The Theory of Direct Mail: Fundamentals
The Unified Theory of Direct Mail
-(c) Tony Attwood 2006
If you missed the intro, and want to know why I think it is so fundamental that we have a theory of direct mail click here
If you want the simple answer as to why one mailer works and the other doesn't here it is:
Response rates in direct mail are based entirely on the way in which people perceive what they get.
To be able to predict how a piece of direct mail will perform you have to understand precisely the way in which the readers will deal with what you send them. That's all there is - there really is nothing else.
Now this must seem utterly obvious - and in many ways it is. The problem is that most direct mailers ignore this simple observation, and start designing their direct mail piece without any reference to the way the recipient acts. Instead they focus on such things as the product, the company, the history of the company, themselves - and take no notice of the recipient. They add nice pictures of something that may or may not be related to the subject in hand, and on they go, on and on.
If you want to prove this, just commission a piece of direct mail from a local designer and then ask him/her exactly why the piece was done this way or that. Why this colour, why that font, why this headline, why just there.
Generally designers, like most copywriters, don't know.
(Let me break off with an example. I wrote a letter for a client which included half way through a one line paragraph was underlined. When he took it to his printer, the printer said, "there's a mistake here - a line has been underlined." When it was pointed out that this was what the copywriter had done, the printer said it couldn't be right. "People don't do that," he said.)
The opening part of the total theory seeks to explain why this sort of thing happens through what is known as the XZ theory.
To go straight into the opening point of the theory click below:
Below is a list of the factors that make up The Total Theory of Direct Mail:
- Why most firms ignore the theory and produce direct mail that fails.
- When and where the mailing is received - what the recipient is doing at the moment of impact.
- The personality of the individual you are mailing, and how that affects the mailing.
- The envelope - it is the first thing you see - does it make any difference?
- The interaction between the brain and the paper - there are issues of neurophysiology at work which must be taken into effect.
- The mail is opened - the next five seconds are vital; so what does mailsort do at this point?
- Differentiation - now the customer decides, "Have I seen this sort of stuff before?"
- The customer decides to read - but then colour can get in the way.
- Using images to try and hold attention - the grabby image problem.
- Skipping - no matter what you try, most recipients do it.
- The end - as likely to effect the result as the start
- The second page - its function and layout.
- Subsequent page interference - so unexpected most people refuse to admit it exists - but it really does happen.
- What do you want the reader to do next?
- Ordering - are you making it easy?
This article is an extract from the book "Doubling Response Rates: The Theory and Practice of Direct Mail" (c) Tony Attwood 2006