Home > NewsRelease > #116 Freemiums From Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
#116 Freemiums From Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia, PA
Thursday, December 10, 2020


#116 Blog Post – Thursday, December 10, 2020




Posted by Denny Hatch


The Downside of Digital Marketing:
Exactly Who Are Our Customers?

Direct marketers sell all over the country and around the world. Unlike retailers we seldom—if ever—talk to our customers face-to-face.


Who are they? What do they look like? How do they dress. What car do they drive? Do they come off as upbeat or downtrodden?


Operating in the world of the one-line address (e.g. dennyhatch@yahoo.com) I could be anywhere in the country—from a shack in the hills of West Virginia to a mansion in the Hollywood hills to being a scammer in Russia.


Above is a mythical direct mail 6”x9” envelope for a non-existent non-profit organization going out to a fictional couple in Atlanta.


In the oversized left-hand window is the freemium—a free premium gift in a mailing to the Grayson family. It’s a sheet of 84 return self-stick personalized return labels that can be affixed to upper left corner of the mythical Graysons’ outgoing household envelopes—their paid bills, personal letters, business reply mail.



When recipients see their names and addresses multiple times showing through an envelope window it’s (1) an instant attention-getter and (2) immediately obvious as time savers. No more pain-in-the-ass writing their name and address in the “From” section in the upper left hand corner of these stupid envelopes! (3) The guilt element: if I'm going to use Pine Tree Conservancy stickers on my envelopes, I really should send them a thank-you gift.


Freemiums may not guarantee a sale. But they get folks past the first step—opening the envelope (and hopefully being attracted by the offer).


Back in the 80s, 90s and early 00s, these label freemiums were widely used by direct mailers. Among the marketers who blanketed the country with these free goodies: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Guideposts magazine and World Wildlife fund with its darling little panda logo.


The Wizard of Time-Life Books and Music, Joan Manley


 During its heyday, Time-Life Books sold tens of millions of copies of books marketed entirely via direct mail in series that ranged from Gunfighters of the Old West (its bestselling series, selling three million copies in the U.S. alone) to the Great Ages of Man.
—Jim Milliot, Publisher’s Weekly, Jan 10, 2014


In 1970, Joan Manley became Publisher of Time-Life Books. She grabbed the reins of this most profitable arm of the Time-Life empire and sent it into orbit. Under her aegis, for a while it was one of the top five publishers in the world.

     Joan was a creature of direct marketing. She lived, breathed and loved it! Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the T-L warehousing and fulfillment operations were in Chicago—middle of the country, strategically equidistant from both coasts.

     Joan told me that periodically she was called to the Chicago operation. Oh sure, she had to oversee things. But also it was an emotional pull; she had to get her hands on raw orders.

     "It gave me a big belt at the time," she said to me after she retired, "and it would now. Direct marketing distances you from your customer, so for many reasons it is desirable to read the raw mail, as well as letters—good and bad—from readers."

     She also loved the high of going to the direct mail printer and standing under the great presses as they churned out giant bed sheet circulars, the hallmark of the Time-Life mailings.


Happiness Is Bags of Incoming Mail

    I fully grasped Manley’s delirium of burrowing through raw orders. As I wrote about the Peter Possum Book Club in Blog Post #43— (http://dennyhatch.blogspot.com/2019/02/43-how-successful-direct-marketing.html):


“Test mailings went out and I discovered the orgiastic thrill of direct mail success. Every day giant canvas bags of business reply mail from the Post Office—filled with hundreds of book orders. Mountains of cash—piled into the mailroom.

      Many of the orders contained hand-written raves from deliriously happy teachers. Peter Possum was an unequivocal, raging success!

     The four partners, my editor Roberta Sewell, designer Gil Evans, the production team—indeed everyone in the company—were positively giddy.


Fast Forward to Around 2000

At some point in the early 2000s I attended a Direct Marketing conference in New York City. At a break-out session one of the panelists was the Boy Scouts of America development chief.

     For over a year he had urged his team to test a mailing featuring personal return label freemiums. The copywriters turned their noses up at the idea. These things were tacky and not worthy of the elegance and glorious history of scouting.

      This guy recounted how one day he wandered into the mail room and grabbed bag of Business Reply Envelopes just to see what was in his raw orders. To his astonishment, a huge percentage of these BREs had little personal return labels in the upper left corners—labels with logos from MADD and WWF and a bunch of other non-profit mailers.

     DING! DING! DING! went the bells in his brain. It was suddenly obvious a large percentage of his donors had responded to mailings featuring these label freemiums. He called a marketing meeting and ordered his crew to test this concept. The test blew the prior control out of the water. The confirming retest did better than the test.

    The result: BSA had created long term control that brought in tons of money!


Takeaways to Consider

• Joan Manley raised an interesting problem all direct marketers deal with: we seldom if ever meet, greet, talk to or interact with our prospects and customers face-to-face.


• In the good old days of direct mail, you knew your customers by their street address and zip codes. You knew customers who lived on Fisher’s Island, Florida, were among the richest people in the land. North of 96th Street in New York City was another story. 


• List rental is a huge profit center for all direct marketers. To get our business they supply detailed data cards loaded with demographics and psychographics.


• We also had raw mail to paw through and open.


• Operating in the world of the one-line address (e.g. dennyhatch@yahoo.com) I could be anywhere in the country—from a shack in the hills of West Virginia to a mansion in the Hollywood hills to being a scammer in Russia.


• How can direct marketers meet their customers face-to-face and learn from them—their ideas, know their wants and fulfill their dreams? It’s a challenge.


• It’s the subject of a future blog post.




Word Count:  1053

You Are Invited to Meet Denny Hatch: http://dennyhatch.blogspot.com/2020/03/87-geezer-fast-yoga.html

At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.


Denny Hatch
The St. James
200 West Washington Square, #3007
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk) 

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