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#126 Blog Post Longwood Gardens Rule-breakers
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, May 12, 2021



#126 Blog Post - Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Posted by Denny Hatch


How The Folks at Longwood Gardens Broke
Every Rule of Print and Digital Advertisin


We live in downtown Philly. Thirty-six miles away on I-95 is Longwood Gardens—1,077 acres devoted to one of the world's greatest horticultural extravaganzas. Among the goodies: 4,600 species of plants and trees, magnificent Renaissance-style fountains, year-round programs to delight families as well as scholars, concerts, special exhibitions, wonderful dining. In short, a splendid getaway founded and financed with millions of dollars starting in the 1800s by the DuPont family and going strong today. The Christmas/Chanukah holidays are eye-popping and glorious!

Last week I received the membership pitch illustrated at the top of this blog post. The message: You are invited to join for a 15% discount if you act before June 25th. 

As one of the world's leading mavens in direct mail,
I have never received a mailing like this one—NEVER!

As many readers know, Peggy and I were founders-publishers-editors of the cranky WHO'S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service. During its 35 years, we read, studied, tracked and archived more than 200,00 junk mailings—consumer, business, catalogs and non-profits/fundraising. Etched into my DNA:

1. If the same mailing is repeated month-after-month and year-after-year it's a damn good mailing. (Same premise is true for TV commercials and space ads.)

2. It was my job to study it, figure what made it successful and tell my readers so they could "steal smart."

Example: Copywriter Martin Conroy's "Two Young Men" mailing for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. It was mailed for 25 or more consecutive years and brought in $2 billion in subscription revenue. It is indisputably the most successful advertisement in the history of the world. (Imagine! A 735-word two-page letter (one page printed front and back) directly responsible for $2 billion over 25 years!

In the course of that 35 years I assembled several hundred commonsense rules by the smartest, most successful men and women in advertising, direct marketing, promotion and publicity on how to avoid turning your print ad, email, website or direct mail effort into a train wreck. 

Five Examples of Commonsense Rules

• "The wickedest of all sins is to run an advertisement without a headline."
—David Ogilvy 

• "The prospect doesn't give a damn about you, your company or your products. All that matters is, 'What's in it for me?' " (a.k.a. "Always listen to WII-FM')
—Bob Hacker

• "Your job is to sell. Not entertain."
—Jack Maxson

• "Your first 10 words are more important than the next ten thousands."
—Elmer "Sizzle" Wheeler

• "Type smaller than 9-point is difficult for most people to read."
—David Ogilvy 

What Makes This Mailing So Unusual?
For Starters It Has Only Three Elements.

Element #1 (standard fare): Four-color 6"x9" envelope printed front and back.

Element #2: Long strip (5-1/2" x 27-1/2") accordion folded into five conjoined panels (5-1/2" x 8-1/4") printed front and back on cardboard. The first four panels are four-color individual circulars. The last panel—the "Benefits of Membership" and Order Form are printed in two colors (black and blue).

Element #3: Tiny flimsy white reply envelope
(4-1/2" x 5"3/4") with blue type.

                     The Carrier Envelope
• "Your outer envelope is where your prospect decides to stop, look and listen. It's the come on—the equivalent of the headline on the ad, the cover of the catalog, the dust jacket on the book, the display window outside the store. The hotpants on the hooker.
—Bill Jayme

Note: The artsy precious little white italic "Escape to Nature" isn't big enough or bold enough to qualify as a teaser or headline. It emphatically ain't Bill Jayme's idea of hotpants. Instead , the teensy weensy unreadable text disappears into busy, out-of-focus purple and yellow mush.

• "Never set your copy in white type on a black background and never set it over a gray or colored tint. Never set it over a busy, mottled background. The old school of art directors believed that these devices forced people to read the copy; we now know they make reading physically impossible."
—David Ogilvy

The Letter
(Astonishingly, no letter was included!)

• "Direct Marketing isn't advertising in an envelope."
—Bob Hacker
• "The letter is the most powerful and persuasive selling force in direct marketing, once the product and offer are set. The writer creates this salesman, usually from whole cloth, and you must be certain that this sales representative is truly representative of your product or service as well as of your company. The letter is likely to be the only 'person' your market will ever meet—at least on the front end of the sale, so don't make him highbrow if your market is lowbrow and vice versa. If he's a Tiffany salesman, he writes in one style; if he's a grapefruit or pecan farmer, he writes differently. ('Cause he talks diffrunt.) I develop as clear a profile of my prospect as the available research offers and then try to match it up with someone I know and 'put him in a chair' across from me. Then I write to him more or less conversationally."
—Malcolm Decker
• "A letter accounts for 65 percent to 75 percent of the orders. Brochures account for five to 10 percent of orders."
—Murray Raphel
Front Side of the 4-color Conjoined Panels on Cardboard
Note: The white paragraphs of mouse-type in the lower left hand corners—surprinted over the photographyare teeny testimonials from members.
Reverse Side of the 4-color Conjoined Panels on Cardboard
Every rule-breaker on the 6" x 9" outer envelope is repeated in these panels:
• No dramatic, attention-grabbing readable headlines.
• Teeny-tiny unreadable mouse-type everywhere.
• Tiny copy surprinted on top of tinted panels and busy backgrounds.
• Added to this dismal design are artsy-muddy matte out-of-focus photos.

Longwood Gardens' Offer and Ordering Misery 

Close-up of the Order Form Top

Garden5 Members & up can add up to five additional youth access (ages 5-18) to their Membership for $10 each (Regular youth tickets are priced at $13 each.)
Please add this number of you access to my membership ($10 each)_________

Total Cost (Membership plus youth access): _____________

• "Don't give too many choices."
—Paul Goldberg

• "Confuse 'em, ya lose 'em."
—Paul Goldberg

• "Make it easy to order."
—Elsworth Howell

Don't Force the Prospect to Do Extra Work
To complete the ordering process, the prospective member is forced to write in title, name, address, apartment #, city, state, zip code—thus repeating all the information on the address label. This is preposterous! An experienced direct mail marketing designer will make it easier to order by either:
   1) Designing an order card that does double duty, whereby all the name and address data show through the outer envelope window, so USPS has what it needs to deliver the envelope. When the order is returned, Longwood Gardens as all the info to enroll the new member.
    2) Use a format whereby the name and address stuff is automatically printed twice—once on the outer envelope and once on the order form.

Don't Force the Prospect to Do Extra Work
The order card should always slip easily into the reply envelope. The Longwood Gardens crew supplied a half-size envelope, thus forcing the new member to fold the heavy cardboard order card in half and push it into the reply envelope.

Don't Force the Prospect to Do Extra Work.
Longwood Gardens wants $76 to $538 of my money. In the upper right corner of the reply envelope are these instructions:


C'mon folks... don't make an old geezer climb the stairs to the office and hunt for a postage stamp to put on your damn reply mail. A Business Reply Permit costs a paltry $165 and each reply envelope mailed back costs 65¢ postage. (You pay that 65¢ postage only when the prospect orders—not for every BRE printed.)   

(Note): If you have a Business Reply Account with the Post Office and are expecting an influx of Business Reply Mail, you must deposit money in your account to cover that projected postage. No money in the account means no Business Reply Mail will be turned over to you.

Takeaways to Consider

• Over the years people have asked me (and sometimes offered to pay me) to evaluate an upcoming promotion—direct mail, email or space ad.

• I never give an opinion on untested marketing efforts. I say that if it brings in responses at—or below—the allowable cost-per-order—and shows up over and over again for months and years, it's a big winner.

• My credo: "I can't judge advertising. It judges me."

• What I can do is point out where the effort follows accepted, tested rules and where the rules are broken.

• I'm not passing judgment on this Longwood Gardens mailing. Maybe it was a barn burner. If so, Bravo!

• I'm just suggesting direct mail is the most expensive advertising medium and it's a good idea to know the rules.

 Bob Hacker's Three Rules for Breaking the Rules

1. "Play by the rules until you have solid controls. You have a higher chance of success and less risk."

2. "Break the rules after you have solid controls, because in breaking rules risk—and sometimes cost—is much higher."

3. "There are two ways to achieve a breakthrough. Play the rules better than anyone else. Break the rules better than anyone else!"


Word Count: 1550

You Are Invited to Meet Denny Hatch and
See His
26-minute Geezer-Fast Yoga Routine

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! newsletterand archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 yearshe 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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