Happy stupid anniversary

Three years ago this month, I received a call from the then-editor of Strategy. He was planning to publish a special section on direct marketing and asked if I would contribute an article. Since I'd just put out a Knight & Associates self-promo direct mail package with the theme of Stupid Direct Marketing Tricks, I suggested that I incorporate the same theme for the Strategy piece.

Three years ago this month, I received a call from the then-editor of Strategy. He was planning to publish a special section on direct marketing and asked if I would contribute an article. Since I’d just put out a Knight & Associates self-promo direct mail package with the theme of Stupid Direct Marketing Tricks, I suggested that I incorporate the same theme for the Strategy piece.

He agreed. So I wrote the piece, sent it off, and then waited with bated breath for his response. To my delight, he said he wanted to run it as-is. Then he asked if I might be interested in writing one more. I said sure. Well, would I consider writing more than one more, i.e. making it a semi-regular event? OK, I replied. If I was willing to go that far, he said, how about making it a monthly feature? Pleased at the prospect of having a forum through which to rant 12 times a year, I accepted.

He had one concern, though. ‘Do you really think you can find enough examples to fill a column each month?’ he asked.

‘In your position, you probably have a lot of things to concern yourself with,’ I said. ‘A lack of examples of stupid DM shouldn’t be one of them.’ And thus was born the column you’re reading right now.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve received calls and e-mails from a lot of wonderful people in all areas of our industry – from the marketing heads of some of Canada’s biggest companies to the solitary leaders of one-person agency bands; from creative directors at DM agencies to wannabe creatives at community colleges where they teach Stupid Tricks. I’ve even heard from agencies and companies in the U.S.

It’s always great to hear from readers AND to receive samples of DM they either love or hate, some of which becomes fodder for the column. So if you have a comment about a column, pro or con, drop me an e-mail or get in touch with the editor of Strategy Direct+Interactive.

If you come across a terrible or terrific direct mail package, e-mail or Web site, let me know; if it will work in a column I’ll arrange to get it from you. But if you send something created by your own company or agency, be sure to identify it as such – it’s your guarantee that, if I don’t agree it’s the greatest promotional piece since the advent of advertising, it won’t appear in a Stupid Tricks column.

And, keep those e-mails coming.

Now, some anniversary trouble-shooting DM queries to the industry, from yours truly:

* What do you mean you can’t afford to test? You can’t afford not to.

* Why are you planning to cut back on your direct mail creative just because you’re tight on budget? Why don’t you produce a dynamite package but just mail fewer of them?

* How come there is now time to redo the creative, when there wasn’t time in the beginning to do it right?

* Did you really say your e-mail and direct mail campaigns don’t have to reflect your mass advertising campaign?

* Who cares if a few prospects take offense at your promo, so long as a higher-than-usual number of other prospects sign up?

* Are you more concerned about saving money (i.e., doing a half-baked job with creative and production) or making money (i.e., turning out a terrific campaign that will send that sales chart skyward)?

* Any more questions?

Have a Happy Stupid Anniversary!

Dr. Bob is hanging out his shingle.

A number of people, especially on the client side, have said they can’t hire yours truly or his team because they’re mandated to do all their creative in-house (and I guess don’t want to go outhouse). Can they do their own planning and creative, they ask, then get an opinion from your scribe?

I was reluctant to agree to opinion-sales at first but have finally realized that I’d be doing what I do with the column – reading something with a critical eye and then opining. And I figure what better time than on this, the column’s anniversary, to officially launch a new service.

Bob Knight of Knight & Associates can be reached at b_knight @telus.net. He is pleased that you’ve read this far.