By Stu Heinecke,
Direct marketing expert, published cartoonist and creator of the Personalized Cartoon direct mail genre.

Have you ever received a mailing that was so fascinating and involving that you couldn’t wait to open it and respond to the offer inside? We all want to make our direct mail campaigns stand out in a pile of mail, but very few do. Here’s a way to make your mailings do that and much more: Use a personalized cartoon as your response engine.

Personalized cartoons have powered some of the most successful direct mail campaigns I’ve ever seen. I actually had one appointment-generation campaign produce an impossible 100% response — and set response records for some of the biggest direct marketers in the world. So how can you put these powerful response engines to work in your campaigns?

First, it’s important to understand what a cartoon is and is not. A good cartoon — like all humor — always reveals a truth. After the laughter comes reflection, and if the cartoon is properly targeted, a deep-seated point of agreement emerges about the need for your product or service as a solution to a problem your prospects face. Cartoons are also compelling. Readership surveys have consistently shown cartoons are the best-read and best-remembered part of anything they’re in editorially. Which is why they also command a lot of attention when they show up in the mail.

But there are also potential pitfalls. Cartoons are difficult to create effectively, so if they aren’t funny or if they’re off-target, they can easily turn off an audience. Marketers often make the mistake of focusing the cartoon on their offer or brand, which also can shut a mailing down in a hurry.

I always apply the following five rules to ensure success with a personalized cartoon mailing:

  • Focus the cartoon solely on the recipient, not on you, your brand or offer
  • Make sure the cartoon is funny and the recipient comes out on top in the gag
  • Steer the humor so that the “truth revealed” is in alignment with your branded message
  • Use that truth revealed as the point of agreement to launch your message copy
  • Use the “Refrigerator Door” test

What is the refrigerator door test? Ask yourself if the cartoon is something you would keep on your refrigerator door if you received it in the mail. If not, start over. So much of what we receive in the mail uses the principle of tease to get us hooked. Ultimately, teasing leads to disappointment or worse. But a personalized cartoon works on a completely different basis, delighting rather than teasing recipients into noticing and responding to the message inside.

Can a personalized cartoon mailing work in your business? Of course. Because your prospects are already trained to respond positively to cartoons. And because there are always central truths about every solution offered in the form of a product or service. If they can set response records for the likes of AT&T, Time, Inc., Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Glaxo/SmithKline, the NHL and NBA, they can do the same for you, too.

For more information, contact Stu Heinecke at [email protected] or visit Cartoon Link.