Mailer Bans Slick, Pretty Campaigns

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Bill Glazer's mail campaigns for his menswear stores in Baltimore are inventive but, by his own admission, anything but pretty.

Glazer prides himself on "ugly" direct marketing. A recent campaign to promote his Gage Menswear clothing retail shops in October and November came in a manila envelope normally used for X-rays and contained a letter from Glazer to his customers printed on yellow legal notebook paper.

That piece went to 8,870 customers of Glazer's stores and generated a response rate of nearly 4.7 percent. The mailer also contained an X-ray purporting to be that of a smiling Gage customer and a coupon -- made to look like a prescription slip -- for a 5.7 percent discount and a free leather bag.

Absent is any trace of "slickness." Glazer uses no glossy or expensive paper stock and keeps use of color to a minimum.

In the past, he's done a mailer printed entirely on the yellow legal pad paper -- the process involves buying lots of legal pads, chopping off the glue binding on top and running the paper through the press -- and in another case a mailer written on a mock diner place mat.

"We prefer ugly marketing to pretty marketing," Glazer said last week. "There's so much more mail in the mailbox than there was years ago, you really have to work hard to get your pieces open and read."

Glazer, who gives seminars on direct mail for retailers through his company BGS Marketing, often goes outside the bounds of standard paper stocks. A good relationship with one's printer, in this case City Blue in Wichita, KS, is essential to pull off such stunts, he said.

Glazer said he consults with his printer to ensure that production of his mailers is feasible before embarking on a campaign.

"They understand us now," he said. "You start working with printers, and they sort of understand how you do business, and you develop with them."

His No. 1 rule, he said, is that mailers should follow the basic tenets of direct marketing -- that is, they should provoke an emotional response, use strong headlines and offers and be trackable. Yet he shuns conventional notions such as the idea that upscale customers require high-quality, expensive mailers, because for Glazer there is no need to be slick when you can be outrageous.

"Improperly, people feel as though that if somebody comes in and buys a $500 to $1,000 suit, they want to send out something a person who buys $500 suits would identify with," he said.

Furthermore, he will borrow any idea from any industry, as in the case of the X-ray mailer, which was inspired by a mailer from a chiropractor in Glazer's neighborhood. The vehicle doesn't have to match the product in every case, he said.

Glazer got into direct marketing in the early 1990s when the menswear industry was struggling and retailers were having trouble differentiating themselves. He is an admirer of copywriting expert Dan Kennedy of the "No B.S. Marketing" newsletter and says it was Kennedy who encouraged him to spread his ideas about direct marketing by giving seminars.

All retailers, no matter how small, should look at direct mail because they will find no greater value from their marketing dollars than those spent marketing to past customers, Glazer said. Database software has become affordable enough that direct marketing is an option for businesses of all sizes, he said.


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