in The Secrets of Successful Brainstorming on my main website. And because I’ve conducted brainstorming sessions with clients, I know firsthand that there are limitations to this technique and that it’s hard to get brainstorming to work just right.

According to PsyBlog, problems such as people slacking in groups and fear of being evaluated can result in a group producing fewer and lower quality ideas than people working alone.

I can verify this from personal experience, though I have found that poor results come primarily from the wrong group mix, a rigid company culture, and inexperience with brainstorming.

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Comic book ads reveal “action” design

Comic Book Ad

I was looking at some old ads for comic books recently. In addition to bringing back boyhood memories, it got me thinking about what’s often wrong with ad design these days.

Comic books (and the ads for them) are all about action and adventure. The design creates this feeling with vivid colors, imperfect hand lettering, perspective, and angles.

Imagine what a comic would look like if the colors were muted, the letters were small and perfect, the images were flat, and all the graphics were linear.

It would look like many ads you see today. Boring and aloof.

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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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4 secrets of DM creative team success

In a recent Target Marketing webinar, Robert Lerose and William Fridrich discussed how clients can work successfully with DM copywriters and designers.

Target posted four of these ideas on their Web site:

1. The most precious thing you can give a copywriter is time. Hiring a copywriter at the last minute and then expecting him to turn around brilliant, well-conceived copy shortly thereafter is unreasonable, says Lerose. Plus, many of the quality copywriters will be booked! So make sure you hire early and set a reasonable deadline so the work comes in on time and in great shape.

2. The aim of design is clarity and involvement, not fancy-pants visuals. It’s very easy to go overboard with design, especially with the new tools available to designers. But restraint is necessary when the chief motivator is to get the copy read and keep readers involved until they respond, Fridrich asserts.

3. Make your key people available for interviews. This is an overlooked crucial step in helping a copywriter not only understand the company and product he’s writing about, but also in coming up with the right kind of copy, explains Lerose. Often, visiting the site where the product is made and talking to the people involved, such as a magazine and its editorial staff, will eventually produce copy that is accurate, inspired and effective.

4. All changes and corrections should be collected and communicated to the designer at one time. Depending on how many people have a say in the look and design of a particular mailer, it’s essential to first come to a consensus about the necessary revisions before asking the designer to make changes, says Fridrich. This results in a more efficient process and ultimately is a mutually satisfactory result.

I’d be happy if clients would just provide adequate time and forward changes in one document. They both have to do with time, and unfortunately many marketers simply don’t understand the time that can go into delivering good work.

What else would you like clients to do to make working with them easier?

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Direct Marketing Glossary

Do you know what a bingo card is? How about a buck slip. Or a bangtail? (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

These terms may sound mysterious, but they’re just part of the official language of direct marketing. That’s probably why one of my most bookmarked pages is the Glossary of Direct Marketing Terms.

Here are some of the most interesting terms from the glossary:

Bangtail – Return envelope with a reply form attached to the flap. The reply form tears off and is returned in the envelope. Also referred to as a “hot potato.”

Bingo Card – Reply card in a publication offering an easy means to request information from advertisers whose ads appear in the publication. Called a “bingo card” because it is often covered with numbers corresponding to offered information, making the card look similar to a card used to play bingo.

Buckslip – Small piece of paper inserted into a direct mail package to emphasize certain information.

Decoy – Name included in a mailing list to catch people who disregard the terms of the list rental agreement.

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FREE Direct Mail White Paper

direct mail white paperGetting Response in a Down Economy reveals what’s really happening in the marketplace, how your customers are reacting, and the 4 key principles you can use to boost your direct mail profits. Plus, get 32 pages packed with the powerful tips, strategies, and resources you need to cut costs and increase sales.

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Why slogans don’t sell

Here’s a little secret Madison Avenue doesn’t want anyone to know …

Slogans are losers. They don’t sell.

At least, most of them don’t sell. I ran across an article from USA Today I saved back in 2003 on this topic and it cited a consumer survey on whether people recognized the slogans of some of the biggest marketers in the U.S. The results were depressing.

Out of 22 supposedly “famous” tag lines, “only six were recognized by more than 10% of those surveyed — this for companies spending more than $100 million a year on ads.”

When you dig deeper into the results, it gets worse.

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Does Twitter drive traffic and sales?

Twitter logoTwitter has become a big topic in the marketing world. But is it driving traffic or generating sales?

I must admit that my experience with Twitter is limited. I’ve been testing it with a nonprofit political organization I help run in Ohio. The number of “followers” we have is fairly small at this point, but growing steadily.

Most of our “tweets” are actually generated by an automated tool to post our RSS feed, resulting in about 10 tweets a week. I and one other officer have been occasionally adding original tweets about important topics, events, or guests on our radio show. So there are maybe 15 to 20 tweets total every week.

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