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#74 Ugly Works!
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Issue #74 – Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Posted by Denny Hatch

—Bob Hacker Seattle Marketing Guru 

Note the hand holding the bottom of the book, the arrow screaming “FREE” and the burst, “Yes… Take it FREE!” This thing moves the eye all over the place.
     If the reader’s mind drifts off message, there’s always something up ahead—or to one side—to catch the eye and refocus attention. 
    This is an offer to receive the first volume of a set of books—FREE!
     The book is really FREE. No cost. No risk. No obligation. Yours to keep forever, no matter what you decide about the rest of the books.

     In the 15 years I published, edited and wrote WHO’S MAILING WHAT! roughly 3,000 mailings a month passed through my fingers. Many were duplicates. Some were from minor fringe players.      
     But generally the monthly archive listed an average of 2,000 mailings in 193 categories.

     I saw hundreds of offers like this one—persuading readers, listeners and viewers to join a club or program to collect books, records, CDs, movies and audiotapes.

     The above full-page ad is truly the ugliest, busiest copy and design I ever saw in all my years reporting on junk mail.

     I love it! 
The Technique: Interrupt and Keep 
Interrupting Until Action Is Taken. 
“Neatness rejects involvement,” proclaimed my great mentor, Lew Smith, who went on to become EVP of the Wunderman Agency and Lester Wunderman’s right-hand man.
     If an advertisement, a letter, a special report, a memo or an article is too neat, Lew explained, it is not visually involving. It’s up to the author (and designer) to break the monotony.

     “Ugly works,” said Seattle direct marketing wizard Bob Hacker. It is the explanation why direct marketing copy and design are generally ugly and why they work.

     Above is a full-page ad for a now-forgotten set of books—The Made Simple Self-Teaching Library—published by Greystone Books in the late 20th century.
     This ad—the apotheosis of ugly, ugly, ugly—is the work of Greystone’s creative director, Fred Breismeister.

     Hold your nose.

     Sneer at it.

     But Breismeister’s wild wizardry made Greystone’s owner, John Stevenson, a millionaire many times over.
Too Often an Untrained Creative Team Flouts
Direct Marketing Rules and Goes Neat-‘n’-Tidy.

This plain-Jane, consummately boring little self-mailer arrived amidst a postbox full of glitzy, glorious catalogs, sale news from Costco and our favorite magazine, Majesty.

     Audible—an Amazon Company—sells a subscription to audio books. The mailing elements:

    • Three 5”x7” folded panels (6 pages front-and-back)

    • A total of 267 words.

    • Teeny Illustrations

    • Mini-mouse-type makes it difficult to read. Here’s a sample, full size:

The Rest of the Little Self-mailer
                              Panel #3                                      Panel #4
                             Panel #3                          Panel #5                                        Panel #6
How Come I Noticed This Sad Sack Self-mailer?
It Breaks a Cardinal Rule of Direct Marketing! 

"Always make it easy to order."
—Elsworth Howell, Proprietor of Howell Book House
If the prospect cannot figure out how to place the order, the effort will bomb.


     I read and re-read the damn thing four times and could not figure out how to place an order.

     Finally… FINALLY! I found the answer as a very cleverly concealed afterthought in mouse-type running across the bottom.

If it breaks this basic rule of direct marketing—print ads, mail, digital, broadcast and telephone—what other rules did it break?

      It didn’t take long to realize I had hit the jackpot of broken rules!
Here Are Four Huge Winners
In Clubs and Continuity Series

These 4 mailings are Grand Controls by marketers of books, records, CDs, DVDs, Movies and Audio Books—received over 3 or more consecutive years.   

     The little handwritten squiggles are the dates received over the years.
All grand controls are the result of millions of dollars spent on testing by the smartest and most successful companies, agents and creatives in direct marketing.
What has been tested over many years?
• Offers
• Prices
• Copy Approaches
• Headlines
• Order Devices
• Letters
• Brochures
• Lift Pieces (Little goodies that “lift” response).

Quite simply, the Amazon/Audible mailing doesn’t faintly resemble the proven winners in terms of interruptive design, offers, prices or copy. 
     All 43 Grand Controls in my clubs and continuity series category are full-dress direct mail packages. They contain long letters, brochures, myriad illustrations, slews of premiums, features and benefits and easy peasy obvious order mechanisms.
     And with the hidden mouse-type order information, this silly rogue effort is ipso facto a loser.

Direct Marketing Rules Not to Be Broken
• “Ugly works!”

• “Neatness rejects involvement.”

• "Avoid gray walls of type." —David Ogilvy.

• “Make it easy to order.”

• Interrupt and keep on interrupting until a decision is made.

• “If you want to dramatically increase your response, dramatically improve your offer.   —Axel Andersson

• “It’s the offer, stupid!” —Bob Hacker

• A club or continuity series is a complicated offer consisting of up-front premiums, announcements, rejection correspondence, bonus products (“Get a Free audio book with every 4 you buy!”), etc., etc.

• The idea that Amazon’s audible attempt to create excitement, understanding and new business for a complex product or service using a small, 6-panel self-mailer with a total of 267 words with tiny illustrations, mouse-type copy and no order device is preposterous!

•  The way to be successful in direct marketing is seeing:
     — Who’s marketing what, where and how…
     —In print, digital, broadcast, direct mail, space ads, telemarketing, social media, etc.

• Study those promotions, prices, copy platforms, headlines, features and benefits and offers you see over and over again and then...

     —Dorothy Kerr, U.S. News & World Report.

• “There are two rules and two rules only in direct marketing.
     Rule #1: Test Everything.
     Rule #2: See Rule #1.
     —Malcolm Decker

• Ed Mayer’s Corollary: “Don’t test whispers.”
   Don’t test $49.95 vs. $59.95 or blue background vs. pink background.
   Go for breakthroughs.

•  If you haven’t seen this Special Report, it’s yours FREE. Email me and I’ll be glad to send you the link.  dennyhatch@yahoo.com

Word count: 983

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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