Let’s Hear It for Great Creative
Or, Don’t Shortchange the 20 Percent
By Steve Cuno
If you have worked in direct mail for more than a few minutes, odds are you have heard of the “Rule of 40-40-20.” It states that 40 percent of direct mail success depends on a well-targeted mailing list, 40 percent on a compelling incentive offer, and 20 percent on well-executed creative work.
We are all for any reminder of the importance of a solid mailing list and a sound offer as integral parts of a direct mail strategy. But beware inferring from the Rule — as some do — that the creative execution deserves no more than the least of your attention.
The 40-40-20 breakout appears more symbolic than empirical, as shown by direct marketing pros who argue for a rule of everything from 60-30-10 to 70-20-10. But if direct marketers differ over ratios, most seem to agree on at least the gist of the Rule: that a well-targeted mailing list and a compelling incentive offer are crucial to a successful direct mail strategy.
Good so far. But some marketers take the Rule of 40-40-20 a step further. Eighty percent isn’t bad, they reason, so why fuss over a mere 20?
It’s easy to imagine that such thinking might drive some of the lookalike direct mail all of us receive from time to time. Not just the layout, but even the copy appears cloned: “There’s never been a sale like this blah blah small type you have been pre-selected maybe perhaps to be considered for approval blah blah small type for all your needs blah blah small type we care, honest we do blah blah small type proudly serving you blah blah small type REPLY NOW.” If you suspect that the marketer doesn’t much care if you take in only the offer and “REPLY NOW,” you may be on to something. After all, with proper targeting and a hot deal du jour, the odds that you will respond increase accordingly. Even if the look and copy fall short of truly engaging you.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with doing direct mail that way. Especially when it proves profitable, as is does for many a marketer, and as it may well do for you. But before you get too far along with that approach, we hope you’ll search the pages of this and other issues of Deliver. You will find stories about direct mail pros who, after doing their homework to come up with a well-targeted mailing list and a desirable offer, set about crafting breakthrough, arresting, knockyersocksoff creative work with shine and appeal. And who, as a result, found themselves rewarded for it far beyond what they would have achieved relying solely on a great list and offer.
We wholly endorse the spirit of the Rule of 40-40-20. Due attention to the mailing list and offer is essential. But why risk shortchanging results by stopping there? While you’re at it, we recommend pouring your heart into the creative work.
When you reap the rewards, let us know. You might just end up featured in Deliver. More important, you might just end up with an even healthier bottom line.