A Guide to Direct Mail

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(1) Is DM for you?

(2) Choosing your list

(3) The Offer

(4) Call to Action

(5) The Package

(6) The Copy

About Copy
Type Faces
Paper Stock

(7) Testing

(8) Tracking

History of DM

The following is from a 1921 classic direct marketing text called "Effective Direct Advertising" by Robert Ramsay. Although it may seem strange to the reader that I quote from such an old text (and do so in some other parts of the site as well), I feel that if you can get past the dated language, you will find advice both useful and relevant.

One picture is worth a million words-if it is the right picture. -ARTHUR BRISBANE.

The Appeal of the Picture Is Universal.
Headlines, subheads, initials, ornaments, and the like have been treated in Chapter XII, and we will now take up the remaining forms of display or emphasis in direct advertising; namely,-pictorial and color display. The appeal of the picture is universal, and color is a powerful mechanical device, as will be set forth in Sections 299 to 302, inclusive.

Reread the epigram of the acknowledged "wizard of words" at the chapter-head to get a clear idea of the enormous power behind the right picture.

Marshall Field & Company, according to R. A. Brown, in Printers' Ink Monthly, December, 1919, tabulated the reasons which readers of the Chicago American gave why they thought Field's advertising dominated, as follows :

Illustration, 22 per cent;
Appeal to saving, 21 per cent;
General appearance, 15 per cent;
Impression of reliability, 14 per cent;
Authoritative style, 12 per cent;
Timeliness, 7 per cent ;
Miscellaneous reasons, 9 per cent.

Or, totaling illustration, general appearance, and impression, we have 51 per cent. What was true in the case of Field's advertising would be true of almost any form of advertising; even the mail-order houses find pictures are powerful sales-makers.

Pictures May Be Used in All Physical Forms.
Pictures, or, properly speaking, illustrations, may be used in all the physical forms of direct advertising. Fig. 82 illustrates how pictorial treatment has been added to the letterhead. C. E. McDaniel and A. S. Lee, in reporting the results of this addition to the letterhead in System for April, 1920, state that while the plain letterhead only brought 800 replies from 3,000 mailed out, three years later the letterhead with the house on the top of the letter-head and the same design on face-used for back-of the envelope, brought 2,200 replies. The other illustrated letterhead brought 1,200 replies from a list of 2,000 dealers. The same list was used in each test mailing, a period of more than a year intervening between tests. The same copy was used in each test, too.

Fig. 83 indicates the use of a pictorial illustration on an ordinary form letter, and on a printed letter. Fig. 84 illustrates how pictures are supplemented by a mechanical method of emphasis-the drawn line. This latter is what might well be termed a "stunt."

The use of pictorial display in all the other forms of direct advertising is usual, as is indicated by the specimens shown throughout this work. Occasionally, too, illustrations have been printed throughout the reading matter in a letter, but this usually distracts the eye and defeats the purpose.

Picture Must Be the Right Picture.
Not every picture, or any picture, will do ; it must be the right picture, as Brisbane so wisely added. All too often a "stock," or "syndicated," picture is used merely because it is a picture, and the finished piece does not produce. You have a picture of a hand picking up coins and the phrase : "There's Money in This for You." Thus a finely prepared piece of copy is wasted by a generality in picture form. The same idea pertinently tied up with the business advertised might be just the right picture. The picture has another advantage as compared with type. The eye can only focus on one thing at a time and since the artist understands composition he in his work leads the eye from place to place in a natural way. What is to be the right picture is something which can only be decided in each individual case, but this principle should help: The picture must help to attract relevantly the attention of the prospect and consciously or unconsciously help to turn that attention into interest.

This bit of proof reported by G. A. Nichols, in Printers' Ink Monthly, December, 1919, shows the value not only of pictures but of more pictures: A mail-order house using 36 numbers on a single page (illustrated) as against 26 numbers illustrated with larger pictures in its preceding catalogue brought double the returns. Another used 14 illustrations of collars as compared with 7 and secured 25 per cent increase in business. Still a third house by adding one more illustration to a number of pages which carried only two illustrations increased sales in a certain line 30 per cent.

Headlines, Borders, and Similar Devices for Emphasis Often the Work of Artists.
The work of the artist and that of the compositor-printer often overlap. This is particularly true in the production of headlines and borders for the various physical forms of direct advertising. Fig. 85 represents an entirely hand-lettered business card, together with the same card as entirely set up from type without a border. These illustrations, by courtesy of the National Printer-Journalist, which might almost be classed as arguments against hand-lettering, point a moral. Use hand-lettering with discretion. Do not try to hand-letter an entire advertisement ; it would be tiresome.

Use hand-lettering for headlines, brand names, firm names, and the like. W. Livingston Lamed, a famous artist, gives this rule : "Use type if the artist's endeavor fails to incorporate charm, character, animation-pictorial value. If there are more than fifty words, straight type is advisable." While Gilbert P. Farrar, a typography expert, in his book, "Typography of Advertisements That Pay," says this: "Many all-type advertisements would be materially improved by the use of several `spots' of hand-lettering. And there are many advertisements whose message is materially weakened by the use of too much hand-lettering."

Fig. 86 C shows good use of hand-lettering. The one word "kimonos" as it has been hand-lettered would "put the idea over."

Frederic W. Goudy, the type designer, in Printers' Ink Monthly for September, 1920, answers the question now probably in the reader's mind : "Why use hand-lettering at all?" in this wise : "Hand-lettering is demanded in places where the artistic sense is better served by it than is generally possible by the use of set and fixed type forms. When harmonious with the type it is intended* to accompany, it becomes a decorative element. The artist has the opportunity of shaping his letters with more freedom, of placing them where he likes and spacing them more exactly than type allows."

293. Borders, Arrows, and the Like Aid the Reader.-On Fig. 84 there is reproduced, greatly reduced, an arrowed illustration of an automobile chassis. These arrows are the work of the artist and simplify the illustration considerably. The reader's eye is often led from the offer to the postal card, or other inquiry form, by means of a hand-drawn arrow, or other similar display device. An examination of the illustrations in this book will show how several pieces have been improved by use of arrows or similar leaders. Fig. 86 shows one use of the arrow.

Fig. 86 A illustrates how a border was used in the center spread of a small booklet. Often each page of a booklet or catalogue is inclosed within a border, and frequently this is hand-drawn by the artist. Some borders are purely decorative or ornamental and others are suggestive either of the product, its uses, or to help consciously or subconsciously "to put over" an idea or thought to the reader. Fig. 86 B, for example, shows the front cover of a small piece of direct advertising issued by the Statler hotels. The border design used on it is followed in all these hotels' direct and other forms of advertising.

At Christmas season a piece of direct advertising which of itself has little to do with the season may carry by a holiday border design a suggestion of the Christmas spirit.

In planning a series of direct pieces the border may be the only method of tying the individual pieces to the general series.

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