Issue #92—February 7, 2020 If you've been avidly reading my "What's in Kim's Mailbox" breakdowns this post-Super Bowl week, I hope you're ready for more. In today's issue I'm not only going to share a few lessons that will help you create promotions that make people want to buy from you, I've got some examples of a branding secret you can borrow from in today's edition of "What's in Kim's Mailbox". I'm post-90-minute massage (my favorite thing to do on a Friday afternoon) and super relaxed...so let's get rolling!
The #1 branding secret you can swipe for your copy Back when I worked at Phillips Publishing, I saw this branding secret in action. And I maximized its use when I helped launch and run the Healthy Directions supplement business to more than $23 million in sales within its first 3 years. It all has to do with realizing you're not just selling a product or service that can solve someone's pressing problem...you're selling a relationship. To get people to want to buy from you, you have to first create trust. Phillips sold at least a dozen different investment newsletters, and was the first to get into "alternative health" publishing when it launched Health & Healing. But it was never about selling a newsletter. It was about selling a brand--in this case, a trusted expert whose advice you become convinced you want to follow. A lot of direct response folks look down their noses at "branding", thinking it doesn't apply to their business. But if you look at the most successful promotions over time, including ones that are working well now, they often use this branding secret. To sum it up, it's being refreshingly real. It's being transparent...instead of "slick" and polished. It's showing your weaknesses, your failures, your vulnerabilities. All of this creates trust...and if people trust you, they'll be much more likely to buy from you. I've written countless successful control promos that "look valuable" and actually provide valuable information in the copy...whether someone ends up buying or not. It's one of the secrets that make long-form promotions like magalogs and sales pages work. But this authenticity angle can be used in lots of other ways...in everything from direct response promos to packaging and billboard advertising. (We'll look at a few examples in a moment). One of my favorite promotions that "branded" one of Phillips Publishing's gurus was the classic direct mail package "Read This or Die" that the late Jim Rutz wrote years ago. (I featured it back in April 2018 in a "What's in Kim's Mailbox" edition. You can get it in my Copy Insiders 2018 Collection here with the code CIHALF to save 50%.) Just take a look at the brilliantly authentic bio Jim Rutz crafted about Dr. David Williams, the editor behind Alternatives...
There's nothing "slick" here. While it's featuring things that build the doctor's credibility, it also makes him REAL.
Remember, the goal here wasn't to sell a health newsletter. It was to sell a relationship with Dr. Williams as your trusted advisor. (Then from there, sell his recommended supplements, etc., on the back end where the real money is made.)
Rutz's "Read This or Die" promo was extraordinarily successful. I heard it brought in at least 100,000 new subscribers during the first year or so it was mailed.
Today's most successful promos do the same thing
If you go back and look at the promos I've featured this past week, the two that I know for sure are highly successful are both ones that utilize this branding secret.
The first is the folksy, unassuming direct mail promo for Arctic Ruby Oil I featured this past Monday. By looking like a personal communication and providing value (via an insert that looks like a real mini-book), it builds trust and feels authentic.
While I don't know how well it's doing, the fact that I've been receiving this promotion as well as multiple others using a similar strategy for years from this same company tells me it's working.
And in the "Cinderella Secret" VSL/sales page promo I featured yesterday, we've got a product spokesperson (whether she's actually real or not) who bares her soul (and a lot more) to share her story of weight gained and lost...complete with photos from nearly every stage of her life...heck, I think I know more about her than my neighbor of 20+ years at this point!
As the spokesperson in the promo, she comes across as real, authentic, vulnerable, and relatable. She's someone that--particularly if you want to be able to achieve what she's done--you feel you can trust...versus someone who spent her whole life being thin. We trust people more who are imperfect, and not afraid to show it.
This refreshingly realistic branding and relationship-building is definitely part of the reason why that promotion is the #1 promo on Clickbank right now, according to my friend Justin Goff.
Digging out more of the story behind your product spokesperson and nailing their voice and personal story can make a huge difference in any kind of sales promotion you create...and multiply your results. It's definitely worth the effort.
(I'll never forget hearing how when Phillips launched their Health & Healing newsletter back in the early 1990s, Clayton Makepeace--who they hired to write the launch magalog--flew across country to hang out with Dr. Julian Whitaker, the editor. He spent an entire weekend shadowing the doctor at his clinic in Newport Beach, and soaking up the sun with him by the pool (I know, tough work!)
Clayton then took that intense amount of research and used it to create a brand of a fearless, innovative health crusader that resulted in selling more than 300,000 subscriptions at $39 to $79 a pop within the first few years.
I learned from Clayton's example early on and have applied it countless times to the successful promos I've written over the years...and so should you!
Now, let's take a look at a few non-direct response examples of using this branding secret in today's edition of...
What's in Kim's Mailbox?
I mentioned in Monday's email that one reason I missed several Super Bowl ads is I was serving myself up some tasty chili. I made that chili using one of my favorite spice mixes from Hard Times Chili.
Hard Times Chili started off as a chili parlor in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, and expanded to several locations in the Washington, DC area over several years. It always had an authentic branding about the place that carried forth in the menu and decor. Unfortunately several locations, including the one near me, closed up in recent years. And while I used to be able to buy their chili spice mix at the grocery store, I haven't seen it on the shelves lately.
Luckily I was able to find it online and have it shipped. I loaded up on six boxes of my 3 favorite flavors: Texas, Terlingua Red, and Cincinnati (I went to high school and college near there, and developed a taste for Skyline Chili's cinnamon-accented chili).
When it arrived, resting at the top of the box once I opened it was this "bounceback" letter...
Not only does this letter further cement the relationship I already have with this product, it re-confirms my purchase decision. It feels like there's a real person who cares behind the company, and exudes its own unique branding.
Here's another example. I've been buying Oatly's oat milk creamer for my coffee and love its packaging. It's not slick, it's funny and authentic, and they've carried the same "branding" throughout all of the marketing I've seen.
That includes this billboard ad, which someone posted in The Copywriter Club group on Facebook a few years back--and started a discussion that recently got reinvigorated, with polarized views all around...
This breaks all the classic advertising "rules". It's about them. There's no benefit. It could easily spark the reaction of, "Who cares?" There were many haters in the group who thought it would NEVER work as of a few years ago.
Well, fast forward to today and Oatly is one of the fastest-growing food brands. You have to admit, the authenticity of this ad...this feeling that there are real, passionate people behind the brand...and this attention-getting copy (because it's SO unexpected and not slick) stimulate curiosity while being memorable.
It definitely got mixed reviews from The Copywriter Club crowd...with the "haters" being the most vocal...
But when the discussion got revived again a few weeks ago, I posted this comment...
And I love how Hillary Weiss Presswood recently summed it all up, in hindsight...
There are plenty of ways to apply this branding secret. It doesn't always have to be "folksy" (because that's going to get overused real fast)...but it has to be authentic and relatable. Use it wisely and you'll reap the rewards of doing so.
Yours for smarter marketing,