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I’ll file this in one of my rants about advertising graphic design that just simply drives me crazy. Particularly a direct mail piece that is completely missing the boat.

I will often see direct mail pieces from furniture retailers showcasing a couch, a dinette set, or a table. Nice products, mind you. But will a picture of a couch make you stop in your tracks when you are going through your day’s incoming mail?

You see, people don’t study or read direct mail. They skim it. They will pass by your mail piece in something like 0.8 seconds and make an assessment if this is something they will look more closely at, or file in the recycle bin.

You need to present a graphic image that evokes an *emotional* response in the reader. And a couch doesn’t get me emotional.

One way to pass this 0.8 second skim test is to include a picture of a person on the mail piece, particularly a person enjoying the product offering you are selling. Now you are creating a positive emotion. This is crucial.

For one, people subliminally like to see themselves through the person in the mail piece. They want to project that it is them enjoying that particular product.

Bob Barker has this completely figured out.

Have you ever noticed on the Price is Right that they don’t just showcase the product that contestants bid on? They have an attractive model interacting with the product. Granted they do it in a dumb blonde way, but they pretend to be using that backyard grille and having a fun time doing so. Somehow, you think that could be you enjoying the product on a sunny day in your backyard with your family. If they just showed the grille sitting there by its lonesome self, it becomes an unemotional metal shell with wheels.

Another reason to include a human in the picture is a fundamental marketing rule: people buy benefits, not features. A product by itself is a just a pile of features. Leather upholstery. 5 gallon propane tank. Big deal.

Now, put a person in the picture enjoying the product and suddenly you are projecting an avalanche of benefits. Get away from the stress of your day and enjoy the comfort and relaxation of your new couch. Entertain your friends in your backyard with your mondo BBQ and make your best buddy jealous.

When people skim their mail in 0.8 seconds, you need to project a benefit that smacks them upside the head, and in a hurry.

Next time you think about showcasing the spectacular detail of that new whizbang product of yours, think twice. Instead, present your customer enjoying the product. Your direct mail piece’s objective is to simply get them to respond. When they respond you can begin the sales dance and then share the crucial features that are relevant to your customer.

Good Selling!