by David Tandet

Bed Bath & Beyond Discount CardKind of surprised to come across a Google page titled “Bed Bath & Beyond: Stop Sending Us Those 20% Discount Cards!”

We all get lots of direct mail each week. Some we toss. The rest? (And by the way, there’s no more effective response-directed medium than email. Just be sure you’re not sending anything that in any way could ever be considered spam. That’s an order. It’s unwelcome, ineffective, and all-around bad business. Here’s how to do email right.) Well I, for one, have made good use of those BB&B cards. Not every one of them, of course. How many towels and throw rugs do I need? But if BB&B gets me and quite a few others like myself into their store once or twice a year, their card is the best advertising investment they can make.

One thing’s for sure when it comes to direct mail postcards: Bed Bath & Beyond keeps ’em coming.

I DID decide I could use a couple of extra towels the other day, and what was the first place I thought of? You guessed it: BB&B. The store promising me a 20% discount on any item is about equal distance from some other place I could go, so why not choose the place where I can save 20%?

Doesn’t Target have a similar towel to the one I could get at BB&B? Sure it does. But the idea of using that card, and getting not 5, not 10, but TWENTY percent off . . . well it was too good to pass up.

That’s the promise, power, and beauty of direct mail: it demands action. If you’re in the market for what’s being offered, the prospect of being a satisfied customer is too good to pass up. (And for the advertiser, there’s a terrific advantage in addition to higher sales volume. With direct mail, you know just how well your ad campaign is doing. One thousand discount cards turned in at the store over a specific period of time means that one thousand people have had a direct, positive response to a particular ad for that period.)

So for the direct mail copywriter, what are the important elements to keep in mind?

Let’s look at the Bed Bath & Beyond postcard.

1) Corporate Identity: By now, the BB&B brand has become instantly recognizable to me. I open my mailbox, and the second I see that blue-edged, oversized card, I know what it is.

2) First Look: Just in case I don’t know what the offer is by now, their designer has made sure that I see the proposal first. Come into their store, and if I walk out with something, I’ll have the product I want AND have spent 20% less. The size of the type and light blue tint of “OFF” guarantees their card gets that point across. It’s not Rembrandt, and it’s not supposed to be. The graphic designer knows her stuff.

3) Additional Recognition: The large, broken black line around the offer mimics perforation. I know I won’t be cutting that out, but it reinforces the idea that this is a BARGAIN. It’s a COUPON.

4) Third Look, Fourth Look, and Beyond: Right after I recognize the fact that I’ve got a discount offer, I notice that “WE WILL NOT BE UNDERSOLD. GUARANTEED.” Nothing highly original. But I’m seeing it AFTER I realize I’m saving money. Any wonder I think of BB&B when I need towels? And that brings up another important point. See 5.

5) The Ad Fits Their Product: Sure. Some people out there are only going to be buying the highest scale bathroom products available. But BB&B isn’t going for the crowd that gets valet parking on Rodeo Drive to shop for their towels. But do they back up their offer with items like excellent towels? Absolutely. And that’s what this towel shopper is looking for.

6) The Service Fits the Promise: I was very pleased with the selection of towels I found at BB&B. And I was even more pleased to find that when I got to checkout, the person ringing up my purchase didn’t take even a second extra to check if I’d met some obscure criteria in the fine print like, “Offer only good on Tuesdays, and you have to have green socks on.” The checkout person simply took my postcard, deleted 20% from the original price, and I was done.

Some really excellent PR for BB&B is the fact that the postcard HAS become so ubiquitous. I heard more than one person, in the space of 10 minutes, pleading with the store employees for the 20% discount because, a) they’d forgotten to bring their postcard, and, b) everyone gets them all the time anyway. I almost expected to hear, “My dog ate the card.”

7) Postcard, Letter, Reply Form?: From a copywriter’s perspective, the form of the direct mail ad is super-important. Say I want the person on the other end to know she’s one of a select few chosen to learn about a particular investment strategy. It includes substantial tax benefits. And I want to make sure my prospect understands this is a serious query from an established financial institution. I might choose to send a personalized letter in a white envelope. If I’m including a reply form, it might be almost as elegant as a wedding RSVP. The graphic designer I’m working with will be in on the planning — just as in every other instance — from square one.

But for towels? Well IF I want to separate one particular type of towel from the rest, and make sure my target audience knows that this is a once-in-a-lifetime offer — a towel made from the rarest fabrics, which are worth every bit of the 10 times greater price than any other towel has ever sold for — well then I might choose a personalized letter. But for BB&B, in most instances, the postcard is the right choice.

The direct mail postcard can be one of the most effective, cost-beneficial advertising tools out there. We’ll look at other aspects of direct mail in future postings.

Post filed under Direct Mail.