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Creative Delivery of Your Message

Anyone who lives in an advanced industrial society receives hundreds of commercial messages every day. Now they arrive not only on outdoor signs and by postal mail but also by e-mail, by fax, by delivery services, through pagers and even when the phone is on hold. How in the world do you cut through the clutter and get folks to pay attention?

Creative delivery - the message arriving in some form out of the ordinary - represents one answer. Here are some ideas that have worked for others.

Media releases. When you're trying to get media coverage, most folks mail, fax or e-mail their news release. So long as it's truly fresh, more original packaging can win attention. Debbi Karpowicz's press kit for her humor book, I Love Men in Tasseled Loafers, arrived in a bona fide shoe box. Inside was a press release rolled up and tied with a leather loafer tassel and a photo of Karpowicz in a backless evening gown, seductively holding up a man's loafer. Such originality made many recipients reach for the phone to set up an interview -- exactly the desired result.
 
Event invitations. Fenix Design of Brooklyn, New York, invited clients to its annual holiday party by sending a small ziplock bag of unpopped popcorn, a string, a needle, a coupon to a night out of dinner and dancing, instructions for making a string of popcorn and a flashy label reading, "Instant Holiday Decoration Kit Enclosed!!" Christopher Kokinos, Fenix's president and creative director, says, "We treat clients like friends, not statues on pedestals. They talk about our parties for six months and then start wondering what we'll do for the next one."
 
Networking. Ginny Rivenburg, co-owner of Custom Window Products in Acton, Massachusetts, regularly gets the biggest reaction of anyone at networking meetings she attends. When it's her turn to stand up and introduce herself, she holds up a demo-sized version of window blinds and uses a remote control unit in her other hand to make them open and close. This usually provokes a hearty laugh from the audience and makes what she says next about her business about ten times more memorable than otherwise.
 
Response to inquiries. When an event marketing company in Springfield, Virginia, contacted advertising agency Oliver, Russell and Associates (ORA) in Boise, Idaho with the message, "Let's play," ORA sent back a huge yellow ball and an Idaho potato gift pack. Another time ORA sent its proposal for a local pizza restaurant over in the shape of a pizza. "Success came to us when we turned what was different about us -- our youthful, kinetic energy -- into our strength," says the firm's creative director, Russ Stoddard.
 
Sales pitches. A company selling flat-screen computer monitors also used the pizza idea when it realized that the size and shape of its product resembled pizza boxes.To announce their product launch, they bought blank pizza boxes in bulk and slapped bright-colored shipping labels on them. Inside: their product announcement and a life-sized cutout image of the monitor. Who can resist opening up something that looks like a pizza delivery?
 
Sales letters. When she was looking for new clients in the translation industry, Sarah Pilgrim sent a Czech koruna (exotic but worth less than a penny) glued to the top of a letter that opened, "Here's a Czech koruna for your time - time that can translate into more money for you." This campaign yielded an astounding 30 percent response rate. "When people can feel some unknown object inside an envelope, they can't resist opening it, and with sales letters that's half the battle," Pilgrim notes.
 
Follow-up letters. Commemorative snapshots helped Eriez Magnetics get second sales appointments after other companies' representatives visited its Erie, Pennsylvania, plant. Eriez would ask visitors to pose for a photo beneath a sign bearing the company trademark, then send the framed photo with Eriez's mission statement on the back by mail to the visitors. The good will engendered by the photo made recipients more receptive to the accompanying cover letter asking for another appointment.
 
Surveys. Companies wishing respondents to fill out a questionnaire are more likely to get results when they attach a crisp $1 bill as a bribe -- oops, as "consideration." But Burke & Towner, Ltd., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, did 32 percent better than that when they enclosed a pen for filling out the survey along with the questionnaire. Having chosen a pen with purple ink, they could easily tell that respondents used the free pen to check off their answers.

Caution: Reserve the sending of oversized promotional items through the mail to offices that are normally staffed during business hours. The tactic can backfire if the mailperson has to leave a notice requiring the recipient to make a special trip to the post office to pick up your package.

Marcia Yudkin is Head Stork of Named At Last, which affordably brainstorms creative product names and tag lines for organizations all over the world. For more articles on branding and naming, go to Named at Last - Branding Articles (www.namedatlast.com/brandingarticles.htm).