Anatomy of a Control: Keep It Simple
In the last issue, we examined the masterful “thank-you” mailing from Disabled American Veterans that featured patriotism and guilt as the copy drivers. This time, let us look at a long-running control from the World Wildlife Fund that sticks five sharp knives in the reader’s gut — fear, guilt, anger, greed and salvation.
What’s more, this renewal effort (that also is used in acquisitions) is a model of simplicity. For all the razzle-dazzle, high-tech printing and production techniques available, it often is the simple printed letter that packs the biggest wallop and costs the least in the mail.
The carrier envelope
The front of the white #10 envelope has six elements:
- The cornercard with the return address and that famous huggable panda with its big eyes and sweet expression.
- Printed indicia with fake cancellation lines and fake stamp with a second panda logo and the line, “Saving Life on Earth.”
- Teaser copy: Emergency. Immediate Reply Requested.
- Left window with the name and address showing through.
- Drawing of a red-and-white umbrella decorated with a third panda logo and the following handwritten scrawl: “FREE WWF umbrella if you renew today.”
- In mousetype at lower left under the window: “Made from recycled paper; envelope and window are recyclable.” This is followed by a tiny recycle symbol of arrows going around in a circle.
The ‘recycle’ symbol
Direct mail is an interruptive process where the writer works hard to keep the prospect’s attention and lead him into the argument. The business of recycling is an extraneous thought that could interrupt the interruption. In fact, the back of the CRE has a long entry on recycling. But since it’s on the back of the reply envelope, the donor doesn’t see it until she licks the flap and the sale is complete. It doesn’t interrupt her train of thought or the sales process. And it leaves her feeling even better about WWF.
My sense is that “recycle” symbols elsewhere in the mailing are redundant and interruptive. At the same time, this is WWF, so maybe the donor has to constantly be hit over the head with what good guys these are.
The back of the carrier envelope has a fourth panda logo on the flap with the line of copy, “Let’s Leave our Children a Living Planet” and the www.worldwildlife.org URL. In the center of the envelope is a box that proclaims: WWF named top environmental charity for five consecutive years by SmartMoney magazine!
This is, in effect, a powerful testimonial. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend splashing the URL around a direct mail package for the same reason as the recycle symbol. Suggesting the prospect go to a Web site interrupts the argument and gives an excuse to lay down the mailing in the middle of the pitch.
Late direct marketing guru Dick Benson said, “A letter should look like a letter.” And this WWF emergency appeal does, indeed, look like a letter — printed in typewriter type with a handwritten headline in red at the top of Page 1 and red underlines that look like they were hand scrawled.
When a direct mail piece arrives, you know intellectually that it’s a mass communication. But these underlines warm it up, making it appear that a human hand had actually touched it.
The letter is a series of short paragraphs — none longer than seven lines. The only page that ends with a period is the last page. Each of the first three pages ends in a broken sentence with a note that says either “over, please” or “next page, please.” This keeps the eye moving. Here are a few excerpts from the letter and the hot buttons they hit.
- Without firing a shot, we may kill one-fifth of all species of life on this planet in the next 30 years. [ANGER]
- Why should we care about the fate of these forests thousands of miles away? Because ... these tropical forests are also ... the sole source of lifesaving medicines like quinine, man’s most potent weapon against malaria. [FEAR]
- We have a plan for survival. But we need your help to make it succeed. [SALVATION]
- If you simply wonder to yourself “Why bother?” or ask “Who needs nature anyway?” I can tell you that every one of us needs nature. For food, health, scientific innovation. For the prevention of floods, droughts, epidemics, and other natural disasters. And of course, we need wild places, animals, and plants for recreating, renewal and inspiration. [GUILT]
So where is the [GREED]? Elsewhere is an offer for a World Wildlife Fund umbrella in return for a donation of $15 or more.
The mailing includes two traditional brochures — both long and thin, in color, printed front and back on coated paper.
- Brochure #1: One side reassures the donor that 84 cents out of every dollar goes to conservation programs, while the other side describes everyday actions the donor can take to help the planet.
- Brochure #2: Here’s where it talks about the WWF umbrella premium — the “thank you” gift for helping the world.
There’s also a curious third brochure included — that ubiquitous “freemium” found in so many fundraising mailings, the personalized return-address stamp sheet with the donor’s name and address, along with the little WWF panda logo that can be affixed to the upper left corner of outgoing envelopes.
The top of the stamp sheet is the “turnaround document” — the addressing piece that is also the “Emergency Gift Reply Form.”
Like the DAV effort, it asks for specific dollar amounts:
__OTHER __$1000 __$500 __$250 __$100 __$50 __$25 __$15 __$10
The $15 amount has a hand-scrawled circle around it with a handwritten note that says “Send $15 or more and receive your FREE WWF umbrella!”
The back of this piece has two parts. The top is the legal copy that tells the donor how to get a copy of WWF registration and financial information on a state-by-state basis. Where many fundraisers are loath to open their books, WWF is clearly happy and proud to do so.
At the bottom: “10 Reasons Why Your WWF Donation is a GREAT Investment,” which outlines success stories that include the creation of Anuisky National Park, completion of the Trinational Chain of Parks and the National Panda Survey, etc.
These three brochures serve as the “demonstrator” — that additional member of the sales team that says to the reader, “See, everything the writer of the letter says is true!”
This masterpiece has been proven successful for one reason and one reason only: It has been mailed over and over again, which is the only true indicator of success in direct mail.
Contributing editor Denny Hatch is a consultant, freelance copywriter and author of the books “Method Marketing” and “2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success” (with Don Jackson). “Anatomy of a Control” highlights successful direct marketing mailings. Visit Denny at www.methodmarketing.com. Or e-mail email@example.com.