10, 2001 Volume 1 Issue 7
Some darn good direct mail ...
from a loooong time ago!
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a pair of ancient history sources.
The first was the National Mail Order Association. Within their web site
- you may remember ... I wrote about NMOA in an earlier E-zine - they
have a "museum". Which has a collection of 20 truly old direct
mail letters. Good stuff.
At the same time I'm enjoying what the museum has to offer, DIRECT
magazine does a story on Frank Johnson. The man credited with the invention
of the famous Johnson Box. With a little digging another collection
of direct mail from the past is unearthed.
Gold mines! Yes, these finds might as well be gold mines. With treasurers
the mid-20th Century, a truly golden time in direct marketing. So, what
can we learn from these letters of the 1930s / '40s / '50s that's applicable
The first thing obvious from the NMOA
collection is the vast majority of the letters are illustrated. Meaning
there is a mix of art, graphics, a picture - something to support the
copy as part of the design of the letter.
A favorite way of mine to be "different" today is with an illustrated
letter. They are still very popular ... almost every week several land
in my mail box. And probably yours. The advantage - of course - is frequently
the need for a brochure goes away when you mix graphics and text together
in the letter.
So, the first lesson from the past is an illustrated letter may work
Of the group, one letter is handwritten ... all the rest are in the most
readable serif typeface, Courier. Today we have many more typefaces choices
than were available half a century ago. More, in this instance, is good.
Yet, what happens is we frequently make type "art". We choose
a "look" that is difficult to read. Not good!
Type for letters and brochures, flyers and hand-outs, newspaper, magazine
and newsletters should be a serif style. Type with "feet". The
style with "hooks" on the end. For anything you hold and read
serif works best. Type for such things as posters and billboards and signage
... things you read from a distance, san-serif works best.
It's all about our bodies. Physiology. Lesson number two from yesterday
is we read with our eyes. Make certain your type is readable.
In more recent times research has taught us several things about reading
not know 50+ years ago. Such as, indenting the first line of every paragraph
"pulls" a reader in. Gives them a place to start, vs. block
left paragraphs, which look nice, yet are not as readable. Some of these
old time letters indented, some did not.
We know today double-indenting one or more
short paragraphs is another way to get reader
involvement. This technique works exceptionally
well in longer letters. Especially on pages two-three-four.
Ragged right side margins is another good thing ... again, it helps reading.
All the museum letters are ragged right.
Short sentences and short paragraphs make reading easier. The old have
a mix. Most of the beginnings are quick ... as we know the opening is
key to grabbing your reader and keeping them. Yes, you must "pull"
your reader in before they have time to wonder off. And most of the paragraphs
from the collection are short ... many just 3-4-5 lines. Yet, some are
as long as 16 lines ... we've learned the max for readability is 7.
How long should your letter be? Good question ... and it depends. Most
of the examples were 1 or 2 pages. Which frequently is as good as it gets.
Yet, long is not the issue. "Interesting" is the issue! Interesting
to your reader.
Frank Johnson knew this. Many of his letters were long. As Frank said
... "they rewarded people for their reading time ... a three page
letter would do better than a one page letter, no matter what else you
And then we have the P.S. Here's what Johnson says about the P.S. "I've
done several things in direct mail I should get credit for -- the working
P.S. for example. I noticed that when people looked at the two or three
page letter they flipped through and read the P.S. first.
Nearly 4 of every 5 readers who open your direct mail will read the P.S.
before they read anything else in your letter. Today research has confirmed
what Frank Johnson learned. Well, a number of the museum examples had
a P.S., including that hand written. Yet, not all. Today every
good direct mail letter has a P.S.
Johnson was also a story teller. His subscription work for Time, Life
and other magazines and publications many times were built on stories.
World War II offered many opportunities to use the power of emotion and
weave it into a story. A reason to respond. Now.
Today we know stories still work. Sometimes we package them as a full
case history. Sometimes as a short testimonial. Stories make direct mail
more readable, and more interesting.
Frank was also the guy who "invented" the crumpled letter.
The paper was rolled up in a ball, as if you were going to toss it away.
Instead, it was mailed. A lumpy package is an almost irresistible way
to reach your audience. And in this case it is nearly impossible not to
smooth out the crumpled page and read. Frank also sent mail that had the
Lesson: anything 3-D gets attention. Anything "not normal"
gets attention. Including different direct mail.
About the box which has his name, here's what Frank said; "All of
us on occasion put copy above the salutation, to say to the reader ...
'Keep an eye on this special offer coming up', or whatever. It's purpose?
To get somebody to read the thing, that's all."
Isn't it amazing ... the same is true today.
Follow-up letters is something else Johnson taught. Rarely do you get
all you can get the first time. Repeating direct mail, going back again
and again to the same audience, pays. Repetition builds your reputation.
My favorite words from Frank Johnson are these: "All you're trying
to do with any letter is to keep somebody from throwing it out. You tell
funny stories, you put in funny pictures, you do anything you can to keep
For more direct mail marketing ideas, you may find a visit to www.rayjutkins.com/salemmm.html
worth the "click". And ... EnJoy!
Marketing with Ray on the RAYdio
Internet Radio is "new". Meaning, not everyone has listened
in. Yet. The world will - soon. 45 million plus are doing so every month.
And the list is getting longer.
INB Internet Radio Network is ready. My program Big Bikes & Trikes
on the RAYdio continues to roll along very nicely.
It's summer time ... and I'm busy riding and WebCasting from just about
anywhere and everywhere. As you're reading this I'm on the road. Programs
from the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama - a place with
650 motorcycles is a fun place. Barnett Harley-Davidson, truly
the world's largest Harley dealer, from their new location in Las Cruces,
New Mexico is another interesting story.
And then from the American Motorcyclist Heritage Museum in Pickerington,
Ohio for a tour of the largest collection of Indian Motorcycles on earth
- in this 100th birthday year for Indian.
This week is West Coast Thunder II from Riverside, California. Next week
is the Great Western Posse Ride from Kingman, Arizona. To see what's coming
up through the balance of the summer and into the fall, go to www.rayjutkins.com/vroom.html.
And to listen to all these programs - and more - visit www.inbradio.com/bigbikes/.
I'll "see" you on the RAYdio!
The Joy of Change
We have a new telephone area code: 928.
Which means just about everything we own must be changed. At no
small expense, either. So be it.
The 928 number is now active ... and so is the old 520. The old
is scheduled to hang around until the end of 2001 ... and then disappear.
What is also disappearing is our old fax number. With E-mail fulfilling
so many options, we've decided to offer only a single fax number; +1+928+244-6148
If you'd like to update all your records now, here is our current info;
RAYdio E-mail; Ray@INB.net
Direct eFax: +1+928+244-6148