The Brochure Legend Lives On
“I see,” John replied. “That section failed, right?”
“Well,” the client said gingerly, since John was rather famous in the business, “what happened was that the section without the brochure did 30 percent better than the sections with the brochure.”
“I assume that you will re-test!” John replied.
“I’ll keep you informed,” the client cut him off.
Later, the mistake turned into a series of legitimate tests, and in every instance where the brochure was tested against the letter with no brochure, the brochure lost. The designer never again worked in the direct-mail industry — or so the story goes.
Making it to the couch
All legends start somewhere, and the veracity of the origin is less important than the moral of the story.
In all the times I’ve seen a brochure tested, I would guess that it lost about 80 percent of the time. And other people I’ve known through the years say about the same thing.
But there are some underlying dynamics here about what makes a mail package successful, all related to the weakness of the classic brochure and, in essence, what works and what doesn’t.
For example, usually when a seminar leader or instructor tells the brochure legend, he does so in order to get into the motivational dynamics of a mail package.
Are brochures weak because they’re colorful and graphic and pull the reader away from the letter? Could be.
Does the brochure call for a decision too quickly? Maybe.
To illustrate, let me go back to a summer during my college days when I sold Airolite storm windows in suburban Cincinnati. My first day on the job I was coached by a successful old geezer who smoked a pipe and never wore a necktie.
He took me with him on a sales call and said: “Shut up and just watch. If we knock on the door and they open it, that’s a good beginning. If they open the door wide and stand in front of the screen door, that’s even better. If they let us measure one of their windows, then we have a chance to make a sale.