Marketing, Media, Music


There is a disturbing movement sweeping the air waves.   You may have just heard it in the background one day, the cheerful, melodic moan of a faceless, happy chorus singing “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”.

I missed the first occurrence: Philip Phillips delivering his blockbuster “Home”

with a long, triumphant chorus of “oh’s”.   But I did catch it when American Family Insurance adopted his tune, sung by what seemed the entire Morman Tabernacle Choir to drill the melody into my insurance-saturated brain.

Fine.   Phillips and AFI hit it off.

But now the oh-ohs are a virus, spreading across the music stage, and frankly, few performers get it right.  Nevertheless, they include their attempt at oh-oh, because the recording studio asked for it.

MacCauley Culkin

” ‘Oh’– a catchy phrase, with infinite potential.”

Or it could be that the writers’ union has gone on strike.  No more chorus lyrics!

And if it’s selling music, it must be selling burgers, phones and cars, too.  Just ask McDonalds, T-Mobil and Nissan.  They all have their own oh-oh theme right now.

Atlanta Chop

“Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh–once again, with feeling!”

Looking for the source of this mono-syllabic drone, one could guess that it was the Atlanta Braves fan club that mass marketed oh-oh with their jubilant “Tomahawk Chop” song.

Any pitcher-batter contest was unnervingly accompanied by the 6-tone refrain, delivered by 40,000 spectators motioning like one-armed bandits in a therapy session.


“Just the sound of it makes one salivate.”

Still, it could also be a tip of the hat to the feline chorus that gave us the MeowMix anthem.  This little ditty has soothed and inspired us for over 30 years.  Let’s hum a few bars.


“On the downbeat, gents!”

Digging deeper into the past, it could be the hearty and beloved   rowing songs that floated up from below the salty decks of huge Roman galleys charging toward some hapless fishing dinghy in the ancient Mediterranean.  “All together now, lads!  Oh-oh-oh……. crunch.”

Slaves Pyramids

“Now I know what they meant by ‘chorus line’!”

Still, oh-oh’s roots could hark back even earlier to the carefree days of the Egyptians, toiling together, sliding 20-ton obelisks across films of hot bull fat with the help of a team of 200 melodious Ethiopians, in full harness.

“Now that is a Sphinx!  Let’s give a hearty rendition of Oh!”

My hunch is that oh-oh will eventually go away, when the human ear finally grows flaps, or the alphabet is re-written, eliminating “o”.

Mean time, I am playing nothing but Bobby Ridell and Beach Boys.  They were into “oo”.

Thanks for reading along!  Feel free to comment.

I hope you don’t have trouble sleeping as oh-oh runs around in your head all night!  


direct mail, Sports

The Irresistible Offer, and Making Money

Golf 2014-11-19 739 short

There is no shortage of advice for this game.

The mailbox is a limitless supply of surprises. Today, it presented a special offer from Golf Magazine, one that I could not refuse.

In direct mail, there are offers, but more important, there are deals, and Golf’s latest was a doozy.
This simple envelope expressed a blunt sentiment: ONE TIME ONLY!

Golf 2014-11-19 740 deal

“April is 5 months off, but we want you NOW.”

Does that sound like something your parents would have said?

How about Golf’s business manager, in response to the giddily optimistic circulation manager who came up with the crazy deal?

Golf 2014-11-19 740 six free

Half a year in the upper midwest is golf-free, so why not?

This was in fact a renewal letter. An advance renewal, 5 months out from April 2015, which is the last issue date.
So here’s the deal: 12 issues for a year, PLUS six more issues, for $10.  Basically 63 cents an issue.


Digging through my recycle bin, I found a September Golf blow-in card offering 12 issues for $16. That’s 75 cents each.

Golf 2014-11-727 yellow deal

Relax, there’s always a better deal coming.

At this juncture, one could decide to defer, just because, who knows, golf may never occur again on the planet due to snow, so what’s the point?

But then the real deal emerges. In addition to the 6 free issues, the renewal also came with a 90-page expert guide: “The Best SHORT GAME Instruction”. Downloadable with paid order. Sweet!


Lining up the three wood for a water hazard.

Let me perambulate for a moment to say that I play the short game very well.

I can shoot a 56, +/- 2 strokes in 9 holes consistently. I don’t need to play 18 holes to break 72. I can do it in 12, no sweat.

But maybe the book could offer some consolatory advice.

The question we should ask, is how can Golf make any money giving away the magazine almost for free?

Golf 2014-11-19 738

The circulation director shuddered with this deal.

As it turns out, Golf needs me as much as I need their Instruction book. You see, they promise to their advertisers to deliver 1,400,000 magazines a month to avid readers like me.

Looking at Golf’s 2013 rate card, one will find that a full-page color ad goes for $207,100. That’s about the price of a house trailer in Fort Myers.

There are lots of angles in buying ad space, but at the end of the day, a 125-page Golf Magazine carries about 40 pages of color ads, generating $8,300,000 in sales.   About $5.92 per reader.

Golf 2014-11-19 739

The essential irresistible offer: FREE advice.

The magazine may cost as much as $2 to print and mail, so that leaves nearly $4 left to create, write and photograph.  Should be enough!

And what about my $10?  Where does that go?   Well, assuming they wrote to 120,000 subscribers with an April 2015 end-date, their mailing cost is about a dollar each, all in.  $120,000.  Odds are, about 15,000 may renew, which is $150,000 to cover the mailing with something left over for the gent who wrote the SHORT GAME guide.

IMG_1141So that excited Circ manager maybe isn’t so crazy after all.

Now we’ll see if the guide can make my game any shorter.



Thanks for following the math on this.   If you have any tips on improving my game, just write!

direct mail, Marketing

Mayo Clinic: Right On The Money

Smart, effective direct mail design comes from experience, and some times a lot of guts.    The Mayo Clinic Health Letter subscription kit is a classic example.   This masterpiece came to my mail box last month, and while the design may shake you, the numbers will knock you out.   Here’s why:

A Whopping Big Envelope

This one measures 10 x 14 inches.  Really??  Yes.   Why send a little #9 package when

Mayo OE

The envelope becomes the carrier for all the other letters delivered that day.

you can bury the mail carrier with a doormat?   To reinforce the mailing’s impact, the paper stock is nearly cardboard–you could chip a tooth on it–and it’s printed to look like kraft paper.

Creating the kraft look is just the beginning though. The address label is not real, but it is varnished to look like it, and as a special touch, this mass-produced kit has a postage meter label, except–that’s printed too.  The overall presentation says to the reader: “you need to open this now”.

My immediate reaction is:

1.   The Mayo accountants are taking blood pressure tests on both arms in the cafeteria, jabbing at their adding machines, looking for answers.

2.   USPS Postmaster Donahoe is toting up his winnings on this over-sized Flat mail piece.

Long On Words

The extravagance continues inside.   I ripped open the zipper on the envelope to pull out the letter. 8 pages!   That’s four, 8-1/2 by 12-inch

The letter: a lifetime of Tweets.

The letter: a lifetime of Tweets.

sheets, printed front and back.  For you attention-deficient followers, that’s about 198 Tweets.   The CFO is banging out numbers to see how much waste was incurred by using 16-point type instead of 10-point.    Not to mention typing the letter on lined pages!

Nobody reads letters.  Well just about nobody.  Right?

Canary Yellow Reply Envelope

Subtlety doesn’t work in direct mail, even for Mayo.   We can’t just hide stuff in white reply envelopes when we can tell the world we probably have an urgent itch in a better-left-unmentionable place.   So there it is– a large bangtail order form I send back in this shout-it-out yellow BRE.

Yellow BREs never get mislaid.

Yellow BREs never get mislaid. And they get action, too.


Stickers-just to keep it tactile.

Stickers-just to keep it tactile.


The ad agency downtown would never place a sticky label in a mail piece.   How corny.   Yet Mayo does this prominently and proudly, knowing that we can’t resist the temptation.  Does anyone really need to peel a “trial issue” label and stick it on the order form?   Of course we do.  There’s a sense of decisiveness and approval connected to the action, just like updating your car plate ever year.

It’s All About Me

What is irritatingly attractive is Mayo’s continual pandering to my ego.   They have hijacked my name.  Of course, they have it on the envelope, but it’s also on the letter.   And at the top of the letter is a handwritten note addressed to me.   Wow!

The P.S.--after 8 pages, there's still more to say!

The P.S.–even after 8 pages, there’s still more to say!

Again on page 8, up to which, yes, I read, there’s a P.S.  Also written to me.

As expected, the order form has my name, but they slapped it on the flaming yellow BRE just for good measure.

The Story Continues

To dispel any last doubts about the Mayo brothers, they have also included a brochure on the Mayo Clinic just in case I had been hiding in a duck blind too long.   Plus a Post-It note stuck onto the letter quoting readers who bragged about how the newsletter fixed their swollen joints, their riled digestion and unbending digits.

The family story fills in the cracks.

The family story fills in the cracks.

It’s About Making The Numbers

Any cognoscente in the advertising world would roll their eyes at this piece and grab another canapé off the awards dinner banquet table.   Mayo is not going to win a trophy any time soon.

That is because they are too busy depositing checks at the bank.    This package works because it takes enormous advantage of our curiosity.   If you are in the right demographic, you can’t ignore it.

Here are the numbers as I see them.  I have not confirmed with Mayo, but then again, they didn’t ask me either.

It's going to run into money!

It’s going to run into money!

List and production costs have to be at least $350/m. Postage for this Flat, $200/m.   This could be a 55-cent package, all-in.   By the way, while you thought the accountants might have been turning into jelly at that number, it is more likely they are quietly smiling while they top up the USPS Caps account.

Now, response rates.   1% is pretty much the norm, but this gargantuan kit, which includes a gift, could pull a 2% response, which again, I have not confirmed with Mayo.   At 2%, a 55-cent kit delivers a $27.50 acquisition cost. ($0.55/2% = $27.50).  Large, but actually about half of what any credit card sub would cost.   In any event, they wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.

The Final Number

Medicine aside, Mayo still needs to return a positive cash flow, a.k.a. profit.   An annual subscription to this newsletter is basically $32.00.  Assuming a contribution of $8.00 per sub, Mayo needs to keep the average reader for 3-1/2 years to pay back the $27.50 acquisition cost.

But maybe not.  Because while these 50-year to 80-year-olds, approximately 500,000 of them, are perusing their newsletter, they are also biting on additional offers for Mayo’s entire library of publications. Enough to fill all the waiting rooms in Fort Myers, Miami and Scottsdale for years.

Even if the Mayo Clinic Health Letter program only breaks even, it is the gateway to a flood of peripheral revenues.

Mastering a standout program like the Mayo Clinic Health Letter didn’t happen over night.   These savvy marketers have tested into the present format.   In fact, it could be a test too.

But the numbers are still rewarding, if formidable.  And that’s where the guts come in.



Thanks for reading along on this.  Please let me know you liked it.  And share, too!



Don’t Play With Your Food

It is so good to be at the top of the food chain.    I know, there are grizzly bears out there who would have us for lunch, but generally, we rule, I think.

But our supremacy causes some nutty behaviors.    I am thinking specifically of our advertising.

"I have this recurring nightmare..."

“I have this recurring dream…”

Let’s say we are promoting internet grocery shopping.      Concept:  a plump, naked guy scampering across the road, jogging down the sidewalk to the store.

Nope.   Too edgy for the after-school viewing. Let’s get a plump, naked chicken.   Oh yeah, take his head off, too.   That’s okay to show during the six o’clock news hour.

"This is the BEST picnic ever!"

“This is the BEST picnic ever!”

Or perhaps we are promoting an antacid to settle our stomach.   Concept:  a plump, naked, slow-roasted, headless man, playing doubles volleyball in the backyard.

Nope.   That’s a message endorsing tanning.  Surgeon General won’t like it. Let’s go chicken instead.   “Hey Marsha, see if you can get Roddy from the internet shopping commercial to audition…”

And logic-defying creative like this:   there’s a buffalo farm near us advertising its meat products.  And who’s making the pitch on the billboard?  A proud cartoon buffalo beaming down on us as we drive by, gazing at the bison in the pasture.

Chicken chef: fowl treachery!

Chicken chef: fowl treachery!

Been to a BBQ restaurant lately?   Notice the smiling pigs and cows on the napkins?    How about lovable Mrs. Leghorn offering up her fresh-laid children for breakfast?   No wonder PETA gets antsy.

It’s not all twisted though.

I point to our favorite duck -sorry, not you Donald– no, not you Daffy– but the celebrated pitchman who has won our hearts and minds for supplemental insurance coverage.   He shows how hard work, and a friend in the advertising business can get you somewhere.

"I took voice modulation too."

“I took voice modulation too.”

Could it be that this fellow started in insurance as an actuary?   And somebody in marketing called him up to the seventh floor for a talk?

"I was an extra on the Muppets.  But I was going nowhere."

“I was an extra on the Muppets. But I was going nowhere.”

And there’s the British import gecko.   May have been a driving instructor for the U.N. Consular Service until he realized his job had no meaning.   Went for a casting call for a pest control ad and ended up selling auto insurance.  They loved his accent.

Their futures are secure.  Unless the Food Network takes a shine to them.   Or Comedy Central.

Next thing you know– Concept: A duck, gecko and a rooster walk into a bar…





There’s a good punch line for this set up.   I hope you can supply it!   Thanks for reading, and please “like” or “share” below.  Thanks!