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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

How a full stop (or period) can put a full stop to sales ...

Today I got two messages about Denny's book. One, from a friend in Sri Lanka who is one of smartest direct marketers I know read:

"I've NEVER ordered a book so fast in my life.

And, bearing in mind that $89 = approx $400 in real cost terms here in Sri Lanka, you had to do a pretty good selling job to make me reach for the plastic.

Just ONE WORD on the book cover made me return to a sales letter and rewrite the whole damn thing."

Well, that made me feel good. Till I got one from Denny Hatch who said:

"When I clicked on the URL that you have in your Blog, it got the equivalent of TILT on a pinball machine. It did not get to the bookstore.

Here is the URL you used:


Note the period at the end. That screws it up."

So if any of you had problems, here's the correct link.

Years ago I read that putting a full stop at the end of headlines reduced readership. Now I've learned another lesson!

WRITING WEBINAR: I shall send news about this later today - I'm putting toegther all the ordering details.

Right now I'm going for a health check. Most mornings this consists of breathing on a mirror to see if I'm still alive. But today is the real thing.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Here's where I stole lots of "my" ideas from ... now it's your turn

If you read these serpentine ramblings you know I greatly admire the Venerable Denny Hatch.

Denny, with almost demented dedication, has over the last 26 years created the world's largest organised direct mail library - over 200,000 samples.

But what is more important, he knows what worked - and what didn't, and can tell you why, because he knows more than anyone about the subject.

18 years ago I rang his wife, Peggy (who is as able as he is!) to ask how many mailings he read a month.

"Between one and two thousand," she replied. "Mind you, he doesn't read all of them all through."

"I should bloody well hope not," I thought. "The poor man would end up in a loony bin if he did."

Anyhow, since that time, Denny's mammoth compendium of the best mailings ever - Million $$$ Mailings, created with Axel Andersson - has been my secret weapon.

I use it to cheat.

I thumb through it for inspiration - and for ideas to steal, adapt and use in seminars. It contains 71 of the most successful mailings ever written. Only last month I wrote something that pulled like an express train based on one line I spotted and “improved”.

I refer to it more than Caples, more than Hopkins, more than Ogilvy.

The only problem is, it is a WHACKING GREAT TOME, 477 pages long - I yearn to beat up recalcitrant clients with it. I can't find the ideas I want quickly. And it is 18 years old, so some important new stuff is not in it.

Now, praise the Lord, Denny has come up with something that's bang up-to-date, and a lot shorter. So I can find tested ideas to steal in minutes.

It’s a report called The Secrets of Emotional Hot-Button Copywriting. You can get it at http://tinyurl.com/29a5mv5

But to call it a report does it too little justice. It is a treasure trove. I flipped it open just now and immediately saw an extraordinary opening line "I'm sitting in my wheelchair today, mad as hell" ... imagine what that could do for your e-mail opening rates!

(Do not think for a second that what applies in direct mail does not apply online. It is pretty much all relevant - and the examples you see are from the best of the best in a business that has been around for centuries, not decades).

As the title says, the report is based on the turbulent, gnawing human emotions - the hot buttons - that make your customers buy. And it features the best mailings of the last 20 years. Only Denny could have put it together, because only Denny has this astonishing archive of material.

And Denny does something so many fail to do: he tells you WHY things work. You will never get this from some of the hyped-up piffle that sails into your inbox every day.

A friend just forwarded me (as a joke) one of those emails that say “all you need is this set of DVDs and booklets and your copy will “write itself” automatically.

What drivel!

Here, for $89, you can get what you really need – the Copy Thieves’ Almanac. I may use one of the mailings in a speech I make in a week's time. I will certainly adapt another for some work I have to do for an investment client.

Here again is where to order: http://tinyurl.com/29a5mv5

Why not make it the next thing you do? Just one idea could double the response from your next effort. I have seen it happen. I know.


Friday, 25 June 2010

Is this the most underestimated, overlooked marketing weapon? Let's see if it works on you!

When I last ran a one day seminar in London, I used a simple weapon to get attendees. It was not direct mail. Not advertising. Not PR. Not a clever promotion.

It was an e-mailed survey, it got 16% response, and I made a few thousand quid.

That was partly because of the list and partly because of the person who signed it (not me). So this video is all about why surveys are such a deceptively powerful weapon. See what you think.

Would you like an example of how I use surveys?

I have a client who is setting up a business overseas. I suggested his launch could be based on a survey. So now he is writing some copy which I will edit/revise/trample all over.

We will get the survey results published in a newspaper (they're always gagging for stuff to run). That will establish his name and give him credibility among his prospects. And that will lead to a series of other things I won't bore you with.

The best survey format is anonymous, so people are happier to respond. I hope that is true of you, because I have stuck a
survey in here – and I'd really appreciate your reply.

Two weeks ago so many of you said you'd like a writing webinar that I wondered what else would interest you.

So in the survey I’ve listed some - but not all - the topics I have bored the opants off people about in sundry places from Dubai to Sydney. Let me know which interest you and I will try to set something up. It takes no time at all to complete.

Oh, and I've also asked about something entirely different that I am running. It has limited numbers, so I want to know what the likely take up is.

I will tell you what results the survey comes up with, so you will know what interests other people


P. S. The writing webinars will will start in about a week. The delay is because we have spent a ludicrous amount of time looking at the various options. None is perfect, but I think we have arrived at the best.

Also how we take your money is a pain to arrange. Don’t worry. I have a deal for you!

Actually I have
two deals for you - but that's for another day.

But first, please fill in the survey, which takes about 30 seconds. Only you can tell me what you want. I do appreciate it!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

That's another fine mess I've got myself into... and uncommon wisdom from some young bloods

I assume you recognise that Laurel and Hardy catch-phrase.

Anyhow, I'm always saying stuff that gets me into trouble when I should know better.

For instance the other day I blithely said I'd put a video up every day.

Well, that was a dumb idea, as I learned when I started sending out a helpful marketing idea every day.

People wrote and said they couldn't keep up with them - so I spaced them out a bit more. I'll do the same with the videos.

Anyhow, that brings me, by no logical route, to something I saw at 3 in the morning on TV which reminded me of a simple truth about human motivation.

I was watching this programme where two posh girls went and spent some time in one of those housing estates - projects they call them in the U.S. - where half the young people are unemployed.

In one scene they met three young black guys, who were sitting on a bench looking as sinister as they could possibly manage.

One of the girls asked, "Why do you do all this bad stuff?"

One of the guys answered: "It's rep, innit?"

When he was asked why that mattered, he said, "If you're not known, who are you?"

That simple statement said more about why people do what they do and feel how they feel than anything I've heard for a long time.

For instance, why do people hate recorded answerphone messages more than anything else in life? Why do they loathe politicians and bureaucrats? Why do so many hate their jobs?

Because they're not
in control.

And that is one of the keys to persuasion. Allow people to control their lives and you have happy people.

By the way, I just read that a man I used to deal with is setting up a new bank. Some interviewer in Marketing magazine asked him if it was going to be "an entirely London-centric brand". What a pillock!


Monday, 21 June 2010

How to edit - and the secret of charm: for Troy White. Troy who?

You may not know who Troy is - so I will tell you. He is one of the best copywriters around. He interviewed me recently and asked me how I manage to write "charming" copy.

I was at a complete loss for an answer. But it came to me yesterday - and this is for you, Troy - and anyone else who's interested. You should be, because most copy has no character whatsoever.

Ask yourself: do you buy from aggressive bores - or corporate drones who've had a charisma by-pass operation?

The first part of the clip is about editing - which is equally important.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

39 days to success - or Death by Video

This may interest and delight you - or fill you with dread, but I have spent the last 24 hours filming videos in the Devon sunshine, where I' ve been visiting my partner Al.

They're mostly about 2 minutes long, and they deal with just about every aspect of marketing - online and off.

I'm going to put one up every working day- in no particular order. I hope you like them: they're a labour of love, but more to the point, every one aims to give you practical advice based on my years in this hellish business.

As ever, your comments are all gratefully received.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Built-in idiocy at work: more Micro-communication, less sense. And thank you, George Machun

One of the few bits of Latin I can remember is the phrase "The mountain laboured to bring forth a mouse."

Many of you, I am sure, are as baffled as I am by the way the intellectual dwarves who run Microsoft product development manage, seemingly without thought or effort, to piss away millions so as to come up with new stuff that is almost invariably worse than whatever existed previously.

The example that drives me crazy is a completely useless thing called Docx which means I infuriate half the people I correspond with as they can't read it.

To be fair, though, nothing could possibly outdo the gizmo claiming to correct your grammar. This seems to have been put together by some nitwit who can't speak a word of English, as almost without exception the advice it gives is the reverse of whatever is correct.

Come to think of it, very few IT people can speak English, so that may be the reason.

Anyhow, this preamble brings me to my friend George Machun, who after working on the Microsoft account has for the last few years been trying to get the folk at San Francisco State to market themselves properly.

He just wrote to me about the latest threat to my sanity from Microsoft which is promoted with the dire line
Get the new Office 2010! 5 improved tools for home, work and school. Did anyone get paid to write that?

As he noted:

The best line was “budget planning tools that make vacations a reality”. Note to Microsoft, money makes vacations a reality, not Excel spreadsheets! And the funny part is MS spends BIG $$$ on research that results in this crap. Can you imagine the hours of meetings and conference calls it took to produce what amounts to a benefit-free piece of advertising?

I can, George, indeed I can.

P. S. Note to those interested: I shall be working on my writing seminars today - news later. And I also plan to use Survey Monkey to find out what else you would like to hear about.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Your bargain is not necessarily my bargain, Phil

Being, as they say in the North where I was brought up, "as cheap as chips", I am ever alert for a bargain, so I read this from a man called Phil with some interest.

Dear Drayton

We would like to offer DraytonBird Associates Ltd the opportunity to fill any two roles for only £995. With a massive saving of approximately £400 off our single vacancy price can you really afford to miss it?

The answer was "yes"- and I shall explain why - but I thought it was a good e-mail, because the copy mentioned they'd filled 92% of vacancies in the previous month.

I think people are the most important asset for any business, and I would never, if I could possibly help it, let them be supplied by a recruitment firm. I feel pretty much the same about "human resource" people.

Here's what happened five years ago when I was looking for a new PA.

(Stop me if you've already heard this).

My then PA at the time, Denise, suggested I could get the perfect girl - a bright 19 year old she had already spotted - from a recruitment agency for a mere £2,000 plus.

Well, the last thing I needed was a bright 19 year old, and I resented paying that much to people who are little more than body-brokers.

So I wrote an ad in 20 minutes which we stuck on Gumtree. It cost us £19, and I got 82 replies in 24 hours, and found nearly twenty likely good people. Choosing the right one was the only problem.

And what was her background? She was running a hamburger restaurant. "I've never been a PA, but believe me, there's nothing you can throw at me that' s as hard as what I do now."

She was fantastic until she went and got pregnant. She even wrote some good copy - though here native language was Brazilian Portuguese. But what recruitment agency would ever have been able to spot she was perfect?

Here's a good one from my pal Glenmore:

Don't spank potatoes in front of The Bitch

Joan Collins was being served dinner in BA business class and one of the potatoes was so hot it burnt her mouth. Ms Collins called over the steward and told him the potato had burnt her mouth.

The camp flight attendant was a little over-excited to be serving the star so took the potato and proceeded to spank it and say "Bad potato! Bad potato!" much to the mirth of fellow passengers. Joan, however, was not amused and made a complaint.

P. S. Anyone know someone literate, organised and bright who wants to work with me for nearly nothing?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Sod the football - let's beat the shit out of someone

This has little to do with marketing and not much to do with football, and is prompted by something I saw last night and something else I read this morning.

Anyhow, what with my partner being Italian and me being English we have had the dubious pleasure of first watching England who despite having most of the possession drew against the U. S. and then Italy, who had about 75% of the ball and played beautifully - but drew against Paraguay.

In both cases this was because the teams that should have won failed to finish - which reminds me of those vapid letters that end with the anodyne phrase "We look forward to hearing from you" - to which the response is "Don't hold your breath, pal."

Moving quickly on, we were watching Italy-Paraguay game in Signor Zilli on quaint old Dean Street, Soho, when across the road I saw three black men kick and beat a white man with no interference from anyone. It looked as though it was a dispute about stimulating substances, and eventually after the culprits had sauntered off at their leisure, the police arrived too late to do anything. Probably too busy filling in forms about racial quotas.

I was reminded of two things.

First, Mad Angie, my partner in the late 60's, a retired "party girl" who had been a methedrine addict told me that making drugs illegal (you could get them on prescription at that time) would lead to enormous growth in addiction and crime. She was right.

And second, I recalled something from a book I am reading about the years between the two world wars called
The Morbid Age. In those days Adolph Hitler was not the only one keen on large scale euthanasia; many distinguished British and American thinkers thought the subnormal should not be allowed to breed or killed off at birth.

One phrase I read summed up what people saw as the consequences of letting the wrong people fuck: "We are getting larger and larger dregs at the bottom of our national vat". You can see lots of those dregs any night in Soho, though rarely demonstrating their character quite as vigorously as the group I saw.

Another bit I liked in the book was a classification of the congenitally subnormal as idiots (unable to look after themselves); imbeciles (unable to manage their affairs unaided); feeble-minded (requiring care and supervision); and moral defectives (deficient, but also vicious).

What baffles me is how so many of them end up in politics.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Bribery works in mysterious ways - a £200 million total waste

Many years ago I went to Chicago to try and persuade Sears they were wasting God knows how many million on untargeted newspaper inserts - offers I thought would do a lot better if carefully aimed via direct mail.

I had no luck because the man who handled the Sears account at their advertising agency - allegedly a partner of ours - stopped me even meeting the client.

There is an ocean of research showing that indiscriminate promotion doesn't pay as it degrades your brand, but a new report by research firm FastMap reveals a surprising twist.

A survey among over 1,400 shoppers commissioned by the Institute of Promotional Marketing suggests that discounts over 25% do little to get shoppers to try a new product, have no influence on subsequent loyalty, and "could be costing the industry nearly £200m a year".

Discounts work, of course - especially when times get tough. Nearly 90% of people said they had tried a different brand because of a money-off coupon and coupon redemption has shot up 70% in the last two years, with £813m redeemed in 2009.

The surprise is that a coupon with a lower discount value created greater loyalty than the reverse. Three in ten who had used a coupon worth 15p to 20p stayed with the new product afterwards but only 25% who redeemed a coupon for £1 or more kept buying it.

Over half those surveyed said they would try a different brand when given a money-off coupon worth 5p to 50p if both the rival product and their usual brand cost £2. Just 27% said the discount would have to be at least £1. This is far less than the current average discount of 48%.

One major dairy brand managed to achieve a 26.8% cost saving by reducing its coupon face value by 25%, according to Valassis MD Charles D'Oyly. This was achieved at the cost of only a 0.66% reduction in redemptions compared with past campaigns.

Research is interesting - but what is amazing to me is that these people don't test.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

"All marketers are liars" - but there are limits, don't you think?

The "liars" quote is the title of a book by Seth Godin, I think.

Oddly enough I commissioned some research for a client years ago that showed that customers are not fooled. They know we are a bunch of bullshit artists.

That's why conventional advertisers, who mostly are too dozy to measure their results, neglect that powerful tool the testimonial, whilst everyone who does count uses it all the time.

Apropos of nothing much, one of the most successful mailings I ever wrote was to sell what were then the world's most expensive cruises, which is why these two pictures made me roar.

The one at the top shows what one firm promises your fellow passengers are going to be like. The one at the bottom shows what they really were. No kidding.

If we tried that stuff on in a mailing for a financial client, we'd all be rotting in jail.

Friday, 11 June 2010

“You cannot be serious” - with apologies to J McEnroe

Just to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the world of great literature ...

If you’re all telling the truth (and subtle motivational research reveals you who read this are almost uncannily honest) there’s what they used to call "a massive pent-up demand" for my 3 webinars on better writing.

But you know what? Demand like that is often so pent-up that a startling percentage of those who say they want to attend a webinar don’t.

So before I dust off the old cane and mortarboard I’ll get back all of you who said “yes” next week, and give you the times.

(Though of course you can watch whenever you like, really).

Just to remind you what the three webinars will cover:

They will chiefly be about writing to persuade - including everything from what to do before you write and how to manage your time to how to get ideas, with advice on better writing from George Orwell.

I will also analyse examples - including some from Bill Jayme, a friend who was long seen as the best direct mail writer in the world. Plus some inferior stuff I banged out myself.

And as always in the weird and wacky world of marketing, there'll be an excruciatingly good incentive if I can think of one.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Who else wants to write better - or knows people who do? Friday's response thrilled me to bits (with a couple of surprises)

If you follow all these disjointed ramblings you know I vented a little spleen last week about an e-mail I got, and said I would run a series of webinars on better writing.

Three things happened. First, a surprising number of people said they'd be interested, including one of the best copywriters I know. Second, the man whose firm ran the copy sent a very temperate comment whilst lolling in his second home in Italy - paid for by such seminars. And third, one of my heroes, Denny Hatch, sent a congratulatory note

Well, thank you to everyone who replied - and what can we learn from this?

1. Many people realise that bad writing holds back careers, plays havoc and bedevils business.

2. The people who want to improve are often the people who are good already. The useless carry on regardless. So, the good get better and the bad fall further behind.

3. Quality matters more than technique. If what you offer is appealing even bad writing, within reason, won't kill it as long as the benefits are clearly described, which they were in this case.

A delightful story was told by the great cartoonist and writer Thurber about the eccentric editor of the New Yorker magazine, Harold Ross.

Ross was a gloomy nit-picker, hardly ever satisfied, and with little apparent sense of humour. On the rare occasion when he saw a contribution he liked he would murmur, "I am encouraged to go on."

Well, I am encouraged to go on - I have a few other subjects that may interest you like positioning, fund-raising, briefing, research and testing, brand building, how to present, how to be a good creative director, creative analysis and so on.

Let me know if any of those sound interesting, please - or if you have any other suggestions.

I will now prepare the better writing webinars. They will chiefly be concerned with writing to persuade - but cover everything from what to do before you write and how to manage your time to how to get ideas, with advice on better writing from George Orwell and much more.

So if more of you are interested, let me know that too.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Is this gibberish REALLY how to communicate? Hard to believe – and I have a suggestion

Do you feel successful? I don't.

Yes, I have moments of euphoria, usually after I’ve written something pretty good – but it’s not long before I decide I’m useless.

So I read about a seminar in “power talking” and “communication skills” with great interest - especially when it said that 80% of people fail at work because they don’t “relate well” to other people ...“a clear case of failed communication”.
Well, the seminar was cheap, the course leader is practically a genius – “multi skilled as an Occupational Psychologist, Executive Mentor, Presenter and Counsellor” - and the subject is highly relevant.

But the copy put me off. As far as I or anyone else who cares for the English language might be concerned it was indeed a case of failed communication. It had more clichés and jargon in it than a politician’s speech.

I was promised “user-friendly, high-level skills” and “solution-focused communication techniques”. There was obsessive use of expressions based on the word “impact” – “impacts on”, “impactful”, “high-impact” and “positive impact”. And naturally that shop-soiled word "engage" popped up (why not "intrigue" or "interest"?)

If that's how people who teach communication write, it explains a lot of the mindless tripe we all have to plough though - in documents, on the internet, in meetings: everywhere.

Every day you are trying to get colleagues, bosses, customers – maybe family – to do what you want. Whether you like it or not, life is one long sales pitch – and most of that selling is done in writing.

So how do you avoid boring the hell out of people? How do you write well? It really matters, as two old colleagues, Ken Roman and Joel Raphaelson, revealed in their splendid book “Writing that Works”.

It seems that when the Chief Executives of top U.S. firms were asked what they would most like to change in business, the majority pleaded: “Can someone please teach people to write better?”

Now if you’re wondering where all this has been leading, let me ask you a question.

Would you or your colleagues be interested in three short webinars on how to write better? I have been teaching this for nearly 30 years, and my normal rate is £5,000 per day. But if enough of you are interested I will do them for £39 each.

In my time I’ve written books, scripts, articles, ads, brochures, presentations, speeches, emails, editorials – you name it – and got paid for them all. I’ll tell you what I’ve learned.

The last time I did a seminar on this subject it was for the world's largest conference organisers. People said the were "inspired". I can't guarantee such giddy heights of joy, but I think you'll find it worth it.

Can you take a second to email me and say if this interests you? Just write saying yes or no to Drayton@draytonbird.com.


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The steep and slippery slope to commercial damnation – or, are Dell slowly destroying their brand?

This is Lester Wunderman – who coined the phrase “direct marketing” – and to whom I almost sold my agency.

A few years ago he and I sat on an American Express committee which met in exotic places to discuss their creative work.

Lester said little, but it was always relevant. As you might expect, I said a lot and hoped some was relevant.

I have never forgotten one thing he said when we were discussing discounts at a meeting in Kyoto. “You are training your customers to expect bribes.”

This struck me because I had already seen impeccable research by Professor Ehrenburg and Alex Biehl of the Ogilvy Centre for Research proving that those firms which advertise most and promote least are infinitely more profitable than those who do the opposite.

By promote, I mean giving things away in exchange for sales.

When you keep discounting, you are not just training people to expect bribes; you are telling them “what we offer is not good enough to sell on its merits.” You are degrading your brand.**

Which brands have demonstrated this best over the last 30 years? People like General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. All ended up in deep doo-doo.

Which brand has been losing share - and may commit slow hara-kiri if it doesn’t change its approach? Dell.

Every single message I get from them offers a deal, which over time implies that their products are not good enough to sell on their merits.

Moreover, there is no attempt to speak to me as an individual. This says they don’t care about me - another subject worth your consideration.

Fortunately for Dell most of the other computer firms have not been that good at marketing: product innovation has always driven this industry. But this will change. And Dell is worried: they've just abandoned their sell-direct model and done a deal with Best Buy, the biggest U.S. dealer.

In some markets discounting is part of the scenery. One of our clients is in such a market. They are succeeding because they are simultaneously running commercials to promote their brand.

What is the solution?

If you have to discount, always say something that strengthens your brand. Explain how what you do is better than what others do. Don’t just focus on the discount.

Also, keep doing brand advertising as much as you can; and measure your results, not just in sales or enquiries, but in attitudes to your brand.

** Nearly all the "I'll make you rich by next Tuesday" internet scamsters constantly offer unbelievable discounts. They don't give a hoot about building a brand,
any more than Bernie Madoff did, as they don't plan to stick around, but their approach hardly builds credibility.

Sexist? Moi?

I plead not guilty but amused, Your Honour.

A friend sent me this, which he claims is a BMW used car ad from Germany.

I think I've seen it before, but somehow doubt it's the real thing. Would they run the copy in English, anyhow?

So I bet it's a spoof. But my friend doesn't care. He says he wants a test drive.

The paradox is that many men are quite bothered about previous ownership, whereas women are enormously attracted to shop-soiled males.