The direct mail traffic driver

Issue #76—August 9, 2019

I'm back from Portugal and getting back in the saddle right before the weekend begins. Lots of catching up to do after being away for a few weeks.

After spending the first 3 days at a small group mastermind in Foz do Alreho, I'm feeling much more laser focused on the things I want to get done and what I want to do better---and how to do so. But first things first: what landed in my mailbox while I was away? It took part of yesterday morning to sort through the huge stack of mail waiting for me. Alas, here were only a few direct mail promos in it. Two of them were the standard types of promos I get (an Advanced Bionutritionals folded "issuelog" for a memory supplement and a 6x9.5 component package from Dr. Sears for a beauty supplement). But the other one really jumped out at me.

It was this 6x9.5 oversized postcard...

This simple postcard, which is driving traffic to a website which I'll also review, is the freshest thing I've seen in supplement marketing in a loooooong time. It's not doing any one thing particularly new that no other supplement marketer hasn't done before.

But it's doing a lot of these things together exceedingly well---in a fresh, Instagrammable way that resonates with the younger (and soon-to-be middle-agey) Millennial market.

It's potentially a game-changer in how it's going after this mammoth market segment that will eventually replace today's aging baby boomers who are the bulk of current supplement buyers. (However, many of the strategies they're applying can be effectively used for today's more mature market as well.)

Integrated direct marketing was once the hot new thing

Back in the late 1980s I had my first marketing job working at Blue Cross and Blue Shield. I had moved from the actuarial services department (where I initially started as a result of my math degree) into a newly-created division focusing on the "individual" or direct to consumer market.

My boss had a strong direct marketing background and began using brand new strategies that had never been used before in what had long been the biggest money-losing area of the business.

He started using direct mail. Then introduced database marketing, newspaper ads, and other advertising. Within a few years the two of us (there were just two of us on the marketing team initially) had turned the division from the major money loser to by far the most profitable division of the company. Shortly thereafter we split off into a for-profit subsidiary and hired a team of other marketers, including our own inbound telesales team.

Around the same time "integrated direct marketing" became the hot new thing, integrating the same messaging across multiple advertising platforms. We began marketing our Medicare supplemental programs to the over-65 market using a combination of direct mail, newspaper print advertising, radio ads, and TV ads.

The call to action for the direct mail was a one-step sale: fill out and return the application, and we'd send them a bill once enrolled. The call to action for the other advertising was to call the toll-free number and request a "free information packet" from one of our telesales folks.

All of the advertising had consistent messaging and the combined effect multiplied the overall response as the same prospects were seeing the same messaging in multiple places. And while direct mail could pinpoint the desired niche market, the broader reach of the other advertising platforms helped get the messaging out to a larger audience of target prospects.

"Old" media vs. "new" media

Then in the early 1990s I left to join Phillips Publishing. It was the heyday of direct mail, and long-form copy promotions were pretty much the only vehicle used by the company to acquire new customers. That's right, no "integrated" anything...just direct mail.

Later with the growth of online marketing, for many companies it was just online where prospects were found and business was transacted. It was all very separated and no one seemed to be doing "integrated" direct marketing.

It was as if the people who got direct mail were a completely different species than those who were online. And to some degree that was true, with the older audience using old media and the younger folks using primarily new media.

Now, we're beginning to see all of this "old" and "new" media merging and working together to maximize response...finally.

And instead of simply relying on email or Facebook or other online advertising to drive traffic to websites or sales pages, now we're seeing good old-fashioned direct mail being used.

It's still one of the best ways to find your ideal target prospect. And showing up in their mailboxes with something physical is a much longer-lasting interaction then the fraction of a second it takes to click away online.

So right there alone, your odds of triggering the desired action by your prospect are exponentially increased!

Now let's take a closer look at that postcard I shared with you earlier...

What's in Kim's Mailbox?

The postcard I received in the mail from Ritual integrates well from a branding perspective with the website it's driving traffic to, though there could be some improvements.

I was blown away by the website, which we'll get to in a second. The postcard copy could have been more integrated and carried forth more of the website's unique positioning.

Let's take a look at the other side of that bright gold oversized postcard...

The fresh, freckly faced young woman with the nose ring is holding an intriguing-looking bottle of pills. It's pretty clear they're targeting Millennial-aged women. But what's not clear until you get to the website is that they're ONLY selling supplements to women (a women's and a prenatal multi).

The "women-only" positioning is a big part of their brand story, as you'll see when you go to the website. Yet what's in the copy here feels more generic and like the same stuff I've heard before. It seems to promote more anti-aging benefits versus the more "feel healthier today" benefits on the website. And the weak main headline suffers miserably from a terminal case of vague-ness.

But the standout look and feel of the piece, the intriguing clear capsules in the bottle, and the "one week free" offer are enough to get me to rush on over to And here's what I see on the Home page once I'm there...

The clear bottles and the clear capsules are, well, beautiful. Something I'd like to open up and use each day. Maybe even post on Instagram (if I used it regularly). It's an experience, not just a product.

There's also a consistent design look and feel carried over from the direct mail postcard traffic driver. But there's much more here to the branding and positioning.

When you scroll down a bit more on the Home page, you see the same freckled-faced woman. But there's some new information here. It's now clear these are products only for women, and there are two options (pregnant vs. non-pregnant. Sorry, guys!)

We're starting to drill down a bit more into the product's USP (unique selling proposition), but we're not quite there yet. We're focusing on the brand experience. I'm starting to see more of my clients focus on this crucial aspect of the purchase (and re-purchase) decision, though still far too many simply throw a bottle into a plain box with paper stuffed in it or worse, those annoying "peanuts".

Here we see a custom designed and printed box and the beautiful clear bottle with the capsules you want to post pics of on Facebook (and hopefully take as well). I also like the simple, punchy, conversational sales copy about their autoship service and guarantee...

I'm just cherry-picking here as far as screenshots of the website. You should visit it when you get the chance. Here's what comes up when I click on the multivitamin page to show the ingredients...

Again, there's that simple, clean look that conveys purity and transparency. Not only are the ingredient photos stylized and Instagram-ready, we've got their areas of origin spelled out. Heck, there's even a map option!

The best section of the website that I saw, though, was when they got into their brand and origin story. There's some good stuff that comes before it, but the video (which you can watch here) and the origin story below really give the brand its unique positioning and USP.

I'd like to see more of this copy and messaging used in the traffic-driving postcard. Take a look...

We've seen (and have used as copywriters) all of these strategies before, including the future pacing that shows up when you go to the "shop" page, an excerpt of which from the women's multi page is shown here...

I remember taking a similar copy approach about 5 years ago when I worked on packaging copy for a super high-end superfood drink for a London-based client (it sells for at least a few hundred bucks per month and has sold well at the famous Harrods department store). Each weekly box of packets within the large white box future paces what the user will be experiencing each week they use it. Here's what the packaging looks like that I wrote the copy for...

The Ritual future-pacing example before it uses a longer-term view, a good strategy especially when the typical autoship customer only sticks around an average of 3 months.

I remember about 4 years back becoming intrigued with the marketing and packaging approach that Aloha was taking. The company ended up having a few hiccups with product contamination and some other issues. I don't follow them anymore, though they occasionally send marketing surveys via email.

The Ritual folks seem to be off to a great start with their marketing and positioning, and it'll be interesting to see where they go from here. (They also appear to be hiring...and have some fab perks like first Fridays of each month to have your own restorative "rituals"). Hmmm, think I'll start doing that myself!

They also had a pop-up right when I landed on the Home page asking for my email It took a few hours, but I finally got an email from them. Here's what the pop-up looks like...

Clearly, supplement marketing to this emerging huge group of prospects needs to focus on beauty ( think: is it Instagrammable?), transparency (crucial for building trust with this highly skeptical audience), and product purity/traceability (like when you go to a restaurant in Brooklyn and your server tells you which farm the cow came from that you're about to eat and what a good life it had). Okay, maybe not that extreme, but you get the idea!

And hopefully this fresh (though using all the old tried-and-true principles) approach, utilizing "integrated direct marketing", has giving you some fresh new ideas about promoting your products. It can definitely be applied to a wider range of audiences as well as niches beyond supplements.

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. As you can see here on my blog, you'll find all of my past Copy Insiders issues going back to the beginning of 2019, along with some assorted musings I wrote back in 2018. But I've got a whole year's worth of 46 packed issues from 2018 that you can only get in a beautifully-designed, 260-page e-book right here. You'll save 50% when you use the following discount code at checkout: CIHALFOFF. If you like copy breakdowns and the other valuable content I've been sharing, you'll definitely want to get your hands on the complete 2018 collection!

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