Home > NewsRelease > #190 Disbelief From Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
#190 Disbelief From Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia, PA
Tuesday, June 27, 2023




#190BLOG POST  - Thursday 22 June 2023


Postedby Denny Hatch



Part I:

The Secret of Successful Direct Marketing:

Create a “Willing Suspension of Disbelief.”


The Introduction of the Up-up-up Market
American Express Platinum Card.


Aboveis a tacky, crappy reproduction of the most exciting, exquisite mailing I everreceived in studying more than 100,000 pieces of junk mail over the 30-year life span ofmy cranky newsletter, WHO’S MAILING WHAT! It was the staggeringlybeautiful launch package of the revolutionary American Express Platinum Card in1984.


Ourestimated cost to produce this mailing — paper, printing, inserting and postagewas roughly $1.00 each in the mail. (A mind-blowing $2.93 in today’sdollars!)


ShortlyI will share with you the amazing specs of this extraordinary marketing effort— a personal “me-to-you” First Class Postage offer signed in blue ink with theactual signature of AmEx’s top panjandrum, Consumer Card Group President Edwin Cooperman.



About the “Willing Suspension ofDisbelief.”

“Two basic tenets of selling are that (1) people buyfrom other people more happily than from faceless corporations, and that (2) inthe marketplace as in theater, there is indeed a factor at work called “thewilling suspension of disbelief.”

      “Who stands behind our pancakes?  Aunt Jemima. Our angel food cake? BettyCrocker. Our coffee? JuanValdez.  Anyone over the age of threeknows that it’s all myth. But — like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy — themyths are comforting.”

—BillJayme, Legendary Direct Mail Copywriter in a letter to DH.


“Directresponse marketing is not advertising in an envelope.”

— Bob Hacker, Founder & CEO of The Hacker Group.


OSE — Outside Envelope — for the Platinum Card mailing. Highest quality paper, printing, personalization, simplicity and elegance. Embossed silver faux platinum card at upper left. Two actual U.S.P.S. 18¢ postage stamps affixed at right. No crass teaser copy. It has the look and feel of an actual letter.

Simple Order Card. Dark band across the order card top was a raised strip of silvermetallic faux platinum (also atop each of the three pages of the letter).  No pain-in-the-neck B.S. of interrupting the ordering process by requiring the applicant to hunt up a credit card account number. The mailing was sent to AmEx cardmembers only, and obviously Ed Cooperman's computers knew them by name and address.

The letter was a masterpiece of copy and design. "A letter should look and feel like a letter," said guru Dick Benson.

The signature on page 3 was in blue ink. "Always use the writer's actual signature, and not a neat-'n'-tidy phony computer font," said the great copywriter Malcolm Decker. "The signature is your salesman's handshake."


From themoment it was retrieved from your mailbox, and you started reading the three-pagepersonalized, hand-typed letter with faux platinum top edges on the gorgeous heavystationary and reply card, there was no question in your mind that you were beingindividually contacted and treated as true worthy by a high panjandrum atAmerican Express. Sure, it was all done by machinery, but it had the look andfeel of a personal invitation sent direct to you from his office. It was flatteringas hell!


My greatfriend Bill Farley, VP of a leading bank in Minneapolis, sent me his mailing asa sample with this gleeful note: “I was accepted for membership!”



My 1986 Write-up in WHO’S MAILING WHAT!


Ifwe had to pick the splashiest solo mailing to go out in six-figure numbers overthe past two years, the American Express Platinum Card effort would win handsdown (540AMEXC01186NYDX). It travels in a closed-face 7-3/4" x 4-5/8"envelope of exquisite Artimus Text paper with platinum embossing and 1/8"platinum edge on the envelope flap. Inside is a 3-page personalized letter onmatching paper with a tiny reproduction of the card embossed in metallic faux platinumon the letterhead and a metallic platinum edge at the top of page 1. The secondand third sheets have the platinum edge only. There is a matching BRE (Postage-paidbusiness reply envelope). The Acceptance Form is on slightly heavier stock. Abeautiful 4” x 7¾" 16-page 4-color brochure spel1s out benefits. Interestingly,the only place the price of the card is mentioned is page 3 of the letter.


Whyis this mailing so splashy? Quite simply because it is a rare example of directmail technical perfection -- from a mailer willing to pay for that perfection.


The Diablo Printer: Automatic Typewriter witha Daisy Wheel

Itis produced by ABS in Wichita, KS, an organization that has 155 Xerox Corp. Diabloprinters and over 200 people who match and insert all the components by hand.Most clients send "tape, text and art" and ABS takes the job throughcompletion -- always guaranteeing to meet the deadlines that have beencontracted for. For virtually all clients ABS chooses paper and envelopes andproduces mailings in which the outer envelope, order form and page 1 of theletter are personalized. Additional pages of the letter are offset and collatedalong with any brochures and the BRE.


Forthe Platinum Card effort here is the drill: American Express ships into ABS aload of single sheets of Artimus Text paper. Consumer Card Group PresidentEdwin Cooperman's signature is pre-printed in blue on those sheets to be used forpage 3. 


“Always use the writer's real signature on the letter,”said copy wizard Malcolm Decker. “It's your salesman’s handshake.”


Outside carrier envelopes and order forms are on matching paper and inmatching type. Each element is completely typed on the same Diablo printer sothere is an exact match -- outer envelope, page 1 of the letter and theorder form. Because American Express is insistent on the illusion (a.k.a.creating a willing suspension of disbelief) that the entire letter be an exactmatch, pages 2 and 3 of the letter are also typed on that same Diablo printer,even though there is no personalization! The mailing goes out Presorted FirstClass with two live 18-cent U.S. postage stamps affixed to the outer envelope.Did Cooperman’s secretary actually lick the stamps???)


OnlyAmerican Express knows the actual cost because they are supplying paper andbrochures. But an educated guess would be somewhere between $1,000.00 - $1,010.00/M.That’s with no outside list rental, because the mailing goes only to Amex cardmembers.


Isthe mailing successful? It's been mailed for over two years. There arecurrently a quarter-million Platinum Card members paying $250 a year ($732 in2023 dollars). The product being sold is a little plastic card, so cost ofgoods sold is peanuts. That’s virtually pure profit of for a cool $62.5 milliona year ($183 million in today’s dollars) in dues alone. To get these kinds ofnumbers response would have to be well into two figures.


Mostof the ABS clients (Sotheby's, Porsche. Learning International, Value Line)have units of sale in excess of $75. The National Trust for HistoricPreservation is using a personalized effort whose average unit of sale is a paltry$17; according to Dolores McDonagh at the National Trust, the ABS package pullsup to 20% better, with the increased response making up for higher costs.



                              A Quick Aside on “Memberships”
Legendary magazine marketing guru Dick Benson extolled the benefitsof having members rather than ordinary subscribers. He said, “Magazines linked to membership affiliations — like theNational Geographic and the Smithsonian — renew better than plain subscriptionsby 10% or more.”


The Platinum Card & Why I Acquired One.

Forstarters, I had close family ties to American Express. In 1950 my father, AldenHatch, was hired to write the official history of the company, AmericanExpress: A Century of Service. Our house on Long Island bordered the secondfairway of the Rockaway Hunt club (founded 1878). In my boyhood AmEx presidentRalph T. Reed, his wife Edna and daughter Phyllis vacationed in a suiteoverlooking the Hunt Club golf course. They were constant visitors at thehouse. In 1956 I got a summer job in the mail room of American Express. And veryearly in my career when I was book traveler (salesman) flying around thecountry I acquired an American Express Green Card and, shortly thereafter, agold card.


Artwork on my current Gold Card
showingmy membership since 1964.


Why Would I — A Pipsqueak NewsletterPublisher

With a So-so Middle Income — Springfor Platinum?

Yes, $250 a year annual dues, ($732.50 in 2023 dollars) wereexorbitant. However, in those days Peggy and I flew a lot. The Platinum Card guaranteedaccess to several of the deluxe airline lounges. More important, we did someserious traveling (Egypt, Africa, Belize) and Platinum membership included comprehensiveTravel Insurance guaranteeing private evacuation out of the jungle to thenearest top hospital and flights back to Stamford, CT if the worst befell us.


Takeaways to Consider

Everything about this extraordinary mailing screamstop-of-the-line service and customer delight. (NOT the usual plain old lawyer-written “CustomerSatisfaction Guaranteed” line.)


The mailing package washighest quality and promised highest quality.


With email marketing an ordinary little 52-charactersubject line looks like every other 52-character subject line amid the dreary dozens of subject lines in your computer inbox.


In short, the Platinum Cardmailing was tactile and immediately stood out among the bills and junk mail as somethingextra special and certainly worth pursuing.


• It immediately overcame disbelief.


God how I miss the fun ofdirect mail marketing—the writing, designing and producing direct mail packagesincluding renewals and billing efforts) — and above all going into the mailroom for the tactile thrill of finding huge Post Office canvas bags stuffed with orders!


•  A couple of decades ago, Iinterviewed Joan Manley, Time-Life Books CEO who turned the publishing companyinto a behemoth. She confessed to me that several times a year she simply hadto get onto a plane and fly to Chicago to get in physical touch with her customers.That meant visiting the huge mail facility where orders were received and processed.Unlike the retail business — where sellers are always face-to-face withcustomers — Manley felt a deep personal need to see… and touch... and open… andread original incoming mail orders. “This is as physically close to mycustomers as is possible in the mail order business, and I need to do it!”


• Today, the overwhelmingpercentage of orders are electronic blips untouched by human hands. The result:direct marketers don’t have any sense of actual human contact.






Word Count: 1689




6" x 9"  292pp
Paperback:     $29.95
ebook/Kindle: $19.95



Barnes & Noble



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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