Tuesday, May 10, 2022

#155 Blog Post: AIDA



#155 Blog Post.  Tuesday, May 10, 2022.


Posted by Denny Hatch


Why eMarketers Break Rules:
They Were Never Taught AIDA!


The ad above showed up as the second paragraph of a news story in my daily digital New York Times. It ran for several days


It resonated.


I immediately remembered being bumped around and hassled by gypsy pickpockets in Spain and how our friend Huguette’s sunglasses were ripped from her open handbag in the middle of a rowdy New York City crowd. She was damn lucky they didn’t get her wallet.


Is their pants pocket really and truly pick-pocket-proof? If so, maybe I would order a pair of these slacks (if affordable) for travel.  


Quite simply, this little illustration in the middle of an online news story got my ATTENTION.


“ATTENTION” is the first “A” in “AIDA.


The full acronym: Attention - Interest - Decision - Action.


These are the four basic steps—the inviolate sequence—needed to make a sale and get an order.


“AIDA” was the first lesson I learned when I went to work for Grolier Enterprises (Dr. Seuss Books by mail and Encyclopedia Americana Yearbook by mail) in 1965.


AIDA is true for the retail environment, direct mail, off-the-page advertising and/or in the digital world of email and the Internet.


In print direct marketing, the Attention-getter is the:


• Teaser copy on the Outside Envelope.


• My late great friend Bill Jayme called the direct mail envelope, “The hotpants on the hooker.”


• Headline on the Ad


• “Johnson Box” at the top of a direct mail letter.


Interest is the main sales pitch. A personal, convincing letter — one writer whispering in the ear of one reader — that creates an emotional bond that promises benefits, benefits, BENEFITS. Backed up by a brochure, illustrations, facts, figures and testimonials.


Decision is the behavior changer—where the prospect decides to become a buying customer.


And the final A for Action is the order mechanism that makes it real easy to order.


CothingArts Did NOT to Generate Interest

I clicked on the little ad above and my computer screen and was immediately co-opted by the series of giant splashy landing pages of www.clothingarts.com.


I was suddenly blitzed with a repeating razzle-dazzle kaleidoscopic slide show:

• 8 enormous slides changing every 4 seconds.

• Images of men’s and women’s lower-torso outerwear.

• Plus, a slide of fireworks exploding over the Eiffel Tower.

• The last slide was the curious slide below from  Easter Island.

• Each of the 8 slides offered 5 places to click for more information.

• That’s 40 click choices (including a shopping cart) to be made in 32 seconds.

• Whereupon the cycle is repeated all over again. And again. And again. Till boredom did us part.



Have a Quick Look at This Slide.
It Breaks Two Cardinal Rules.


• Question: Can you see the 3 invisible words to click on: “Apparel,” “Testimonials” and “About”? (You gotta squint mightily to see these words—just to the left of the wee word “CART” at upper right).


Broken Rule #1: “Never set your copy in white type on a black background and never set it over a gray or colored tint. The old school of art directors believed that these devices forced people to read the copy; we now know that they make reading physically impossible.”

—David Ogilvy


Broken Rule #2: The words, "Explore Our Cubed ® Travel Journal.” Cubed ® means nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. This is internal corporate private-speak gibberish and a waste of the reader’s time.


Today’s Hotshot Digital Marketers
Don’t Know Squat About Distance Selling

The teaser ad at the top of this screen is headlined:





How does this pick-pocket proof pocket work?


How was it different from other pick-pocket-proof garments? (Such as the cargo pants and photographer’s vest I already owned.) How did these guys manage to get “pick-pocket proof” Registered ®? Obviously they have a Unique Selling Proposition. (USP).



Or do they?


IMO, there’s no difference in snail mail/direct mail and email.


“All mail is opened over a wastebasket.” —Leah Pierce


“With email you’re a mouse click away from oblivion.” —Denny Hatch


In direct mail it is imperative to have a riveting outside envelope to catch the eye and get Attention.  Otherwise, all your hard work is deader than Kelsey’s nuts!


Unlike the direct mail envelope to grab attention, all email looks alike in the inbox. Savvy old-time direct mail copywriters know to spend hours perfecting an intriguing, benefit-oriented subject line.


Direct marketing newbies spend hours tinkering with their message and copy until it's j-u-s-t   p-e-r-f-e-c-t and then slam out the first subject line that pops into their empty heads and click “SEND.”


Recently I got this cold email from Jon Kelly. A stranger. I don’t know a John Kelly.



I was intrigued. I clicked on it, skimmed the stories. Well-written, new stuff. Worth a sign up for a free newsletter.


Here's how John Kelly communicates with  me:



A letter!



He does not blitz me with giant revolving sales pitches à la the ClothingArts crowd. He is luring me into his  world gently and respectfully. Building a warm, trusting relationship.


The more I get to trust him and like him, the more likely I am to read his stuff and eventually spend money with him.


Takeaways to Consider


Attention - Interest - Decision – Action is the inviolate sequence of how get inside a prospect’s head and change his/her behavior.


• “In direct marketing there are two rules and two rules only: Rule #1, test everything. Rule #2, see Rule #1.” —Malcolm Decker


• “Direct marketing is intimate advertising.” —Stan Rapp


• Direct marketing is NOT throwing shit  against the wall and betting the recipient will spend time sorting through a pile of  miscellany and make a purchasing decision. 


• The beauty of e-marketing is the ability to offer a simple click to bring the prospect into an extraordinary razzle- dazzle world of excitement and alternate reality.


• Hitting on a prospect with 8 flashy revolving slides and 32 click choices in 32 seconds emphatically AIN'T intimate advertising. 


About the subject line/initial message:Keep it short. For many recipients, especially those reading your emails on mobile devices, shorter is often better. We recommend you use no more than 9 words and 60 characters.” —mailchimp.com

• To find out how and why “Pick-Pocket Proof®" Travelwear is unique, proprietary or different from an old-fashioned zipper on a pocket, you have to go through the entire website. Finally at the end is the dissertation and description of what is “Pick-Pocket Proof®."

• These eMarketers buried their USP at the very end!





Word count: 1052


The Most Fun You 
Can Have in the English Language
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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Invitation to Marketers and Direct Marketers: 
Guest Blog Posts Are Welcome. 
If you have a marketing story to tell, case history, concept to propose or a memoir, give a shout. I’ll get right back to you. I am: dennyhatch@yahoo.com
215-644-9526 (rings on my desk). 

You Are Invited to Join the Discussion.


  1. Denny, I always enjoy critiques of actual marketing efforts. eMarketers is particular make some rookie mistakes due to their mistaken belief that digital selling is unlike anything the world has ever seen.They're so special.

    The site is a bit off-putting, with some needless slide shows and truly "invisible" type, and takes quite a while to explain P-Cubed. But to be fair, and to adhere to another cardinal rule...what were the results? For all I know this was wildly successful.

    While I agree with your critique, I must also be a stickler for solid data.


    1. Hey, Richard,
      Thanks for taking the time to write.
      Yeah, it may be wildly successful. I’d love to be proven wrong.
      But… what I pointed out are obvious rule breakers. And I would hope readers of this cranky blog would want to know what rules were broken and think through logical sequencing of information.
      Do keep in touch.

    2. Jen,
      Thanks for your kind words.
      Of course, I came into direct marketing long before the Internet and digital communications. Many of the new generation of marketers pooh-pooh us old geezers. But it’s amazing how the rules and techniques we learned in the old days are relevant today.
      Do keep in touch.

  2. It's always an education to read your blog Denny.
    The people at clothingarts should pay you a consulting fee.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Good afternoon, Denny!

    I always love it when my favorite opera, "AIDA" runs on my favorite radio station, "WII-FM"!

    Strange stuff when trying to comment, though. Had to sign in with Google, then figure out where to do the actual typing of my comment.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr

    1. Hey Tim!
      Many thanks for your comment. For readers who may have missed the reference to the “favorite radio station, “W-I-I FM,” here’s the backstory. A number of years ago Bob Hacker wrote: “The customer doesn’t give a damn about you, your product or your company. All that matters is, ‘What’s In It For me?’ ” The corollary: “Always listen to W-I-I FM.”

      About the difficulty in posting a comment: the Google folks don’t make it easy. The simple solution: send me your comment in an email (dennyhatch@yahoo.com) and I’m happy to post it for you.
      Do keep in touch!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Bob Hacker gave me the okay to post this email to me:

    To: Denny Hatch,
    Tue, May 10 at 12:30 PM
    Great one.
    I think one of the reasons this happens is the way they work now. When I was still in the biz, a project ALWAYS started with copy. The copy ALWAYS had to lead directly to the sale. The copy deck was then approved and/or polished by the Creative Director. Then, and only then, did it get handed off to the art director. The art director’s mission was clear — always enhance, not detract, from the copy.
    Now they work in teams with everybody having equal input into the project. Even if they know nothing about how to make a sale. Or worse yet, the project starts with an art director who then asks the copywriter, or worse, copywriters, to fill where needed.
    If you organize around a project incorrectly, you are doomed from the start.

  6. Will Ezell kindly gave me the okay to share his email in the Comment Section:
    To: Denny Hatch
    Thu, May 12 at 10:05 AM
    Denny –
    I trust this note finds you and Peggy in excellent health and cheer!
    AIDA: Excellent article. Thank you!
    I learned it with “D” being “desire.” But I much prefer your version of “decision.”
    I think almost everything we do begins with a “Pre-Flight Questionnaire.” It’s something I created for myself many years ago that asks many questions about the project – to help me home in on the ultra-critical points.
    Then – I review my basic 15-step copywriting outline.
    And then, I write. But wait… there’s more!
    Then the copy “takes a ride” in my pocket for a few days as I continuously re-think it, tweak it, etc. until I feel like it’s ready to fly.
    AIDA: It’s in my pre-flight.
    Okay – an opinion: I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met in the last 10-plus years who tell me that they’re a copywriter. Almost all graphic designers tell me they write copy. Guys like you and me – we’ve eaten, breathed, and lived studying copywriting for the majority of our lives.
    It doesn’t mean we’re the best, but I truly believe that the number one biggest mistake that many business owners make is not retaining someone with years and years of experience in crafting and creating compelling, persuasive, and influential messages that gets prospects to say one word: “YES!
    Much of what we’re seeing today is “salesy, pushy and obnoxious.” Almost everything I do today is focused on building a trusting and respectful relationship first. And then, gently present your offer.
    Best personal regards -

  7. UK wizard, guru and long-time associate of my hero David Oglivy (with great regrets, I never met him) gave me the okay to share with you he following emai:
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    >> Here is the latest missive from the smartest man I know.
    He's also just about the only one who's older than me.
    Read it, profit, and at the end I'll tell you what I disagree with.
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    Drayton attached Blogpost #155 (AIDA) here.
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    All that stuff is music to my mind.
    It's astounding that so many people are in business without the scintilla of a clue about what works and what doesn't.
    If not you'll be leaving a lot of money on the table.
    In fact if you ignore Denny's Desiderata I doubt you will have much money on the table to start with.
    But I would just add a thought to what he has already laid out. I've mentioned it before but it matters more now than ever.
    I don't follow AIDA. I follow AIDCA.
    The C stands for Conviction.
    There's always a need to convince people. But that need is now greater than ever.
    People are suspicious of selling messages, and you must work harder than ever now to convince the, Because they are deluged as never before lies, half truths and incomprehensible drivel.
    There are many ways to convince - testimonials, independent proof, experts in the field, and outside sources (newspapers or studies).
    But you must convince them.
    Because the coming monster recession will sort the amateurs out good and proper.
    I don't have anything to sell you today, I just have a simple suggestion - re-read Denny's message.
    He's been there, done that, and printed the t-shirt.
    All the best from the Hamptons where I'm taking a break.