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#174 Bean Guarantee
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, November 16, 2022




Postedby Denny Hatch


 #174 Blog Post - Wednesday, 16 November 2022


Posted by Denny Hatch


Don't Let Your Lawyers

Castrate Your Guarantee



L.L. Bean, Granddaddy of Niche Catalogs


Leon Leonwood Bean (1872-1967) was a passionate outdoorsman.In 1911 he invented the "L.L.Bean Boot,made in Maine since 1912." He figured out how to combine a comfortablewaterproof full-grain leather upper with a waterproof rubber bottom that keepsthe foot absolutely dry.


Based on his remarkable invention he founded the business in1912. Over the years, L.L. Bean expanded into summer and winter stylish, sturdyoutdoor and indoor casual clothing and sporting accessories.


It was in 1916 that Bean came up with the simplest, mostpowerful and deeply personal guarantee in the history of direct marketing:



Why This Guarantee Is So Powerful
And How It Was Wrecked by Lawyers

 It's the ‘I’.
"The most important word in direct copy is not ‘you’ —as many of the textbooks would have it — but ‘I.' What makes aletter seem ‘personal’ is not seeing your own name printed dozens of times acrossthe page, or even being battered to death with a never ending attack of ‘you’s.’It is, rather, the sense that one gets of being in the presence of thewriter... that a real person sat down and wrote you a real letter." —RichardArmstrong, direct marketing copywriter.


Okay, Bean's 16 words are not in a letter. Rather they are inthe form of a simple blurb that can appear everywhere—as a small card or"lift piece" in a direct mail package or an ad in the catalog—all theway down to a label sewn onto an article of clothing. Note it starts with"I". It is signed by L.L. Bean himself, founder and owner of the business.


"Don't overlook the importance of yoursignature. Your signature is your handshake."

—Malcolm Decker


Danger: The Era of "Catalog Bandits"

Bean's Guarantee was operational for 96 years—from 1916 to2018.


"A classic catalog bandit is the womanwho has been invited to a formal gala evening. She goes to her favorite catalogsource of dress clothes and orders three gowns. She tries them on in front of afull-length mirror and decides on which one to wear to the party. She receivescompliments throughout the evening. The next day she packs up the three gowns,returns them to the cataloger for a full refund." —Bob Doscher


ALetter to L.L. Bean Customers

Since1912, our mission has been to sell high-quality products that inspire andenable people to enjoy the outdoors. Our commitment to customer service hasearned us your trust and respect, as has our guarantee, which ensures that westand behind everything we sell.


Increasingly,a small, but growing number of customers has been interpreting our guaranteewell beyond its original intent. Some view it as a lifetime product replacementprogram, expecting refunds for heavily wornproducts used over many years. Others seek refunds for products that have beenpurchased through third parties, such as at yard sales.


Basedon these experiences, we have updated our policy. Customers will have one yearafter purchasing an item to return it, accompanied by proof of purchase. Afterone year, we will work with our customers to reach a fair solution if a productis defective in any way. 


Thisupdate adds clarity to our policy and will only affect a small percentage ofreturns. It will also ensure we can continue to honor one of the bestguarantees in retail, with no impact for the vast majority of our customers. Tolearn more, please view our full return policy at llbean.com. 


L.L.Beanhas stood for quality, service, trust,and getting people outdoors ever since my great-grandfather founded our companyover 100 years ago - and that will never change.


Thankyou for being a loyal customer and we look forward to continuing to inspire andenable you to Be an Outsider.


Sincerely, Shawn O. Gorman
L.L.Bean Executive Chairman

February 9, 2018,
9:34 AM ET


TheCurrent L.L. Bean Guarantee

Where This Current Guarantee Fails

• Obviously a CYA effort written and approved by lawyers.


"OUR GUARANTEE"... "We stand behind all ourproducts..."


• A faceless group ("We" and "Our") can't guarantee anything. Only one real person can—a live person you can write to or call with a complaint. Clearly the Bean company is full of weasels where nobodyhas the cojones to use his or her real name to take responsibility of standing behind their products.


"For details, please refer to our Return Policy."


• Uh-oh. Clearly this is not the 16-word no-nonsense promise of oldL.L. himself. It smells of disclaimers and complications.


A Quick Update on L.L. Bean's History

• L.L. Bean assumed room temperature in 1967.


• He was succeeded by grandson, Leon A. Gorman (1934-2015).


• Leon was succeeded by great-grandson, Shawn Gorman, in 2013.


• Shawn was succeeded by Stephen Smith, in January 2016


• Stephen Smith is the fourth president and CEO of L.L. Beanin its first 110 years.


• Today L.L. Bean has 57 bricks-and-mortar stores nationwide includingits Freeport, Maine headquarters open 24/7 that welcomes three million visitorsa year.


• L.L. Bean's net revenue at close of 2021 fiscal year: $1.8billion.


• Adding to is retail reach Bean mails 200 million catalogsper year.


A New, Modern Guarantee Created

By Denny Hatch (Just for This Post)



Takeaways to Consider

  "Why is Ben and Jerry’s causingmeltdowns in the sale of other ice cream manufacturers? Because everyone knowsthat these two guys not only make the stuff themselves by hand, but alsopersonally examine each scoop.
     "Why is L.L. Bean the envy ofMacy’s? Same reason. Because everyone knows that old L.L. not only sews theshoes himself, but also sees that they fit.
     "The two basic tenets of selling are that (1)people buy from other people more happily than from faceless corporations and2) in the marketplace as in theater, there is indeed a factor at work called 'the willing suspension of disbelief.'

     "Whostands behind our pancakes? Aunt Jemima. Our angel food cake? Betty Crocker.Our coffee? Juan Valdez. Anyone over the age of three knows that it’s all a myth.But like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, the myths are comforting."
—Bill Jayme, Legendary copywriter

• Note Steve Smith's line: "If you are not 100% satisfied with a purchase from L.L. Bean...." Obviously your transaction is in the L.L.'s computer. 

• Never demand "proof of purchase." It's a pain in the neck. What's more you might find yourself in a nasty fight over a Chinese counterfeit product.

• Make sure the guarantor uses his or her real signature in blue or black—not a phony-baloney, sanitized computer font. Your signature is your handshake.

• "The first thing we do, let's killall the lawyers." —Shakespeare,Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2.




Word count: 1119




The Most Fun You Can Have
In the English Language
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.



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