In his first book, “Confessions of an Advertising Man,” David Ogilvy wrote: “Unless your advertising is based on a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.” To which I add, “And in direct marketing, your ship will sink.”
Having worked at Ogilvy & Mather for 11 years—and constantly being asked, “What’s the big idea?”—big ideas have been ingrained into my thinking ever since.
Direct marketers sometimes feel that if they get the list right and create a compelling offer, that’s all they need to do. And it’s true that those are the most important elements of a successful campaign.
However, in an age where everyone has access to the same data, the same technology and the same production techniques, list and offer are just the starting points. Marketers still need a big idea to stand out from the crowd-and get enough people to respond to their communications, whether direct mail package, email or even mobile text.
For many years, old television shows were called “reruns”—and who wanted to watch those? Now they are positioned as “New to You!” which sounds a lot more attractive.
Here are five classic big ideas you can incorporate into your planning. They may not be new-but they may be new to you.
1. The Big Format
The first big idea is literally a big idea. In direct mail, bigger is always better. By enlarging the size of our direct mail packages, to a #11 or #12 or even going all the way to a 9″ x 12″ format, we have always increased response.
In one case, the response went up almost 300 percent. In another case, response went up-but not enough to justify the extra postal costs.
But I’m not suggesting you change everything in your package. Just don’t fold it and tuck it away into an ordinary #10—simply insert it into a 9″ x 12″ package.
2. The Invitation
People love to be invited to things—almost anything. And an invitation-sized format, or even an invitational email, is always successful.
But you don’t have to wait for a seminar to invite people. You can invite them to take advantage of an offer. You can invite them to try your product. You can invite them to discover all the benefits of using your service.
You even can invite people to a nonevent. The New England Quilt Museum recognized that the economy might not be ideal for an annual fundraising event. So it sent out an invitation-sized mailing, which included the following copy:
The Board of Trustees of the New England Quilt Museum cordially invite you to our first annual non-event in honor of Ms. Sew and Sew.
There will be no cocktails at 6:00 pm
There will be no dinner at 7:30 pm …
The cost? Only $75 for a non-attending individual, $125 for a non-attending couple.
3. The Most Popular Offer
We’re all naturally competitive—we have to be as direct marketers. And two of the best ways to get people to want something is to tell them: They can’t have it, or everyone else has one.
For companies like The MathWorks, we’ve taken their most popular offers in the past-and used them again. We make sure we tell people that this was “our most popular offer ever,” and we get a great response.
Has it worked well before? It probably will work well again. The corollary to this is to tell people whenever you’ve done something special. We’ve used phrases like:
– Our most popular tour ever
– Our most valuable offer ever
– Our best value