The Brochure Legend Lives On
Ever wonder who started the Legend of the Brochure, also known as the weak little cousin in a direct-mail package?
I just read a version in a recent edition of John Forde’s newsletter, Copywriter’s Roundtable. He told the legend under the title of “Ted’s Accidental Discovery.” The story was very contemporary, and Forde related it as if it were true. Well, maybe he thought it was true.
Of course, I didn’t believe a word of it. It’s a fable, a teaching anecdote, a morality story. And the aim is to discredit the apparent effectiveness of brochures in direct-response marketing, whether you’re selling products or soliciting donations.
I first heard the brochure legend back in 1962 when I attended a seminar taught by a gentleman whose name I’ve long forgotten.
The brochure legend he related, I’ll never forget. He quoted someone who told him the story, straight faced, back in the 1940s. It all happened in New York City, when a highly respected graphic designer was retained to create a brochure for a company that was selling men’s steel-toed work shoes by mail.
The graphic designer tackled the job with his usual degree of diligence, stunning creativity and lifelike illustrations. When he finished, he was certain that his brochure would win him awards, notoriety and a more lucrative contract when the client wanted his next brochure.
Several weeks went by, and the illustrator received a call from the client that went something like this:
“Hi, John. Something very interesting happened with your brochure.”
“Oh, what was that?” John asked, certain that he was about to be the recipient of great news.
“Well,” the client replied, “all was on schedule when the mailing went out on time. But then we discovered that one section of the mail drop inadvertently failed to enclose your brochure — and the results were rather amazing.”