Direct Mail Creative




This is the first in a series of posts reviewing good direct mail creative. Every month (or so) I plan to review a piece of direct mail that finds it way into my mailbox or to my desk from a friendly colleague. I am of course looking for more than pretty pictures. I look to see if it’s targeted, stands out in some way (creative, interactive…), uses images and copy well, has a call to action … as some of the essential attributes that make for good DM. And if you see something good or better, please send it along with your thoughts. Thanks.

Casey’s Restaurant Classics

I should begin by saying Casey’s was a client of mine in 2012 – I played no role in it’s design. If you like a good patty on a bun with all the fixings you will have noticed that the big burger chains all use direct mail to entice us into their restaurants (and do so with double digit response rates). Some of the mid range sit down restaurants have followed suite but not all of them. So it was a pleasant surprise to see a nice dm piece from Casey’s.  

The two panel piece is well designed for what appears to be the company’s first foray into DM. Overall it has a clean design that catches your eye and is easy to digest (intended pun). Large, appetizing product shots of 3 menu items (5 total shots 2 are repeats) on white plates/bowls against a white background are used to drive all focus on these select dinners. Unlike some in the food space, we are not overwhelmed with photos and copy – there is plenty of white space so nothing gets hidden. Copy is short and to the point as they try to leverage the appeal of old classics (i.e. back ribs) to highlight new classics (Kung Pao BBQ Ribs Stir Fry).

The call to action features an offer with two $10 off mini cards (minimum purchase of $19.99 not including taxes; good for 5 weeks). So the discount can almost reach 50% which is great value for the consumer. And the cards are cards – not tear away coupons. I am always a fan of making a piece more interactive – if you can afford a card over a coupon, go with the card. And if you don’t think you can afford it for your whole run, test to see if the lift covers the additional cost.

It ends with the back panel in Casey’s red and reminds us that to get great deals, follow them on Facebook. How often do you see Facebook call outs with no explanation of what you get there – I need more than just Follow us on Facebook? Casey’s got it right by telling me what I can expect if I do.

Inside fold

Inside fold



Banks Charge Existing Customers More?

This is the first in a series of posts under the title “This is NOT Loyalty”.  This series will highlight (pick on?) examples of companies not practising ‘good’ loyalty. If you have any examples please share them so we can have some ‘Loyalty gossip’.


Banking Loyalty Costs You More


This first post is from an article I came across recently in the Toronto Star newspaper about mortgage rate lending. ( Ask yourself this question – do banks offer loyal customers better mortgage rates? You would think with the reams of data they have at their fingertips on our financial habits – chequeing accounts, credit cards, car loans … they would recognize that relationship by means of better mortgages rates to existing customers. But a Bank of Canada study found this was not the case. Customers who shop around and sign with another lender get better mortgage rates than they would staying with their current financial institution. The study suggests the reason is that the prospective lenders offer low rates in an attempt to win all of your banking business. Your current bank stands not only to lose the mortgage revenue, they stand to lose their entire relationship with you.


Another point of interest in the study was that mortgage brokers do get better rates versus going it alone. The ‘but’ however could be that you will be dealing with a bank that isn’t a ‘well known’ bank or is online only and some people want a lender with a physical building that can you offer you a full suite of financial products and a physical retail space to visit.


And finally the researchers discovered that younger buyers and first time home buyers tend to get better rates. “Lenders are more willing to offer discounts to younger borrowers in return for future expected profits,” the study says.


The advice then is to shop around. Behave like that 30 year old first time home buyer who does their homework and is willing to move to another bank for a better rate – it can save you money. For example you can save $832 for a $176,000 mortgage* if you get a 3.1% rate vs. a 3.2% rate over a five year term. If you multiply that over the typical twenty five year amortization OR if you get more than a 0.01% rate reduction OR if you live in a larger city with more expensive housing and higher mortgage amounts … the savings can quickly multiply.


Canadian average mortgage in 2011, Statscan, April, 27, 2011 (

Are Social And Direct Good Friends?



There isn’t a lot of research on how direct mail and social media work together. So I am happy to see an infographic based on some work from Market Reach – an arm of UK’s Royal Mail (equivalent to our Canada Post or USPS).

There are 3 main points highlighted, many of which I have come across in where direct mail is compared to other media – mass or email for example. The net takeaway here is that direct mail still works AND it works very well with social media.

1. Social Network Users Respond To Direct Mail

Fully 45% of social network users have done ‘something’ as a result of a direct mail piece. Whereas direct marketers hang their hat on the channel’s measurability, it’s also the con of DM’s existence (because you can measure it, you only take credit for that observable outcome). Mass marketers on the other hand, will often point to their work as the driver of (any!) sales lift even though it can be hard to accurately measure a mass campaign’s sales impact. This research shows that response rate is only one part of the direct mail results story. Specifically:

  • 45% did something
  • 7%  asked for something
  • 31% bought something

2. Direct Mail Is An Effective Way to Reach Someone Who Uses Social Networks

One of direct mail’s core strengths has always been reach. For all intents and purposes, in the industrialized world, direct mail can reach virtually every citizen in a country given there is a mailing address for almost every home, farm and business. No other channel can do that. TV used to come close but those days are long gone. Newspaper and magazine readership declines year after year and of course anything online is specialized and fragmented.   

What’s of note with this second point is the finding that almost 1 in 3 (29%) of consumers who have used social media in the past year are likely to be heavy users of direct mail more than they are of other channels. Omnichannel marketers can say I told you so.

 3. Attitude Towards Direct Mail – It’s Good!

Perhaps surprisingly to some, 49% percent of social network users still prefer getting paper bills and 81% like getting special offers or coupons in the mail. So paper and sending something of interest through the mail even to ‘social-ites’ is alive and well.

At Canada Post we have found similar results when we ask Canadians what channel they prefer to receive advertising from companies – direct mail is still #1.



If you happen to come across any other work on these two areas working together – direct mail and social media – please pass it along. Thanks.

Is Print Creative Dying?

applied artsIn the most recent issue of Applied Arts (March/April, 2013, Volume 28/number1) there is an article titled “What’s Happening to the Craft of Design”. Penned by Rita Sasges (principal at Sasges Inc., a Calgary-based visual strategy and communications firm []) she talks about how designers are so focused on digital tools, that they are forgetting the tactile beauty of print.

Ms Sasges bemoans the fact that digital print does not provide the feel of traditional printed pieces – the embossing, the typeset or bound of days gone by. Her point then is that designers have become so wrapped up in the technology of the craft that they’ve forgotten how to use the craft of printing. Her most memorable quote is “Why as designers, are we craft junkies but yet we see so little craft in our industry”.

I’m not sure if designers are wholly to blame (marketers? agencies?) but I would add to Rita’s point that the quality of print creative overall has been on the decline for some time. The days where a printed piece – be it direct mail or other print – has strong, unique, memorable physical creative seems to be a distant memory. The stock, folds, stickers, die-cuts … don’t seem to make it into the final product the way they used to. Whether it’s declining creative or production budgets or that creative funds have simply moved from physical to digital, means much of what we see in print today looks the same. Very little seems to stand out anymore. And isn’t that one of our main objectives as marketers – make something stand out?

So a call out to the designers (and marketers and agencies) out there old and young: Find a way to introduce some old school design and creative into our print. Your audience will appreciate remember you for it.

The 3 Steps To Good Direct Marketing

 Art & Science of Direct

It doesn’t take calculus to figure out how to do direct marketing, but when it comes to deciding where to put your emphasis between the 3 levers of direct, knowing how to prioritze your effort can make a big difference in the success of your campaign. Think of it as part of the science in the ‘art and science’ of direct marketing.

The three pillars of successful direct marketing are…




… and they are often presented in this order as a ranking of priority with list being the most important. Here is what I was taught years ago and still use today with clients to explain weighting between pillars:

Campaign Success = List (40%) + Offer (30%) + Creative (30%)

I agree with this weighting for marketing to your customer list. But for prospecting I feel it’s more 60% for list and 20% each for offer and creative. Think about it from this perspective: If you have beautiful creative and a great offer like “Six Months FREE” at a senior’s residence, what good is it if your list is to millennials or to seniors who can’t afford your residence?


Prospecting – Getting New Customers

When trying to acquire new customers, you will typically be working with a list broker to source an external list. Regardless of how many lists they have, you want a list of records (people) that resemble your existing customers. You want to target people who look like your current customer base in as many ways as possible. If you are a women’s clothing retailer you would be interested in a list of people who have made women’s fashion purchases in the past or who buy women’s fashion magazines or who signed up for an online women’s fashion newsletter, etc. Other information such as demographic attributes like age, income, family status and location are also helpful.

Loyalty – Speaking to Existing Customers

Whether your aim is to activate, cross sell or up sell, retain or recapture customers you have a customer record so you don’t need to go outside to get contact information (you can however use external information to add to and strengthen the quality of your database but let’s save that for another day). You have your a house list from purchase data or from customers who gave you their information directly. But list still matters. For the goal you seek to address (i.e. cross sell), you still need to look at who within your database will give you the best return. If you are trying to sell an existing customer a product upgrade, there are factors that will make some customers more likely to respond. You could analyze customers who have already upgraded and see what item(s) they bought before the upgrade purchase (i.e. if you find that 18% of customers who bought product A later bought product D, reach out to people who have product A and no D). The point is that even within your house file, your ‘list’ does not mean any customer in your database.

Step 2. What Is Your Hook?…The Offer

Does an offer have to be a discount? No, but too often marketers think it must. We’ve trained ourselves (and perhaps too many customers for some businesses) to think that unless you have a sale or a dollar off coupon you won’t get traffic through the door. Not so. An offer is defined in Webster’s this way:

To present for acceptance or rejection

It does not say money anywhere, but you do have to have something of value. And we all know that value includes more than a discount or something for free (although this can be the most powerful offer for your audience). The important note here is to know your audience. The goal of your offer is to find the gem(s) that motivate your target to respond…to act – call you, go online, sign up for your email, enter your contest or go into your store and buy.

Step 3.  Make Your Message Stand Out…Creative

Even though creative is behind list that does not mean it’s not important. Creative can be the one element where you can be different from your competitors. They can buy the same prospect list and offer 10% off just like you did. Creative is your chance to stand out in my inbox or mailbox and have me look at your message over your competitors. And certainly on the direct mail side, with marketing budgets being what they are nowadays (spread across more channels), expenditures on creative have declined over the years. Marketers today often invest creative funds in new media over direct. But that’s like running the 100 metre dash and slowing down before the finish line – it puts your effort over the first 90 metres (getting list and offer right) at risk because you didn’t run through the line. So don’t short shift your campaign and go with sub optimal creative.

A final word of caution on creative: Don’t design your creative to win over the hearts and minds of awards judges and not your customer’s wallets. Heed the advice of the master of direct marketing David Ogilvy when he reminds us all that we are paid to ring the cash register, not put trophies up on the wall.

Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy, 2011

ABC – Always Be Closing

Daniel Pink

I published a post a few months ago about sales. Even though this is a marketing blog, I realize that selling is part of my everyday life and in my job as a marketer. Pitching an idea I want my boss/a client to buy into through to selling myself in an interview (for a job or to a prospective mate) I am selling.

I was driving a few weeks ago and heard an author on CBC radio (public radio in Canada) being interviewed about sales. The author – Daniel Pink – was there to promote his latest book To Sell Is Human. Pink is also the author of Drive – a book I enjoyed last year about what motivates us. His premise this time is that we are all essentially in sales in what he calls non sales selling. Daniel suggests that we regularly “persuade, influence, cajole and convince” at work and or at home. I am waiting for this book to arrive but wanted to share a few really interesting points from the broadcast.

Buyer Beware…No SELLER Beware

Information asymmetry no longer exists. We know this as marketers thanks to the explosion of social media. Information is not hidden or hard to find. In today’s age buyers have significant access to information and lots of options to purchase, so the seller is the person on notice. It’s no longer buyer beware according to Pink but seller beware.


A B C – Always Be Closing

Sales has changed from the days of WKRP’s Herb Tarlek or Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross (if you want some fun, have a peak at the excerpt below from the movie. No wonder the latest rendition is a roaring success on Broadway right now).

Sales has changed so much that Pink has a new take on the famous ‘ABC’ acronym for ‘Always be Closing’:

A: Atunment (sp?)- You must learn how to take someone else’s perspective (so you can understand what they truly need from you)

B: Buoyancy – There is a tremendous amount of rejection in sales and to survive, you have to find ways to deal with it

C: Clarity – Instead of being a problem solver for clients, be a problem finder. Find a way out from a murky situation or make your client aware of something important they did not see and you will be golden  

I have taken some sales training over the past few years as a marketer with business development in my responsibilities and I really like the point about problem finding. Asking good questions and helping a client see an opportunity to do something better is a sure winner to build more trust and sell more of whatever you have to offer.  

Extroverts Make Better Salespeople … Right?

Daniel points to some about to be published research by Adam Grant (a superstar management professor from Wharton) that shows the correlation between extroversion and sales performance is close to zero(!). Along the introvert-extrovert scale of 1-7 (1 being an introvert and 7 being an extrovert), the best sales performers are in the middle – the 3s, 4’s and 5’s called ambiverts. A die-hard introvert won’t have the confidence to ask the right questions, make a personal connection or steer the conversation towards a sale. On the other end of the spectrum, an extrovert is no better. Have you been in front of a true extrovert? Could you get a word in? Did they even listen to you/understand what your problem is? No and that’s why they aren’t great salespeople either. Ambiverts are the best because they can calibrate their reaction. They know when to listen and when to talk.

The good news for all of us who fall between quiet wallflowers and the person who can walk into a room full of strangers and enjoy meeting everyone is that we are the natural born salespeople.

I Think I Can…I Think I Can…

Is taking a page from Oprah or Tony Robbins a good idea for salespeople? Instead of using affirmative, positive self talk (i.e. saying to yourself I am going to close this Sale, I am going to close this sale), Daniel says it’s better to ask yourself the question ‘Can I do this?’ Why? Because a question is a more active statement and you are more likely to put some thought into your meeting and how to best prepare for it (research the company; write a list of questions down; make sure you are meeting the right person; prepare for expected objections). Or decide it’s a lost cause and focus your efforts on better leads.

When you have a few moments (podcast is 20 minutes long), try the link below. Or you can pick up his book To Sell Is Human online at Amazon or Chapters.

Daniel Pink

CBC Podcast



Dr Adam Grant Pink


Send this to all of your trucker friends or Mercedes-Benz owners.

AdPitch Blog

“The new Actros is Mercedes-Benz’s most impressive truck until now. We wanted truck drivers to experience this in a unique place where only they could see it.”

Campaigns like this, you can just see someone had a great idea moment! I love looking up at lorry drivers as they go past, but you never really think of or see what they see from their high point of view, now we have an ad that targets them specifically! Only for their eyes!

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