Category: Fact Box

The Boomer’s NEXT Marketing Mega-Wave

Sponsor: How to Collect $200,000 per Year in Retirement Income

 

Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.” – Billie Burke

 

Kathleen Casey-Kirschling is living it up. She and her husband have a 42-foot trawler. She and her husband live in a river front home in Maryland. And they have a villa in Florida. And they’ve earned it too, she as a seventh-grade school teacher and he as a University professor.

One other thing.

When Kathleen retired recently, it was national news. Why? Precisely because, at the moment I write this, Kathleen is exactly 62 years, one month, 25 days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes old. 

That in itself, at any other time in history, might seem pretty insignificant. But rolling backward, that makes Kathleen the absolute very first born of… I’m sure you’ve guessed it… the demographic phenomenon we’ve all called the “Baby Boomers,” for about as long as most of us can remember.

The Boomers, of course, have shaped the world.

Simply by existing in it.

Absolutely, they’ve shaped the fate of marketers. For decades in the past. And most likely, for decades to come.

Gerber baby food boomed in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, thanks to this wave of hungry little tykes. Music, cars, food chains. Shopping malls, education trends, politics. Property booms and stock market spikes. Many forces have driven them all, but rarely were the boomers not somewhere behind the scenes, if not directly in the spotlight.

No question, whatever is coming next is a marketing story you’ll need to pay attention to, even if some of our politicians and a few of the Boomers themselves are not.

That’s just one of the reasons (the other being jet lag and a full schedule) I’ve opted to dip into the archives and revisit a CR from 2005 that’s just as relevant — if not more so — today.

Hope you enjoy!

The Silver Tsunami Heading For America

I’m reading a terrifying book. Not a thriller novel, but “The Coming Generational Storm” by Laurence Kotlikoff and Scott Burns. It’s terrifying because it’s about a subject I’m sure we’ve all read about but that has a gravity most of us don’t fully comprehend. 

Yet.

I’m talking about the mind-boggling tide of Baby Boomers headed past 50. We all knew it was coming.

Now it’s almost here.

And the tectonic shift it’s about to levy upon us is unlike anything ever experienced before in history. It’s the Boomers greatest and farthest impact yet.

I’ll let you read the book if you’re interested in the gory details. Meanwhile, there’s another, lighter aspect of this phenomenon. One that anybody in our line of work can’t help thinking about. That is, how to turn this demographically gut-wrenching phenomenon into yet another opportunity to make a buck!

(Such carpet-baggers, aren’t we?)

So in this week’s CR, let’s spend a little time reviewing the new implications of this same trend, with a special eye o marketing opportunities (okay, plus a little of the nasty details too)…

A Boomer In Full

  • You’re officially a boomer, in case you’ve always wondered but were afraid you would look too dumb to ask, if you were born between 1946 and 1964 — or about 41 to 59 years old today.
  • You’re a “leading edge” boomer if you were born before 1955 and a “trailing edge” boomer if born after that.
  • One out of every three adults over 21 in the U.S. is a Boomer. Now that’s shocking. Here’s something even more shocking: Every eight seconds, another boomer turns 50.
  • According to expert Brent Green, writing for the Direct Marketing Association, about 38% of the US population is already over 50. By 2020, that number should be more like 50%.
  • Boomers spend as much as $2 trillion a year on goods and services. And will outspend the younger generation by 2010 by over $1 trillion
  • Boomers have about $28 trillion in disposable income. That’s just in the U.S. No wonder all those middle-aged guys buy sports cars.
  • Most boomers did not grow up in rich homes. Nor did they all have white-collar jobs in the ’80s and ’90s. Some 25 million boomers, in fact, are flat broke.
  • In fact, half of American homes have less than $1,000 in financial assets. Ouch. Among Boomers, only 36% are sure they’ll have enough money to fund a comfortable retirement.
  • Forget the granola, ex-hipster, oat-eating cliché. Nearly 75% of the time a boomer goes to a “restaurant” for dinner, it’s a fast food meal they’re buying.
  • Right now, senior citizens are only 13% of the population. But they use 30% of all prescription drugs sold. And that’s how it is now, pre-Boomer.
  • More than 5 million Boomers already have diabetes. More have growing high-blood pressure and heart problems. And the majority struggle at some level with gaining weight.
  • Boomers are also, however, a heck of a lot more active than any other prior generation entering this age range.
  • If you get to 50 without any serious major ailments, the chances — these days — of you getting to 100 are much higher than ever before in history.
  • Most retirement plans consider 4% inflation, but not higher. And few plans take in the true future costs of health care.
  • Less than half as many companies as 1988 offer health benefits to retirees. And that number is falling. Medicare and Social Security are looking ever more strained and desperate too.
  • As the kids move out of the house, the top priority for Boomers will shift to getting out of debt.
  • Vitamins, medical care, weight and exercise, insurance, preventative medicine… anything related to health can be an ever-pressing issue with someone over 50.
  • Stocks and real estate, life and property insurance, collectibles, second careers, extra income and anything else related to socking away money becomes even more important too.
  • 55% of Boomers say they’ll move when they retire. At least 36% say they’ll pack up once the kids are out of the house.
  • Having “stuff” isn’t enough anymore. The older you get, the more meaning you want out of life. And the more complexity you seek in the things you do with your time or buy with your money.
  • The older you get, the less old you want to feel. Or look. And the less you appreciate marketing that panders to the clichés of aging.
  • A heck of a lot of boomers will hit retirement age around 2010. Which might mean a radical shift in all kinds of markets, from Wall Street to resort real estate.
  • But a lot of them won’t stay retired long. Look for a wave of “boomerang retirees” to leap back into the workforce.
  • Pity the poor sap who runs for the White House in 2008. Boomers are already skeptical of authority, and grow more skeptical of government promises by the day.
  • Suddenly, age 70 is the new 50. And 90 is the new 80. 100? Okay, well, 100 is still 100. But let’s talk again about that a few decades from now. (We’re looking at more than TEN times the number of centenarians in America alone by 2030).
  • More than 55% of boomers use the Internet, by the way. And more than 85% own mobile phones. And this from the group for who television was still coming of age in their youth.

 If you run a business or market for a business, let’s stop and think…

What, specifically, will you do to target this over-50 market in the years ahead? It’s all well and good to court the next generation, but this is where the future lies. Heck, it’s where the current market is too. Now and for at least the next three decades.

One hopes you’re ready for it, yah?

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When Numbers Lose Meaning…

You see numbers a lot in sales copy.

The dollars you could make, the amount of pounds you could lose, the number of weeks it could take you to feel half your age… and the list goes on.

This past week, though, I’m guessing you’ve seen a lot of numbers… all tied to one event… that have started to lose their meaning.

I’m talking about Haiti.

You can’t have your head above water, pretty much anywhere on the globe, without hearing about it. And always with the  numbers close behind.

A 7.0 earthquake… as many as 90% of buildings destroyed… tent cities of 50,000 and more… hundreds of bodies piled up outside the city morgue… as many as 200,000 dead… hundreds of thousands more trapped under rubble or horribly maimed in rescue attempts.

Of this one: 20 feet by 100 feet. That’s the size of the mass graves they’re digging, because it’s a race now against the discovery of more dead… with 70,000 victims already buried but more on the way.

Of course, there are numbers on the other side of the story, too. Some 10,000 US troops sent to help… and thousands more from the EU, Asia, and elsewhere. And nearly $900 million in aid pledged by countries at a world — even when a lot of those countries can little afford it.

Plus the thousands saved from collapsed buildings. Or the 14,000 ready-to-eat meals and 15,000 liters of water that were air dropped into the capital today. With up to two million Haitians desperately in need of food aid right now, it’s barely a start… but it’s something.

Yet, have you noticed how trying to take in the vastness of a tragedy like this… as in the tsunami that slammed Asia years back… is just too overwhelming?

Seeing it in statistical panorama, through the wide-angle lens of objective reporting, somehow dehumanizes the most tragically human aspects of the event.

But then someone on the ground pulls you in to a moment, and that changes everything.

For five days, for instance, the parents of 8-month old Jean-Louis Brahams waited while rescuers cleared away the heavy rubble of what used to be their home.

They were sure their baby had been crushed, but then a neighbor heard him cry. He’s dehydrated but alive, and in the care of medics at an Israeli field hospital.

So is the 18-month-old girl who survived under the remains of her home for six days. Miraculously, she had no injuries. Nobody else in her family was as lucky.

And then there’s Marie-France. She got trapped under a double-reinforced steel door when a row of shops collapsed. It took a dozen saws to cut a narrow tunnel. Then they had to dangle a doctor by his feet, so he could perform the amputation that saved her life.

There’s also Rick Santos, the aid worker who was trapped with three others under the rubble of what used to be the Montana Hotel. They survived by passing around the only food they had — a single lollipop.

After three days in pitch darkness, Santos suddenly saw start in the night sky — French firefighters had broken through. Two of his colleagues have since died from their injuries, but Santos and a doctor from New Jersey are alive.

Then there’s the seven-year old girl trapped in a crushed supermarket, who survived four days on a box of dried fruit rolls… and two-year-old Mia, who survived three days in the rubble of what used to be her kindergarten classroom…

Soon, you’re in the numbers again.

But numbers that have names and faces, stories and families, lives and jobs, and things that make sense to you.

Now you’re not thinking statistics, but maybe what it would be like to lose your own child or your own parents…

Or maybe to be under that rubble yourself, hoping the scraping sound you hear is somebody trying to dig you out.

Lose an arm, but get to live. Get to live, but lose a son or a daughter that you stayed up with at night. Outside of the statistics, the real scope of suffering becomes clearer.

Only then can you multiply that by 10… 100… 1,000… even millions of lives that just changed forever… and get even an inkling of why and how much all those individuals, thrown together by one terrible and random event, still need our help.

Right now, I’m betting it’s a little easy to think — you can admit it — that there’s been so much coverage on this so far, that the donations are already rolling in.

It’s easy too to worry that a lot of that money will never make it to the people who need it most anyway. Because scam artists never seem to miss an opportunity, even during something like this.

But they need it, still.

What can you do?

Some of my friends and colleagues have done a brilliant job of picking out the best ways for you to funnel any help you can give to the what’s already an inspiring but overwhelmed global effort.

Maybe I can offer you something to cover both what they’ve mentioned and some they might have missed, in this guide: http://ow.ly/YbAp

It’s a comprehensive list from the unbiased charity watchdog site, charitynavigator.org (see today’s missing link).

They name 51 three-and-four-star rated charities, all with a track record of this kind of disaster relief, work in Haiti, and a long history of putting as much of the donated money as possible directly into giving aid rather than into their own administrative operating costs.

It also shows you how to tell the real pleas from the scams, how to give without writing or mailing a check, and more.

At least consider taking a look at the link. Pick one of the charities that fits the way you think and read thbackground on what they do. And then, if it works for you, think about what you could give. Even if it’s just $50 or $20 or $10.

Not because anybody says you have to, but because there are times when that’s just what you should do.

And because you can hope that, if you’re ever in a similar situation, it’s what someone would do for you, too.

P.S. I just used the same site to make a donation to Doctors Without Borders, because they’ve worked in Haiti for 19 years and operate three emergency hospitals there already.

It took me six minutes, start to finish. I used a credit card, the transaction was 100% secure, and it’s tax-deductible.

But again, there are many other ways to help. You can take a look here if you’re looking to decide: http://ow.ly/YbAp

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Beat the Natural Limit on Creativity

brainhalvesI’m sure, by now, you’ve heard that there are “right-brained” and “left-brained” people. The idea is that “left-brained” people are the type you’d expect to find at, say, your accounting firm’s Christmas party.

“Right-brained” people, on the other hand, tend to be more artistic and possibly a little eccentric or scattered. Like, say, the bulk of ex-poets and actors working the tables at your local coffee shop.

Like most generalizations, this isn’t quite right.

While many of us have a bias in either creative or rational powers, the fact is that most people have both halves of their brain kicking into gear most of the time.

On the left-side, we’re processing details and performing convergent thinking. On the right side, we’re applying abstract associations between details, the work of divergent thinking.

Stroke patients who lose power on the left side of their brains tend to lose logic and language, but may suddenly become more creative. Patients who suffer right-side damage may seem creative but also might seem more uninhibited or scattered.

The good news is that both left and right brain can work together to produce a result that’s both logical AND creative.

Take Einstein.

Certainly, he had incredible powers of logic and process. He did the math, just as it had been done before he came along. But he also made the leap to creativity, finding new mathematical associations nobody else had recognized before.

Here’s the better news…

While few of us want a touch of neuron damage… and almost none of us, surely, were born an Einstein…

There actually ARE ways you can increase your creative function. And many of them simply have to do with channeling the filtering function of your left-brain.

One very simple way is just to keep reminding yourself to approach most moments in your life with curiosity.

Another is to consistently reset your attitudes toward convention. That is, simply repeat to yourself that the way things have always been done is not necessarily the way the always have to be done.

There there’s what researchers call “detail fermentation.” That’s a fancy way of saying, “do your homework.” It’s also the explanation I typically give when I tell people I don’t believe in “writer’s block.”

That is, when you fill your mind with facts and data and details relevant to the ideas you’re trying to create, the more likely you are to succeed at creating them.

Somehow, satisfying the left brain’s hunger for logic and process first… allows it to relax and let the right brain step in to find the overall creative associations between those details.

Einstein did this while searching for “E=MC2.” For years, he studied not just physics and mathematics, but astronomy and philosophy and other fields too.

So the next time you’re feeling like a failure creatively, before you give up try this tapping into this technique instead: Stop, drop, and study. Dig into the facts and materials you have to work with. Then, and only then, see if the bigger and better ideas come.

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Kill Your Television (Here’s Why…)

 

According to research collected by the Nielsen Ratings Service, the Washington Post, and several D.C. research groups… 

* Only 17% of all Americans can name any three members of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, 59% of Americans could name all Three Stooges. 

* In the average home, the television is on for 7 hours and 40 minutes per day. 

* From January to September of the 2004 presidential elections, the major candidates spent $342 million on issue-based TV ads. 61% of those ads were centered on attacking the character and track record of the opposing candidate. 

* Those totals ran much higher for the 2008 election.

* The amount of television shown to negatively impact a child’s academic performance is 10 hours per week. 

* The average child between ages 2 and 17, however, watches 19 hours and 40 minutes per week. 

* That’s the equivalent of about 43 straight days of TV-watching per year. 

* 75% of U.S. teenagers know that the Beverly Hills zip code is “90210”; only 25% know the U.S. Constitution was written in Philadelphia. 

* 54% of 4 to 6 year olds report they’d rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers. 

* The brain waves you experience while watching television — almost regardless of what you’re watching at the time — are less active than those you experience while driving on long stretch of straight highway or even while sleeping.

* Your metabolic rate also runs about 16% slower when you’re just sitting there watching TV. No wonder “couch potatoes” are so quick to plump up.

I know this isn’t exactly an issue with a clear correlation to the world of copywriting. The bottom line is, however, we’re better thinkers when we’re less active watchers. Do yourself and the world a favor.  Kill your television.

P.S. Strangely enough, a new study from the University of California shows that Internet use can actually boost your brain power. Especially in people ages 50 and up. Especially if you’re regularly reading sites like this one ; )

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Is Social Networking… TOO Social?

crowdTime magazine did a back-o’-the-napkin calculation.

 Suppose you estimate about five million of these “25 Random Things” messages in circulation in a single week.

 Given 25 details in each note, that’s 125 million random facts making the rounds. Even at just 10 minutes to come up with each list, that’s roughly 800,000 hours of time… probably at work… spent on Facebook.

 Okay, I’ll admit it… I don’t ‘get’ it.

 That is, I get the technology. It’s the appeal that escapes me. Not just Facebook, but MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reunion, and all the rest.

Yes, I know that makes me sound like a curmudgeon.

 Don’t get me wrong. I’m on it, if begrudgingly. Simply because so many friends invited me, it seemed rude to keep on ignoring the invitations.

 I’m now at around 140 or so friends… ranging from my hometown acquaintances to faraway college friends, an ex-girlfriend or two, old work colleagues, grad school friends, and so on.

 I haven’t invited any of them myself. I just accept the connections as they come. And sure, watching the network build… the status updates… the pictures of their kids… the details of their lives after we last saw each other… these really are good things.

 But I can’t help question the opportunity cost.

 For instance, where does everyone find the time to update a status or tap in all those notes? I can barely keep up with my email inbox. Now I’ve got to worry about forgetting to “Facebook” Mom too?

 Plus, the lost privacy. Not that I have anything to hide, but in all the time I’ve had a Facebook account, I’ve never entered a “status” update. Not once.

 Not that I have anything to hide… but some details just don’t feel important enough to share. (“John F. was just typing… and he’s still typing. There he goes again!” Welcome to the endless status loop.)

 Certainly, there’s a massive marketing benefit to this whole social network phenomenon (can you say ‘self-expanding, self-selecting mailing lists?’).

 But… well… let’s just say that when they throw the Facebook friends and family reunion about a dozen years from now… you’ll find me over by the digital punchbowl.

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7 Easy Ways to Get More From Writers

whipsmart.pngWhat’s the single best way to make sure you get what
you want out of the writers you’ll hire?

I’ll give you not just one but seven easy ways to guarantee a quality result, in today’s issue.

And by the way, don’t skip this if you’re the writer instead of the client… because this list could make your job infinitely easier too, simply by showing you what to ask for from anybody who hires you.

But before we jump in…

What to Know Even Before You Pick Up The Phone

First and foremost, one of the BIG reasons some businesses don’t get what they want from copywriters… is because they’re not exactly sure what it is they hope to get, right from the start.

Sure I do, you say.

I want sales.

Isn’t that pretty simple?

Yes. But be careful.

Why?

Because you can boost sales in a number of ways. Some ways are true to your product, some are not.

And a sale that’s followed by a slew of cancellations or refunds is no sale at all.

What’s more, there’s often another subconscious motivator that gets in the way of even the best marketer’s intentions.

And that is, of course, your ego.

How so? If your ego is inflated by selling more of a quality product your customers want, that’s good.

But too often, that’s now how it plays out.

Take, for instance, the jillions blown by “brand” advertisers on things like Superbowl ads.

Are those funny but pointless spots really about selling more product? Or are they more likely self-congratulatory spots set out to appeal to an advertisers sense of importance?

Ads like those let advertisers feel great about themselves, their businesses, and their brand.

They are the echelon of “hip,” the pinnacle of product entries in a pulchritude contest, the bountiful beauty in which those advertisers will bask like buffalo in a basin of… okay, I’m running out of ‘b’ words… but the point is, so-called advertising often does very little to get sales, despite all intentions to the contrary.

Ego that forces a message that offers no substance or promise to your target market is, in a word, a waste.

And finally, you need to be aware that even if you ARE sensibly focused on boosting your bottom line, there are different KINDS of sales you’ll want to make. And different strategies that precede those sales.

For instance, if you’re out to sell a high volume of a low-priced item… to a whole new set of names… that demands one kind of copy. If you’re looking to convert current customers for more sales, that’s something else (almost) entirely.

If you want to raise the price on something you’ve sold before, that’s something else. And if you’re looking to sell something high-end to previously low-end buyers, that’s something different yet again.

“Soft offer” pitches work uniquely… as do time-limited pricing offers… product launches… and even those pitches that create a whole new product category altogether.

Then… you’ve got the pitches that need to combine one or more of the marketing strategies above. And we haven’t even talked about your cost restrictions, list selections, and the rest.

You see what I’m getting at.

Bottom line, and this is important for you to soak up before I take you anywhere else: The MAIN thing you can do to better guarantee you’ll get what you want from the copywriters you hire is to figure out exactly WHAT it is you want to happen, first.

The better you know your strategy in advance, the better you can prep the copywriter before you bring him or her into the equation.

That understood, what comes next?

Now we get into the meat…

Seven Ways To Make Your Writer Write Better

In my experience, on both sides of the copy contract, here are seven easy ways to get more from your writers.

And again, writers, you read these too. Because it can’t hurt to know how good clients think, can it?

Here we go…

1) CHERRY-PICK YOUR WRITER

Let’s face it. Each copywriter, especially a good one, has his niche.

Some work with one kind of product well. Some with others. Some are great at telling stories. Others can work wonders with a track record.

If you’ve been in business any amount of time, you’ll start to know which writers have which talents. And you’ll match them carefully to your products.

Copywriters, there’s a lesson here for us too: Know your strengths and capitalize on them.

Make sure you accept the projects that fit with your talents. Unless you’re up to the challenge, avoid the projects that don’t.

2) HEAP ON THE RESEARCH

The better informed the copywriter, the better — usually — the copy he’ll crank out.

So if you’ve got the material, flaunt it.

You might resent, as I’ve seen some marketers do, the idea of doing footwork for someone you’ve hired to do just that.

But the fact is, even great copywriters will work even better if you arm with material to start the job.

Copywriters, there’s a lesson here too, albeit an obvious one: Writer’s block, fluff-laden copy, empty leads and offers and headlines… they all go away when you throw relevant specificity into your sales pieces.

Insist on asking for as much background material as you can get your hands on, at the very start of the assignment.

3) TALK IT OUT, AT LEAST TWICE

Talk to your copywriter at least twice — in detail — about what you’re hoping for in the first draft.

Talk once at the very start of the assignment and then ask to talk again, just to make sure the writer is on the right track.

And this, with enough lead time to make any changes before he or she turns in the first draft.

Copywriters: Realize that, as much as it’s essential to work alone and to protect undeveloped ideas, it’s also astounding what clarity you can get from a simple half-hour phone call.

If you wait for it to happen, it’s a distraction when it comes. But if you pursue the conversation, you might actually help the marketer clarify in his own mind exactly what he’s looking for.

4) PROVIDE A POINT MAN

I can tell you from personal experience, there’s nothing worse — when you’re working on selling someone’s sales copy — to have to hunt down someone, anyone, who will answer your emails to help you gather the things you need to complete the task.

Give your copywriter a gift up front — a handshake and introduction to a trusted person on the inside who will take calls and emails and attend to them promptly, as if completing the sales copy actually meant something to the organization doing the hiring.

And copywriters, don’t leave the scene of a first meeting without the name of this person.

Any client who can’t provide one, avoid working with more than once. They don’t take their marketing seriously.

5) LEARN HOW TO GIVE FEEDBACK

Patton’s quote at the start of today’s issue notwithstanding, sometimes you’re going to need a lot more in the way of first-draft feedback than, “doesn’t quite work” or “needs more” scribbled in the margins.

When I review copy, I famously almost double the original document length with my suggestions and comments. Nothing gets left to interpretation. Tell them more rather than less.

When something works, tell them that — absolutely. And when it doesn’t, tell them that too.

But tell them why.

If the writer is worth his salt, he’ll have a much better idea of how to make things right.

Copywriters, you need to push for this kind of feedback too. You’re not out to bait for praise or battle critiques. The whole process of review is to delve deeper into what your client wants — needs — from you to get the job done.

6) COME CLEAN ON DEADLINES

It might feel like courtesy to give your creative team lots of breathing room.

But, really, you’re much better off coming clean about your deadlines right up front.

Tell them what you need and when.

Some especially busy copywriters might have to turn you down. But if the time is available to work within those parameters, the pros will appreciate your clarity and efficiency.

Copywriters, this of course applies to us too.

Half of us are in this business because we like the freedom of setting our own schedules.

But to make that work, you have to… well… set them. That means making sure you know up front what’s being asked of you.

Insist on establishing this early in the game.

7) CUT THE FAIREST DEAL

The best businessmen I know don’t mess around trying to gain an upper hand. Nor do they give away the store.

They focus instead on the middle ground, making sure both sides benefit when a strategy pans out.

Between client and copywriter, that often means a royalty on sales. The better a piece performs, the more you both make.

Sure, some of the best copywriters do flat-fee only. But those fees are high… along with the quality of the copy they’ve earned a reputation for producing.

Copywriters, heed this: You’ll generally do your best work if your biggest payoff is performance-based.

Client or copywriter, I hope all that came in handy!

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Secrets of a Direct-Mail Legend: Rodale

rodaleOnce in awhile, you can’t beat a good case study. And what better case study for a copywriter or direct marketer to learn from than the profile of a legendary direct-mail publisher: Rodale.

Rodale, if you haven’t heard of it, is located in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Emmaus is a small American town that’s less than 8 miles square. Just under 5,000 families call it home. One of those families is that of J.I. Rodale, a former New York tax accountant who started Rodale Manufacturing in 1923.

Yes, manufacturing. Not publishing.

But then, during the Great Depression, Rodale moved to an empty warehouse in Emmaus.

And it was in the corner of that building that J.I. took a chance and followed his passion… straight to a printing press in the corner of the electrical warehouse.

His first few efforts were flops.

No, strike that, his first SEVERAL efforts were flops. They included a miserably unpopular humour magazine (closed after one issue)… some health digests… and a book of randomly accumulated health facts.

From 1923 to 1940, nothing seemed to work.

Then the company picked up roots and moved operations to a nearby 60-acre farm.

In addition to publishing, J.I. had a fascination with natural farming techniques and organic living. By 1942, he had combined the two and was publishing a magazine called “Organic Gardening and Farming.”

Yawnsville?

Maybe to the coke-and-cheeseburger set.

But “Organic Gardening” (now titled “OG”) is still around. And it’s hugely successful, with over 3 million subscribers worldwide.

The passion-publishing combination seemed to do the trick. Rodale started producing a slew of health magazines and books…

“Prevention” — arguably the most successful health magazine in history — was one of them.

Other titles include “Men’s Health,” “Backpacker,” “Runner’s World”… and books like “The South Beach Diet,” “The Home Workout Bible,” “The Organic Suburbanite,” “Shrink Your Female Fat Zones,” “The Testosterone Advantage,” “A Road Map To Ecstasy,” and many more.

The Rodale empire grew. And J.I. Rodale prospered.

He passed away in 1971, during an appearance on the Dick Cavett show.

So What Was His Secret?

The first time I saw one of Rodale’s direct-mail book promos, it was in the mid 1990s.

According to Forbes, the market for direct-mail-sold books was 4% of overall wholesale book sales. Today, according to the same article, that market has shrunk to about 1.4%. Rodale’s book division felt the pinch. Others, like Time-Life, cancelled their direct-mail efforts altogether.

But not Rodale. They stuck it out. Then they stumbled on an outrageously simple idea: Focus.

More focused marketing… more focused editorial.. more targeted benefits…

And most importantly for Rodale, more focused tracking of customer buying behavior.

Rodale took survey data, customer purchase behavior, and their magazine databases… and applied the same rigurous sorting technics you’d expect from a credit-card company.

They sorted and re-sorted their pile of prospects into fitness buffs, gardeners, weight-loss practitioners, etc.

Then they sorted even deeper until they found unexpected connections. “Organic gardeners buy household-hint books. Runners buy organic-lifestyle books,” said Forbes, “Using that information, Rodale sends out 100 million mailings a year.”

As focus and clarity had helped J.I. back in 1940, so it helped Rodale Publishing in 2002. Fewer ideas, more passionately-held. More quality. Bigger promises. And a crystal clear answer to the question, “What does the customer want.”

Says Rodale of themselves, “Rodale is America’s leading ‘how to do it, you can do it’ book publisher… regardless of whether it’s a book, magazine, or Web site, we take pride in our ability to communicate with our readers through personal, positive, practical and passionate editorial… “

Rodale’s direct-mail book sales have taken off. In 2002, they represented 31% of Rodales $450 million revenue.

New York publishers like Simon & Schuster and Houghton Mifflin, says Forbes, are so impressed they’re looking to apply the same discovery.

Like I said, this secret is simple…

In it’s essence, less is more.

Focus works better than trying to bludgeon your prospect with everything and the kitchen sink.

That’s a lesson here for the online marketer too. For instance, super-simple websites are leagues more effective than ones with 100 bells-and-whistles. E-mail marketing sent with relavent messages sent to pre-qualified, captive readers work much better than blanket ‘spam’ mailings.

And so on. But you get the picture.

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Are YOU Creative?

checklist.png In the last post, we asked why some people are creative and others aren’t. This time around, let’s put it even more plain: Are YOU creative?

Even though I.Q. tests supposedly measure your brain power, there is still no “Creativity Quotient” (C.Q.) test that measures how creative you are.

But the same Scientific American research found that creative people often have similar character traits. See if any of these apply to you…

Ideational Fluency – Someone gives you a word. The more sentences, ideas, and associations you can match to that word, the more likely it is you’re a “creative type.”

Variety and Flexibility – Someone gives you an object, say a garden hose. How many different things can you do with it? The more you can think of, the better.

Original Problem Solving – Someone presents you with a puzzle or a problem. Beyond the conventional solution, how many other workable but uncommon solutions can you come up with?

Elaboration – How far can you carry an idea? That is, once you have it, can you build on it until you can actually carry it out in application?

Problem Sensitivity – When someone presents you with a problem, how many challenges related to that problem can you identify? More importantly, can you zero in on the core or most important challenge?

Redefinition – Take a look at the same problem. Can you find a way to look at it in a completely different light?

How did you measure up?

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Copywriting Jargon… Once Difficult, Now Easy!

It’s come to my attention that you, dear reader, might be sorely lacking in proper copywriting “vocabulary.”

Possibly because you don’t read this blog enough. Possibly because I don’t use the terms enough. Or possibly because, well, who wants to sit around talking terminology all the time? Nonetheless, I thought I’d do you a favor and lay down details on the handiest of terms. As follows…

Bluelines – Either (a) the term for the first-run package “proofs” you get from your printing company or (b) the drug they must do in the design department to make them think it’s ever okay to put screened graphics behind printed text.

BRE – (a) A business reply envelope, provided to customers to make it easier to mail back the order form or (b) a funky French cheese that goes well with baguettes, but makes your fridge smell like sneakers.

Break-even – Either (a) the level of orders it takes to recover the cost of your advertising or (b) Hey, no joking about the showing a profit here, Buster!  This is serious!

Bottom line, the – (a) The money and how much you’re making or losing; also, (b) the second or third most common patient issue discussed in the offices of  Beverly Hills plastic surgeons, as in “Doctor, I’m worried about how my bottom line looks when I where jeans.”

Customer Retention – (a) How long you keep a customer after the initial sale; or, loosely defined (b) how long your customer will stay in the bathroom to finish reading your latest promo package.

Deadline – (a) The un-missable, absolute moment when copy must be turned in or (b) I don’t know… I’ve never really seen one, though I’m almost certain they make a whistling sound as they pass.

Full Bleed – (a) When the colors or pictures on a printed page run to the edge.  Expensive.  (b) What your forehead does when you can’t think of a thing to write.

Fulfillment – (a) Everything involved in making good on your promises, especially the sending of promised premiums and the product itself or (b) the thing you hoped for back when you thought you’d actually grow up to be a poet.  And now look at you!

Indicia – (a) Postal information printed on every piece that goes out (b) a small country somewhere in the Pacific where old copywriters go to die… or retire.

Johnson Box – (a) a paragraph or so of copy that appears above the body of the main promo letter (b) where copywriter Gabby Johnson was resigned to living after his control got knocked out of the mail.

Lettershop – (a) the company that assembles, labels, sorts, and mails your stacks of promo letters (b) the people you blame when your “brilliant” mailing flops miserably.

List Broker – (a) specialist service that puts together your mailing lists, from selecting and sorting to deal-making to delivery (b) the people you blame for flopped mailings when the folks at the lettershop stop taking your calls.

Merge-Purge – (a) computerized comparison of mailing lists to sift out duplicate names and “dead” addresses or (b) what new employees do at your Christmas party – come together, get drunk, knock over punch bowl, apologize to toilet the next morning.

Personalization – (a) technique for dropping the customer name into the text or the headline of a package to make the pitch look more personal  or (b) the process by which copywriters take every critique of their “art.”

Response Device – (a) the card or coupon given to the customer so he can mark down his order, payment, and delivery information; gets mailed back to the seller (b) cattle prods, whips, knitting needles and other things used to speed up a sale.

Self-mailer – (a) A promo package that requires no envelope (b) as derived from the phrase, “What?  Does he think the d*mn thing is going to mail itself.”  Typically applied to marketing managers.

 That’s it for now.

Please memorize.  There will be a quiz!

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In Picture Ads, The Eyes Have It

eyeHere’s a quickie insight and useful tip:

The common wisdom is that everybody loves a pretty face, right? Not always so, says Bryan Eisenberg over at grokdotcom.

 Oh sure, the pretty face does attract attention. But that’s the problem. In ads, a real looker can pull a visitor’s eyes away from your message.

Heat maps showing viewer interest reveal that we impulsively go to the eyes first in a face.  This is especially true if it’s a head-on shot where the face in the ad is making eye-contact with the viewer. And that can detract attention from where you want the prospect’s attention to end up, which is with the content of your ad.

But when the model’s eyes look aside, the same heat maps show that viewers tend to follow the model’s gaze to where it lands. A good photographer knows this to be true, too. Portraits with someone looking directly at the camera have a very different feel from those where the subject looks off-frame or into an empty space.

For the marketer — even a copywriter — this matters when you choose stock photos or when you higher someone to take pictures for your promos? If you’re in that situation, ask the model to look in the direction of your product or headline instead.

(Or, in a pinch, use Photoshop to make it happen.)

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