The back story of a blockbuster direct mail advertising control

Always great to be mentioned in a blog post. Today was a repost on Copyblogger titled "How to discover your hidden remarkable benefit." The subject was on unique selling proposition importance. Specifically, it was the story of the blockbuster direct mail advertising package I had a part in creating for Collin Street Bakery a few years ago.

Much can, and deserves, to be said about research, customer interface, talking in meetings, and much more to identify a unique selling proposition for a product.

In this case, the product was fruitcake. A lot of people won't even try a fruitcake. They'll say they don't like the product even though they've never tasted it.

But for CSB, in focus groups what we found is that almost everyone liked the product. Some raved about it and were surprised a fruitcake could taste so good.

One day, over lunch, my client and I were talking about this continual problem of how to get someone to try fruitcake. Since CSB is a food marketer, we made it a practice to eat at a variety of restaurants. This particular day we were at one of my favorite spots. After lunch, I remarked how much I loved this restaurant's pecan pie. After all, fruitcake contains an abundance of pecans, and my client also makes an outstanding pecan pie.

So we ordered the pecan pie. When it was served, my client remarked how just by looking at the pecans he could see they were "commercially grown." CSB's pecans, he said in an almost snobbish tone, were "native pecans."

Interesting, I thought. So I asked him more about native pecans. Mostly, he told me, native pecans are smaller, but they are more flavorful than commerically grown pecans. Unfortunately, because native pecans are smaller, the presentation isn't so great. Over lunch, we came up with a name to test: native Texas pecan cakes.

I returned to my office and researched native pecans. I discovered they grow along rivers and streams in Texas and the south. They require certain soil, water, and climate conditions. They live as long as 150 or more years (meaning they were planted as long ago as the Civil War), and soar to amazing heights.

What a story! So with that story, we tested direct mail creative with the name "Native Texas Pecan Cakes" and response shot up 60%. We tested it again just to make sure we weren't misreading something in the results.

My package became a new control, mailed to millions and millions of consumers and businesses, later translated into German, Spanish, and Japanese.

Moral of the story: always eat dessert.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.