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     Wow! Will you look at that? A direct mail package from Russia! A cancellation with the Orthodox Church dome! And a Russian stamp! This looks exotic!

     Take another close look, folks! That church-dome cancellation is simulated. And the Russian "stamp," a reproduction of the real thing, is a transfer device for the sweepstakes inside.

     This package was mailed in the good old U. S. of A. By bulk rate. If you happen to know Russian, youíll see that the copy in the blue box at the bottom right is also faux. We didnít know how to say "Third Class" in Russian so we made it up.

     Who can find the indicia first?

     Thatís right! Itís in the upper right corner.

     This package blew the doors off. It pulled a 9.38% response. Iím talking about cash-on-the-barrel orders. No wonder it was the control for two years!

     Why did it work so well? Because the Russian look of the envelope set the stage for the Russian-themed merchandise inside: The Czarina ring, with precious amethyst just like Catherine the Great adored.

     So how did we get away with this? Easy! We followed Postal regulations every step of the way.

     We got advance approval for the indicia and the cancellation. We determined that since there is no longer a domestic postal class for airmail, it wasnít a problem to use the red and blue airmail border.

     We checked the international postal rules about stamps, and found out that you canít use a same-size reproduction of an actual stamp. So we blew this reproduction up to 150%.

     Here are the lessons we learned from this package:

  • A third-class letter does not have to look like bulk mail. It can look like almost anything you want it to -- as long as it sells the goods and meets postal regulations. But to really sell the goods, it has to do more than just grab attention. It has to set the stage for the scene inside.

  • An indicia does not have to look like an indicia. You can work it into your creative strategy.

  • A stamp does not have to be postage. A stamp can be foreign. It doesnít even need a denomination. A stamp can be a transfer device. It can help you tell the story of your merchandise. It can have any design you want -- even one you create from scratch.

     Credit where credit is due on this one! Copywriter Denny Cline did a masterful job with my concept.

     Now letís look at official-looking envelopes.

     General wisdom is that they usually run neck-and-neck with their more commercial-looking counterparts. Iíve done tests where that was the case. But itís not as simple for that, for two reasons:

  1. Most tests canít measure which market segment they appeal to. But the coffee-stain envelope I showed you suggested that changing envelope creative can generate differing responses. It may be that official envelopes appeal to a different market segment. If you can set up a test which proves that, the pay-off could be huge!

  2. Iím going to show you a test where an official-looking envelope made a huge difference. For a simple reason: like the Russian envelope I showed you, this envelope set the stage for the sales story inside.


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