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Archive for February, 2007

Do Typos Matter?

February 28th, 2007 by Bob Bly

A local gym recently mailed a postcard to attract new members.

It features a stock color photo of an attractive woman working out, with some brief copy, the closing of which read: “Call today. Summer is comming.”

When I pointed out to the owner that “coming” is spelled with one m, he shrugged it off.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said dismissively. “The picture of the hot chick exercising will pull ’em in.”

I have no doubt that the photo will get people to stop and look.

But is he right about the spelling?

Do people care if there’s a typo on your web site or in your mailer, ad, resume, or cover letter?

Or is concern about proper spelling and grammar an old-fashioned, archaic belief that people no longer have?


Category: General, Writing | 72 Comments »

The World’s Worst Wine Writer?

February 26th, 2007 by Bob Bly

In USA Today (2/23/07), wine writer Jerry Shriver recommends a 2005 Barton & Guestier “Bistro Wine” Pinot Noir.

He says: “The fruit is restrained, the texture is soft, and there’s a smidgen of that ethereal ‘Sideways’ character lurking in the bottle.”

Now, is it just me, or is this an example of terrible writing?

To me, it seems meaningless: what specific information does a reference to a movie character communicate to the reader about the taste of the wine being discussed?

It’s even less meaningful if you, like me, haven’t seen the movie and don’t know what it’s about or who the character is.

So Jerry’s writing strikes me as unclear and uninformative.

But I don’t drink wine — or see many movies.

How would YOU rate this little bit of wine criticism by Jerry — good, bad, or terrible?

And why?


Category: General, Writing | 49 Comments »

Yours Free — My Gift to You!

February 15th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Alan Shawn Feinstein, one of the deans of mail order in the pre-Internet era, once ran a full-page ad in the New York Times with the headline:

“Yours Free — My Gift to You.”

But JW, a subscriber to my e-zine The Direct Response Letter, thinks “free gifts” is bad writing.

“Free gifts … is there any other kind?” he asks.

I replied:

“JW, your argument is that ‘free gift’ is redundant — like ‘armed gunmen.’

But, tests prove that in direct marketing, omitting the word ‘free’ and just saying ‘gift’ actually depresses response.

“I teach in business writing classes to avoid redundancy … but I am not sure that’s always good advice.

“The reason for redundancy is that some people need to read a thing several times before it sinks in….”

Where do you stand on this issue of good grammar vs. good selling?

Is “free gift” bad English … or just effective marketing?


Category: General | 41 Comments »

Is the Pope Gay?

February 13th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Just got a direct mail package selling subscriptions to Out magazine, which seems to be for gays.

One of the headlines reads: “Is the Pope Gay?”

My first reaction: this is really inappropriate and offensive.

I mean, unless they have an investigative report proving that the Pope is gay, it’s totally speculation … and maybe libel.

Even if they do have such a report (the mailing wasn’t clear about this issue) … why do this to a beloved religious leader?

It’s just sensationalism.

But on the other hand: there are gay priests who are coming out.

There is nothing wrong with being gay.

If the Pope is gay, then he’s gay … right? Why hide it?

So after my initial disgust, now I’m not sure whether Out should be using this headline to sell subscriptions.

What’s your opinion?


Category: Direct Marketing, General | 75 Comments »

Questioning the Quiznos Guarantee

February 10th, 2007 by Bob Bly

A TV commercial for Quiznos says that if you do not like the sandwich they serve you, they will give you another sandwich free.

Picture walking into a sub shop. You order a sandwich. You really don’t like it. In fact, you gag on it.

Do you really want them to give you a second sandwich made at that same sub shop?

Or at that point, have you lost your appetite — and would you rather have a refund?

Yes, I know that the idea is if you don’t like their roast beef, maybe you will like their tuna.

But somehow, the idea of ordering more food from a restaurant whose food you don’t like seems unappealing.

Which offer do you think Quiznos should make?

A. No guarantee. If I don’t like my meal, tough. After all, Subway doesn’t guarantee their subs.

B. If I am not satisfied, I get a second sandwich free, just like the commercial says.

C. Forget the sandwich; I want my money back!

D. They should give me something else of equivalent value — chips, cookies, coffee, soda, soup, chili.


Category: General | 52 Comments »

Should Every Marketer Read the National Enquirer?

February 5th, 2007 by Bob Bly

In today’s issue of AWAI’s e-newsletter, The Golden Thread, my friend Will Newman wrote an article on how to be a better copywriter.

One of Will’s pieces of advice was to read the National Enquirer.

This is old advice for copywriters: Milt Pierce, from whom I took a copywriting class in 1983, told us: “Read the National Enquirer.”

The idea is that, to be a good copywriter, you have to understand how the “common man” thinks … and that’s who reads the Enquirer.

But … and here’s a confession … I don’t spend a lot of time reading the National Enquirer — even though they once did a 2-page feature article about me (but that’s another story).

I mean, one of my specialties is writing DM copy to sell enterprise software … and I don’t think many of my readers (IT professionals) are reading the Enquirer.

I also write a lot of copy to sell high-end trading services, courses, and systems … and I am not sure how many traders turn to the Enquirer. So instead I read the Wall Street Journal.

How about you?

Do you read the National Enquirer to get a good feel for your market?

Or do you think that’s aiming a little too low?


Category: Direct Marketing | 39 Comments »

Can a Copywriter be Too Enthusiastic?

February 1st, 2007 by Bob Bly

When you write copy for a product, do you do a better job if you are a true believer in the product … or a cynical skeptic?

It’s been said that the copywriter must be enthusiastic, because enthusiasm for a product — or its lack — is transmitted in the writing.

On the other hand, if the copywriter is NOT sold on the product, he will have to sell himself on it before he can sell others.

That means he is more likely than the rapidly enthusiastic copywriter to come up with objections, which anticipate the objections prospects will have, and work out powerful, logical arguments to overcome them.

Therefore, the copy he writes will in theory be stronger than the copywriter who is a “cheerleader” for the product — enthusiastic, yes, not not really questioning its claims.

So when you write copy … or hire a copywriter … which are you looking for?


Or a hard-nosed “show me” attitude?


Category: Direct Marketing | 66 Comments »