Wednesday, May 26, 2021

#128 Double Postcard$

Posted by Denny Hatch


#128 Blog Post – Wednesday, May 28, 2021


The Days When Postcards
Worked Like Gangbuster$!


                                  A True Story
"One day a man walked into a London agency and asked to see the boss. He had bought a country house and was about to open it as a hotel. Could the agency help him to get customers? He had $500 to spend. Not surprisingly, the head of the agency turned him over to the office boy, who happened to be the author of this book. I invested his money in penny postcards and mailed them to well-heeled people living in the neighborhood. Six weeks later the hotel opened to a full house. I had tasted blood!"
—David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising


    The Joyous World of Lo-tech Direct Marketing
In the palmy days before email and the Internet, the simplest way to reach a person over a distance was the was the single 4" x 6" postcard with two sides—the kind for sale at souvenir stands the world over. Side 1 is for the address, stamp and a short message (e.g., "Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.")
   The other side could be a glorious photograph of a city or a great tourist attraction. For a business, the single postcard was a cheap way to reach customers—with news of a store-wide sale or the announcement of a great new product. Churches and PTAs could reach parishioners and parents to remind them of an upcoming bake sale.

                         The Single Postcard Advantage
It was the cheapest way to reach a person with a message—1¢ postage in 1900. 8¢ in 1974.

                       The Single Postcard Disadvantage
The original postcard was one-way correspondence. To reply required work—writing a letter and spending money for an envelope and postage stamp. Or making a phone call. Further, without a formal, built-in reply mechanism the sender had no way of knowing whether the card was delivered or if anybody at the other end even saw it or read it.

                                      Enter the Built-in Reply
In the early 1900s the Japanese invented the double postcard—a blank postcard attached to the bottom of a regular single postcard and folded. The recipient could detach it, write a message on one side, address and stamp the other side and send it as a reply.


The Genius of the Double Postcard in Direct Marketing
American magazine publishers—in cahoots with the U.S. Postal Service—turned the double postcard into a huge, highly profitable marketing technique. Millions of these little guys were designed, printed and mailed out offering a Free Issue. When the reply cards came back to the publisher, the result was millions of dollars in subscription revenue. What's more these thousands of new subscribers brought in many more dollars in  revenue from delighted advertisers. Plus... a ton of money in reply postage for the Post Office.

A Quickie Reminder of the Five
Basic Elements of Direct Mail.
"There are three kinds of copy: 'you' copy, 'me' copy and 'it' copy."  —Walter Weintz
Here's how the five elements work together:

1. Outer Envelope. "The carrier envelope has just two purposes: (1) to get itself opened; (2) to keep the contents from spilling into the street."
—Herschell Gordon Lewis

2. Letter ("YOU" copy). This element makes direct marketing different from all other advertising. It's the intimate message from one writer to one reader.
(Good news! You've been selected to receive a complimentary issue of Inc. plus Two Free Gifts.)

3. Circular or Brochure ("IT" copy). This element shows and describes ITthe product or service and ITS many features (as opposed to benefits, which are found in the letter). "IT" is illustrated with photos, drawings, descriptions and captions that prove "IT" really exists.


4. Order Card/Order Form ("ME" copy). "Yes, please send "ME" the item. 


5. Reply envelope. It brings the order home.

The Inventive Double Postcard That Sold Inc.
For 4 Consecutive Years by Compressing the Five
Basic Elements into a Single 4" x 6" Format


           Front Side                                  Reverse Side

Top Left Panel: Contains Two Basic Elements: 1. Envelope equivalent (address label) and printed indicia/postage stamp. 2. Short letter with personalized salutation. ("YOU" copy).


3. Top Right Panel (reverse side of the top left panel) is the Circular/Brochure.  ("IT" copy) Shows "IT"—the magazine covers in full color plus the Inc. tote bag (Premium #1)...  plus the free executive pen and pencil set (Premium #2) and includes a taste of the upcoming contents. 
4. Bottom Left Panel is the Order Card ("ME" copy).
5. Bottom Right Panel (printed on the reverse of the bottom left panel) is the Business Reply Card that brings the order home to the publisher.


      The Seven Advantages of Postcard Mailings
1. Cheap to Produce
. Once the postcard was tested—and retested—and proven to bring in new subscribers at or below the allowable cost-per-order, a circ manager could order this amazing single piece in the hundreds of thousands and warehouse them. They'll be good-to-go for years to come.

2. Cheap to Mail. The U.S. Postal Service adored this format and gave mailers a huge discount on postage. The reason: they made money on postage for the outgoing card... and they made money every time a new subscriber sent in an order using the detachable Business Reply Card. The U.S.P.S. cashed in on this single piece coming and going.

3. The Benefit of First Class Mail. Magazine publishers had all the benefits of first-class delivery (speed, address correction at no additional cost plus perceived importance).

4. Easy to Inventory. Since a single piece does the whole job, you don't have to inventory different elements (envelopes letters, brochures, order forms and reply envelopes. With the double postcard you save big money on printing by ordering extra large quantities and drawing down as needed. 
5. Easy Peasy to Mail. Because only one element is involved, the complex inserting step is eliminated. They are simply pulled from inventory and labeled—or laser- or impact-addressed—bagged and put into the mail stream quick and cheap. You can make a marketing decision and be in the mail three days later!

6.  Make These Mailings Seem Even More Personal. Using actual postage stamps and handwriting fonts for the letter give the illusion that a real person sent these out and can increase response.

Above are two postcards with handwriting from Club Med to prospective vacationers—part of a 3-card series. These went to direct marketing professionals (Joan Throckmorton and her husband, Sheldon Satin). Both Joan and Shelly were totally fooled and spent much time trying to figure out who Kim and Richard were! 


7. Easy to Reply/Order. Simply check the "Yes" box, detach the reply card half and drop it in your outbox or outgoing mail.


 A Disadvantage to Using Double Postcards
These are bill-me offers. The deal: you send out a free issue and then must send out a series of billing/collection letters—a far more cumbersome and expensive system than simply charging a credit card.

"When the comp copy offer first came into being—and Architectural Digest was one of the first to use it—conversions [payments] were somewhere around 50 percent. Today that's down to 30 to 40 percent and declining. The public has gotten spoiled. Now a lot of people respond to offers just to get the comp copy and then cancel. In fact, two database companies have created lists of chronic comp copy cancels. I will be able to run this file against rented lists and use it as a suppress file, which means my percent response will go down, but pay-up should improve dramatically."
—Carla Johnson, Circ Director, Architectural Digest

Because the double postcard invites tire kickers (consultant Bob Doscher called them "Premium Bandits"), the double postcard could be a dicey medium. You can never pronounce a postcard effort a success until you see the net pay-up, which can take six months or more. But the big numbers up front can enable a mailer to net out better than—or equal to—a hugely expensive, cumbersome full-dress package on a cost-per-order basis.

Modern-day Double Postcards = Marketing Blahs.
No Great Offer. No Reply Card. Teeny Boring Copy.

What triggered this post was this double postcard that arrived the first week in May from Wilkie Lexus, Haverford, PA. Here's the creepy, sad-sack text:


       TO A NEW



    UX 200 FWD 

Dear Danny [sic],

Wherever you envision life taking you, Wilkie Lexus wants to help you get there. Our vehicles are crafted with the right combination of attitude, performance and design so that you can forge the path of your dreams.

Turn your imagination into reality this month and drive away with a brand new 2020 [sic] Lexus US 200 FWD*

 Please visit: by May 31st to explore all our current opportunities.

 Besides providing elite customer service and a premium selection of new Lexus vehicles, Wilkie Lexus is known for our tenured, dedicated team and is committed to meeting your sales and service expectations.


Reach out at your earliest convenience for more details or to schedule a test drive.

Best Regards,

Jeff Deren
General Sales Manager
Wilkie Lexus
(844) 342-4473


Additional Important Disclosures

*Offer for new vehicle listed expires May 31, 2021.

See dealer for details.


 Wilkie Lexus Screw-ups
• I'm Denny Hatch. Not Danny.
• Wilkie is unloading last year's (2020) models and conning me into believe they're "new."
• If you're hustling last year's models, you damn well should offer a discount under MSRP.
• Clearly this is NOT "providing elite customer service and a premium selection of new Lexus vehicles."
• In the first week of May 2021, a "brand new 2020 Lexus" is ipso facto NOT brand new!
• Postcard mailings are offer-driven.
• The only Lexus offer is the afterthought: "... or to schedule a test drive."

Takeaways to Consider
• How many billing letters should you send before calling it quits? Old rule of thumb: "Keep on sending billing (and/or renewal) efforts until they cease to be profitable."
• If you decide to use actual USPS postage stamps on your outgoing direct mail, set the machine to affix them slightly crooked so they appear to have been applied by hand. 
"Two basic tenets of selling are that (1) people buy from other people more happily than from faceless corporations, and that (2) in the marketplace as in theater, there is indeed a factor at work called the willing suspension of disbelief. Who stands behind our pancakes? Aunt Jemima. Our angel food cake? Betty Crocker and Sara Lee. Our coffee? Juan Valdez. Anyone over the age of three knows that it's all myth. But like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, the myths are comforting."
—Bill Jayme 

• If you're gonna get into direct marketing, hire professionals, do what they say and expect to pay them well.
"God protect us from amateurs." —Henry Castor


Word count: 1807

You Are Invited to Meet Denny Hatch and
See His
26-minute Geezer-Fast Yoga Routine

At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.


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  1. Hey, Denny, loved this installment ... but regret you didn't provide a blown-up copy of the Club Med postcards. I surely can't read them at the provided size (even with magnification. The handwritten lettering just fuzzes out). I really would like to read copy that could fool a couple of top direct mail pros, even if only briefly.

    1. Denny, sorry about that. It says I'm "signed in" but, for some reason, didn't put my name on the previous comment (or probably on this one, too). I'm not Anonymous. I'm Roger Keeling in California ... and always so happy to see one of your blog postings.

  2. It seems that the envelope or visible part of the postcard has yet a third duty to fulfill these days; to convince the postal employee to actually do their job and see to it the item is delivered. This is something that I have heard Gary Halbert elude to during his standard A-pile - B-pile discussions.