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By Paul Bobnak

RISMEDIA, Feb. 11, 2008-(Target Marketing)-While there is no single element or component that accounts for a mailing’s long-term chances, analysis of long-term controls received by the Who’s Mailing What! Archive-a direct mail library and competitive tracking service-reveals one common messaging tactic: a strong emotional appeal. Below are three examples of long-standing control packages and insights on how each one achieves an emotional pull.

1. Use details to drum up guilt.

The Humane Farming Association’s effort for a national veal boycott has been mailed since September 1998. Its impressive run is largely based on an appeal to guilt. The #10 outer envelope carries the photo of a penned-in calf with the caption, “He Can’t Turn Around-We Can’t Turn Our Backs.” Inside, a no-holds-barred description of factory farming, loaded with words like “abuse” and “torture,” further stokes the prospect’s anger.

2. Personalize a universal fear.

The National Foundation for Cancer Research’s 8-year-old annual fund drive mailing capitalizes on the perennial fear of cancer. Although it has no letter, other components like buckslips, an information sheet, courtesy reply envelope and reply form all provide cancer prevention steps-which speaks to the prospect’s greatest personal fears. A lift note from a former cancer patient, who had benefited from these tips, also supports the case for cancer research and humanizes the disease.

3. Safeguard your prospect’s wallet.

AAA promises security to its members in an offer for its hospital insurance policy. The copy on the outer, “Direct Cash Benefits/No Waiting Period,” immediately reassures the prospect she will be treated for an illness or accident and be protected financially as well.

4. Position information as a benefit.

Bottom Line Books focuses on cures and treatments in its 10? x 13.5? magalog for “The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Healing.” The front cover of the magalog screams, “Deadly artery plaque dissolved,” and features disturbingly graphic illustrations of clogged and clean arteries-perfectly attention-getting. And the copy-packed inside pages also have worked well over the years because they offer useful facts to aging prospects to combat failing health.

Paul Bobnak is director of the Who’s Mailing What! Archive, a searchable database of thousands of direct mail samples covering nearly 200 industry categories and more than 20 years of mailing history. He can be reached at or (215) 238-5225.