Make Your First Moment Count

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Several copywriters debated long copy versus short copy on this page over the summer months. One letter writer said it depended on the letter's purpose: whether it's for lead generation, fundraising or to sell a subscription. Another said to pay particular attention to the length of the paragraphs because readers scan letters instead of reading them from beginning to end. Columnist Bob Bly gave his two cents and mentioned his Copy Length Grid, a tool that added some scientific and semi-quantitative analysis to the debate. I probably agreed most with the comment by Fred Hahn, who wrote, "I thought the answer was to use all the words you need to make the sale, then stop."


I doubt that any of the long-copy proponents would make it at Procter & Gamble these days, what with its growing FMOT department. The Wall Street Journal reported last week about FMOT - First Moment of Truth - for those of us who aren't up on the latest abbreviations and acronyms. (The Journal even included a pronunciation guide: "EFF-mott.") P&G created a director of First Moment of Truth position 18 months ago and has 65 staff members worldwide devoted to the idea that shoppers make up their minds to buy a product in three to seven seconds after noticing it on a store shelf.


Intrigued, I did some Internet searching for more information. Point-of-purchase advertising started getting more respect when the Internet hype busted a few years back and brands cut back on mass media buying. Already a $17.6 billion industry, Veronis Suhler Stevenson says in-store marketing is expected to have 5.7 percent compound annual growth through 2009 as stores introduce more interactive kiosks. The Journal didn't get into the other moments of truth: usage, failure and disposal, probably because P&G wouldn't want to admit failure. But there are lessons to be learned. P&G thinks that every usage experience is its chance to delight consumers. Leading brands are built on the trust and loyalty that is formed when the first two moments of truth are achieved.


Granted, P&G is more worried about store shelves than direct mail letters, catalogs and Web site chatter, but this audience has something to learn about those first moments of truth when a new catalog or mail piece arrives or a Web site gets visited. Use images, clever and intriguing copy, sticky notes, unusual shapes - anything to get the consumer's attention quick. And don't add words just to add words, something that financial mailers are magnificent at doing.


Tad Clarke is editor in chief of DM News. His editorial appears Mondays on www.dmnews.com and in our e-mail newsletter. You can subscribe to our e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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