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Archive for October, 2007

Free Pass for Airport Terrorists?

October 31st, 2007 by Bob Bly

I couldn’t believe me ears when I heard a radio commercial offering to sell a quicik-access airport pass.

I think the company was, and for $99 a year, they would sell you a pass that allows you to sail through airport security in minutes.

In an age of global terrorism, is this such a good idea?

What’s to stop terrorists and hijackers from buying this “go directly to the plan and bypass normal security” pass?

Probably I don’t understand the offer and it really is safe.

But am I the only one the least bit concerned with the idea of making it easier for people to get through airport security faster for just a hundred bucks?


Category: General | 48 Comments »

Is the College You Go to Important?

October 24th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Couples we know here in Bergen county NJ are absolutely frantic about getting their kids into a “good school,” i.e., an Ivy League college.

I’m not, because I’m convinced that where you graduate from college and the grades you get don’t play much of a role in determining your success in life.

“One tragic misconception is that you have to go to a prestigious, big-name academic institution to really get ahead,” writes Thomas Sowell in his New York Post column today.

He notes that the academic prestige of places like Harvard is based mostly on the research achievements, not the teaching skills, of the faculty.

Worse, unless you go on to postgraduate study, these big names may not be teaching you anything at all, since lower-levle courses are usually left to be taught by junior faculty members or even grad students.

So if the college you go to isn’t that important, what is the key to helping your child to be successful in life?

I am convinced it is largely one thing: encouraging your children to discover their true calling — the one thing that totally engages their interest and passion.

If you can do that, their natural curiosity, intelligence, and drive will take them the rest of the way.

Sowell concludes: “Getting into Prestige U. isn’t the life-or-death thing that some students or their parents think it is.”


Category: General | 62 Comments »

Who Says Advertising Doesn’t Work?

October 22nd, 2007 by Bob Bly

There?s an old joke that goes: the proof that advertising works is that millions of people think yogurt tastes good.

I think even better proof is that marketers have conned consumers into spending $15 billion per year on bottled water brands ? about a third of which already use filtered tap water anyway.

Bottled water costs about a thousand times more per gallon than tap water. Worse, bottled water often contains more bacteria and impurities, because the EPA regulates municipal water systems more stringently than the FDA regulates bottled water.

Yes, bottled water is conveniently portable. But why not just buy a plastic bottle and fill it with cold water from the tap as needed? Can anyone say ?canteen??

Source: ?Water and Oil Shouldn?t Mix,? Ecoprint, 10/07, p. 3.


Category: General | 53 Comments »

How to Lie With Statistics

October 19th, 2007 by Bob Bly

You can manipulate statistics to prove just about any point you want to make in your copy.

A case in point: the TV commercial for Senior Lending Network, a company marketing reverse mortgages to senior citizens.

It’s a direct response spot with a strong call to action: phone the toll-free number and get a free educational video on reverse mortgages.

When you think about it, this is like a local plumber telling you, “Yes, I am a very good plumber — I get many calls from my Yellow Pages ad.”

That’s only proof that he runs a big ad. If 90% of his service calls are repeat business from satisfied customers, then THAT’S more convincing proof that he is a good plumber, because his customers are happy.

The on-camera spokesperson, actor Robert Wagner, intones in a serious voice: “over a million Americans have already called Senior Lending Network to get this important information.”

Sounds impressive until you realize that it says nothing about how many customers have actually completed transactions with Senior Lending Network for a mortgage.

What it really means is that their copywriter wrote a really persuasive TV spot with a really strong free offer.

Impressive, yes, but hardly a reason to do business with them, wouldn’t you agree?


Category: General | 41 Comments »

Satisfaction Guaranteed? Not at Harry’s Orchards.

October 17th, 2007 by Bob Bly

I got in the mail today a catalog from Harry’s Orchards, a company that sells premium fruit by mail.

The guarantee on the inside front cover says that the product comes with their “bonded guarantee of your complete satisfaction.”

“Bonded guarantee” sounds impressive but lacks specifics.

So I called, and it turns out that there is almost NO guarantee of satisfaction.

If you order the delicious looking fruit photographed in the catalog, but it turns out to be not so delicious, you’re stuck with it: Harry’s won’t give you your money back.

Would you still buy knowing that their “bonded guarantee” offers no protection against potential dissatisfaction with quality or taste.

(The customer service rep did tell me they’d refund my money if the fruit was rotten, but that wasn’t my concern.)

Or would you, like me, pass Harry’s Orchards by … and get your oranges and grapefruits at the grocery store?


Category: Direct Marketing, General | 188 Comments »

Do You Write the Way People Talk?

October 9th, 2007 by Bob Bly

Often-quoted advice to writers is to write the way people talk.

To me, that means using the language your readers would use when talking about the same subject you are writing to them about.

A case in point is a fundraising letter I got today from a public radio station featuring soft and eclectic rock and pop.

The letter begins:

“Dear Neighbor: I have a feeling you’re a smart media consumer.”

Let me ask you. When you turn on your radio to listen to music, do you think of yourself as a “media consumer”?

Or as someone who likes to listen to music on the radio?

The fundraising copywriter has taken a simple concept and buried it in jargon alien to the reader.

If I were asked to edit this letter, my opening might read:

“Dear Music Lover: Do you ever wish, when you turn on the radio, that they’d play OUR music? You know the kind of music I mean … etc.”

Do you prefer my version or their version — and why?

Or, rewrite it with your own lead.


Category: General | 57 Comments »

Marketing Blog of the Year

October 9th, 2007 by Bob Bly

What marketing blog is the best? Vote here:
Top 10 Marketing Blogs – Seeking Your Nomination


Category: General | 46 Comments »

Ding, Dong, Foxtons’ Dead

October 4th, 2007 by Bob Bly

After 8 years, Foxtons, the NJ-based discount real estate company, is planning to shut its doors forever, and may file bankruptcy.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Glenn Cohen made a splash when he founded Foxtons in 1999 promising to save home buyers and sellers money.


By cutting their commission to just 2% … one-third of the standard 6% commission.

Their collapse is a much-needed reminder that discounting — competing based on price — is a lousy long-term business strategy.

The average real estate agent working at brokerages charging traditional commissions has a modest income — around $47,000 a year on average.

One-third of $47,000 is $15,667.

What kind of professional do you think you can hire for $15,667 a year?

Discounting stinks as a business strategy, because the more you lower your price, the less money you make.

Eventually, you end up working for peanuts — a terrible way to live — for customers that don’t value your service, experience, or knowledge.

Also, if low price is your only selling point, what happens when the guy across the street undercuts you in a price war?

Low-priced vendors and their employees resent working for so little, which translates into crappy service for the customer.

Nobody wins.

So instead of being the low-priced bidder, think about how you can add value, and by doing so, command average or even premium rates.

You’ll make more money, and attract a better class of clientele, who will respect you more and be happier with your service.

Everyone wins.

Ironically, Glenn Cohen was honored in 2002 as one of 10 NJ Entrepreneurs of the year — apparently by a committee that doesn’t know squat about business in the real world.

Source: Lynn, Kathleen, “Foxtons calling it quits,” The Record, 9/28/07, p. B2.


Category: General | 48 Comments »