direct mail, Marketing, Sports

Mail Order Magic: The USGA Doubles Down


Marketing: a good grip that doesn’t let go.

The challenge of any direct marketer is to hold the enchantment of the buyer from the moment of first interest until the next order.  Let me tell you how the United States Golfing Association had me firmly in their grip.

Mind you, I have always been attracted to mail order.


First mail order purchase.

As a kid, my first experience with mail order was a Robin Hood hat off the back of a Quaker Oats box. I wrote them a letter with a dull purple crayon. Two box tops, a quarter, and four weeks later, I was decked out in a lincoln green cap complete with turkey feather.

Moments later I dissolved onto a path through the tree line behind our house, earnestly in search of rich people to steal from.

My brother and I followed up with another offer, this time, a potato gun from Nabisco Shredded Wheat. More box tops, more coins, more waiting, and our ordnance arrived: two shiny, plastic, blue and red hand guns.

Phil Cowboy825

The properly outfitted small arms mail order buyer.

Operating instructions were basic. Stick the front of the barrel into a potato, and pull away a small plug about the size of a pencil eraser. Choose a target. Pull the trigger. The little wad of potato would fly across the living room and roll to a stop under the couch.

After a couple of potato bits wound up in the electric space heater, the jig was up.

But the magic remains.   It’s important for cataloguers, mailers and weekend supplement advertisers that their buyer squeezes every bit of enjoyment possible from the order cycle.

The Hat: Mailorder Delivers!

The Hat: Mailorder Delivers!

There is an inexpressible excitement in opening a long awaited package sent by complete strangers, far off and away.   I had sent in my USGA membership renewal, and according to the letter I would receive a hat: an orange 2015 USGA Chambers Bay Open cap.  I already had one, but if it blew away, I’d have back up.

I am certain that the USGA Board of Directors convened a special meeting, extensively reviewing my  application before granting my membership extension for another year. A no brainer for them, this was an important symbolic order of business, for which they would levy a $15.00 fee against my credit card.

From there, I visualized urgent instructions hammered out on the teletype, dispatched to the membership fulfillment department, ordering them to rush a member package to our home, sparing no cost.


The long awaited, hoped for package arrives.

Like a glistening white, dimpled Titleist, teetering on the edge of the cup, I waited by the mailbox.    This week, the USGA kit arrived.

Inside the lumpy plastic package I found my new member card, and a bag tag, branded with my name, and a framable picture of Chambers Bay, site of the 2015 Open.   And more…there inside the package was a new hat–but it was gray.


Surprise! A new hat!

Was there a mistake?

No!   This hat is for the 2016 Open in Oakmont.   I have no idea where that is, but according to the hat, there are squirrels, and acorns.  Perhaps there are groundhogs too.

But the USGA prize committee could not contain themselves by merely presenting me with a new lid.   They also sent along a USGA 40th Anniversary metal ball marker.


Double surprise! A ball marker!

This little disk is used to mark the fictional place of my golf ball as it rests closest to the pin.   I have never had the pleasure of seeing that, but I hope to one day.


But wait, there’s more. It’s magnetized.

Even better, however, the prize committee designated that the ball marker have a special place of its own: it attaches to a magnet on the visor of my new cap.   Wow!   Like many bad hooks off the neighboring tee box, I truly did not see this coming.

Of course, the cap is firmly held in place even on the windiest fairways as the magnet rests over the metal plate in my skull.

Just kidding.

Years ago we were introduced to the concept of lagniappe.  This is the art of giving a little extra.   It wins a customer for life.  Good marketers always work lagniappe, and the USGA has cultivated the technique.


The course beckons; the marker is poised.

With luck, they may someday improve my game.

Thanks for reading!  Please share.  Oakmont is outside of Pittsburgh, PA.

direct mail, Sports

Mail Order Law Course

Only a couple weeks ago I excitedly popped my member application into the mail to the U.S. Golfing Association.

Tell me you agree: there is nothing like the anticipation attached to mail order, waiting for that parcel to arrive.   In this case, the USGA won me over with membership to their organization, and sweetened the deal with their 2015 Chambers Bay Open hat.

The Hat: Mailorder Delivers!

The Hat: Mailorder Delivers!

But there was more. They also promised an official member card, and a golf bag tag, and… the USGA official book, Rules of Golf.

Today, my package arrived, and I had torn it open by the time I had walked up the driveway.

Up until now, I had viewed the game of golf as an enjoyable diversion: walking the fairway in search of a runaway ball, or flumped on a couch Sunday afternoon, taking vicarious enjoyment and frustration while millionaires bounced shots off spectators onto lush, hand-tweezed greens.


“I did not know that!”

With the Rules of Golf in hand, the sport has new deeper meaning, with profound implications.

It’s much like my driving a car for all my life.   Only now to find that our state Rules of the Road, or Driver’s Handbook has 96 pages of rules, none of which I knew.

The USGA book is twice the size.

As a duly accredited and newly admitted USGA member, I opened the Rules of Golf.   About the size of the iPhone 6, it has 208 pages, written in 6-point type.  It fits in my back pocket, and just like the iPhone 6, it bends easily.

It turns out that there are only 34 rules.  Well, 34 subject areas perhaps.   Then the lawyers have their say.

But in a moment of merciful brevity, the governors have provided “A Quick Guide to the Rules of Golf”.  Kind of like a Cliff Notes.  It’s only 7 pages, which you might browse through as you pay your green fees.

In a like-minded spirit of expedition, I am not going to review all the rules with you here, but I would be remiss in not highlighting a few key canons of the game.

For instance, the attention to nuance as noted on page 9: “Understand The Words”.   You won’t find this type of consideration in the Drivers’ Handbook.

Grammar 101, with the bark left on.

Grammar 101, with the bark left on.

Or the oblique reference to emotion in the section on Unnecessary Damage, page 21.

"Now settle down, or we will stop the cart!"

“Now settle down, or we will stop the cart!”

Not to mention on page 37, the inside lore of match play, which identifies the condition for being a “dormie”.  We gather this is not a sleep mate, necessarily.USGA 534dormie

And the curious, repetitive references to remnants of manufactured ice which apparently is randomly found across the boundless green of the course.   One needs to study the forensics on this phenomenon.USGA 533 ice

And it pops up again…USGA 535ice casual water

Lastly, as we can expect, the USGA staffers make earnest attempts to define a circumstance for clearer understanding, as shown in the “Nearest Point of Relief”, page 30.

Not necessarily "fast acting" relief.

Not necessarily “fast acting” relief.

With that, I am off to the club, with my legal team in tow, and “for the good of the game”!IMG_1152


Thanks for reading!   In the midwest, the days are getting shorter, and the opportunity to enjoy a walk in temperate climate and sunshine is shrinking.  Kudos to USGA and their mission to bring golf to all who would enjoy the sport.  

“For The Good Of The Game” is copyright USGA.



direct mail, Marketing, Media, Sports

How the USGA Got My Attention, Fast.

My walk to the mailbox this morning was rewarded by an irresistible offer from the U.S. Golfing Association. A FREE hat!USGA 2014-09-15 505 hat

How can you say no?

Their generosity gives me hope, too. This may be the re-emergence of the direct mail gift premium.

Once there was a time when any subscription offer came with a free gift. A calculator. A tote bag.   We even received a world globe from Macleans Magazine.


A worldly gift with every subscription.

USGA 2014-09-15 504

The USGA wants me. They actually want me!

This kit begged to be opened. Not because there was a hat, but because the USGA had enclosed a card. For me. An official USGA card for a horrible axe-wielding duffer who scores a rambunctious 108 on a good day.

My handicap is so far off the chart I get a special space to park the golf cart.

USGA 2014-09-15 505 card

I am keeping this close by until my real card arrives, with my hat.

Nevertheless, I am moved by the card. I want it. Opening the kit, I am further thrilled to see that I can join the USGA and get a FREE USGA Open 2015 hat.

USGA 2014-09-15 505 slogan

A great slogan. But they don’t know me well.

At this moment, we have approximately 30 hats on the coat rack, all emblazoned with someone else’s logo. I don’t need another hat. But truly, I want this USGA hat.

USGA 2014-09-15 505

A compact offer, with color, balance, and readable content.

It’s like they recognize me. And how I have toiled to write “single-bogey” on a par 3.

Economics: Does This Kit Pay For Itself?

USGA 2014-09-15 505 benefits

All this stuff comes with the hat. How can you decline?

As thrilled as I am, and I am sure countless thousands of other golfers are thrilled at a Free hat offer, will the USGA lose its shirt with this offer?

No way, and here’s why:

All in, the postage and production for this piece was probably 40-cents. Let’s say they mailed 100,000 pieces. That’s $40,000 out of pocket. Now imagine that 2% of the readers sign up. They each pay $10 to join USGA. That’s 2,000 new members, for $20,000.

But the hat probably cost USGA $10, so the USGA ends up with 2,000 new members, each with a new hat. And a $40,000 bill.

USGA 2014-09-15 507Imagine now that the USGA direct marketing manager goes into the president, and says, “Chief, I just got 2,000 new members. They cost us $20 each!”

He replies, “Awesome– because at least 1,000 of these members will renew next year for $25 each. And 50 of these members will come to the Open and drop about $250 a day sipping coolers in the Club at Chambers Bay between strolls along the course to see the pros.  We pretty much break even.”

Second Thoughts About The Hat

USGA 2014-09-15 505 email

This microscopic email form has just enough room for “@”.

I have mailed my reply, and am quietly excited about my new hat.  And the free golf rules I get, and all the other stuff.  But really, it’s the hat.


The thrill of mail order is waiting for the merchandise.

And then I start to think, what happens when I wear this hat?   First off, it’s yellow– school bus yellow.   So I will be easily identifiable on any golf course, or in any bar, as the duffer who went for the $10 hat.

Some earnest, scratch golfer will ask, “Are you going to the Open in Chambers Bay?”

“No, not really.”

“So why the hat?”

Or some hopeless hacker like myself will see the hat and ask, “Can you help me with my swing?”

“No. I’ll make your helicopter swing look like Blackhawk Down.”

So the hat is on its way, but I am not exactly sure I can wear it.

USGA PhilAnd that just might be “For the good of the game”.






Thanks for reading.   If you are a direct marketer, perhaps you should test out some gift premiums.   And make sure you put me on your list.