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Archive for June, 2005

Should Direct Marketers Worry About Branding?

June 27th, 2005 by Bob Bly

Yes, says Steve Cuno, chairman of something called RESPONSE Prospecting and Loyalty Strategies, in an article in Deliver (7/05).

?As a direct marketing, you?re hired to pull a profitable, measurable response, not to build the brand,? says Steve.

Well, at least he?s got that part right.

But then he goes on, ?But if you don?t recognize the impact your work has on the brand, and, perhaps more important, that the brand SHOULD have on your work, you?re being na?ve, and you will lose sales in the long run.?

Sorry, Steve, but that?s where you?re dead wrong.

As a direct response copywriter, your responsibility is one thing and one thing only: to maximize ROI from every promotion you write.

Direct response isn?t a branding tool. People barely remember million-dollar TV campaigns. Trust me that they forget 99.99% of your mail the minute they toss it.

And whenever you subordinate ROI to worrying about ?the impact your work has on the brand? ? or anything else ? you are compromising the ability of your promotion to maximize response.

When I sit down to write a letter, I think of only one thing: what true, ethical, and legal thing can I say that will get my prospect to buy this product?

And not, ?How can I create a good image? or ?How does this build the brand??

I have been doing it that way for 25 years ? with pretty good results.

So I think I?m right and Steve?s all wet.

What?s your opinion?


Category: Branding, Direct Marketing | 165 Comments »

What your English Teacher Can?t Teach You About Writing Copy

June 20th, 2005 by Bob Bly

English teachers and copywriters have different goals, which is why you should never let an English teacher review or edit your copy.

The English teacher?s goal is to be grammatically correct. The copywriter?s goal is to sell.

When the two conflict, give selling priority over grammar.

For instance, several English teachers told me that one of copywriting?s most popular phrases, ?free gift,? is redundant. After all, what gift isn?t free?

But when a direct marketer tested a mailing with ?free gift? vs. ?gift,? not only did omitting the ?free? depress response ? but recipients actually called to ask ?Is the gift free??

And in his book ?Crowning the Customer? (Ralphel Publishing), supermarket owner Fergal Quinn tells the following story:

?We have always given away bones for customers? dogs, and at one stage put up a sign: ?WOOF! Take home some bones for your dog.?

?One day a shopper said, ?I don?t shop here for my meat. I go to the butchers down the road, because they give me free bones for my dog.?

?’But they do that here,? other customers chorused. ?We even have a sign about it,? I added.

??Oh, I saw the sign,? she said, ?But it never said the bones were free.??


Category: Direct Marketing | 85 Comments »

More Nails in the Coffin of the Printed Word

June 15th, 2005 by Bob Bly

According to a short item in The Week (6/17/05), more than one out of three hardcover books are returned by bookstores to the publishers unsold each year.

And an article in BtoB (6/13/05) reports that after 2006, Thomas Publishing will cease publishing the print edition of its industrial buying directory, Thomas Register, making it available online only.

?Quicker than we probably think, print will be replaced by the online delivery system as the primary source of content,? says consultant Malcolm Netburn in an interview with Circulation Management (6/05).

If you are an author, a bibliophile, and a lover of the printed word — like me — this can?t be happy news to you.

Or can it? Do you see any bright side ? or is it the continuation of the slow death of the book publishing industry as we know it?


Category: Writing and the Internet | 104 Comments »

Has the Internet killed writing and literacy?

June 13th, 2005 by Bob Bly

My theory is that the Internet has and will continue to diminish the importance of writing skills and the quality of writing over time.

The reason: Pre-Internet, documents were printed, with considerable expense invested in the design and reproduction.

Therefore, publishers and other content producers would take pains to ?get it right.?

After all, once the piece was printed, correcting a typo, grammatical error, or awkward sentence meant going back to press ? again at considerable expense.

In the Internet era, documents are increasingly electronic files posted on a Web site.

Making corrections is easy, and in fact a whole new category of software ? content management systems (CMS) ? has evolved to manage these changes.

Now that content producers realize mistakes are quick, easy, and inexpensive to correct, they are not as concerned with getting it right the first time.

As a result, they are not as particular about the quality of the writing, editing, and even thinking their organizations publish.

So it seems to me that, if anything, writing skills are less important in an age of technology, rather than more important.

Also, the Internet has sped up the pace of business and society.

Therefore, the primary attribute valued today in writing — or any other product or service — is speed, an attribute to which quality often takes a back seat.

Do you agree?


Category: Writing and the Internet | 109 Comments »

Confessions of a Blogging Skeptic: Part II

June 2nd, 2005 by Bob Bly

As I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog, I recently signed a contract with a major publisher to write a book titled ?My Year in the Blogosphere: Confessions of a Blogging Skeptic? — and I?m hoping you can help me with it.

My question has to do with why you visit, read, and leave posts on blogs (like this one).

There are so many other sources of information available on the topics you are interested in: Web sites, articles, books.

Most of these sources are (in my opinion) better written, better researched, more authoritative, and more thought out than blogs. Do you agree?

So why not just read books, periodicals, and Web sites? Why do you read blogs ? and bother writing posts on them?


Category: Blogging | 448 Comments »