10 Ways to Tell if your Mailing Needs Long or Short Copy

One direct-marketing “expert,” unnamed here in order to protect the guilty, recently advised mail advertisers that letters and reply contents should be “short and a welcoming read.”

Poppycock. Direct-mail copy should be long enough to get its job done — with not a word too much or too little.

Renowned marketing consultant Robert W. Bly has developed a 10-step way, based on emotion and involvement, to help determine the effective copy length for any project.

  • Emotion — The purchase of a diamond engagement ring, Bly says, involves a high degree of emotion. Buying a box of paper clips does not.

  • Involvement — Buying an engagement ring demands takes major time, effort, and thought. Purchasing a box of paper clips does not.

  • When a purchasing decision involves high levels of both emotion and involvement, Bly writes, long copy works better than short.

  • On the other hand, when a transaction hinges on little emotion and involvement, he advises short copy. Bly observes that “writing long, passionate copy about paper clips probably won’t sell more of them.”

  • Low emotion coupled with high involvement, Bly says, calls for medium-length copy, as does high emotion and low involvement.

Other factors that Bly advises affect copy length include:

  • Price — “The more expensive a product is, the more copy you generally need to sell it,” Bly says.
    He notes that copywriter Jim Murphy thinks, “If you are selling something worth more than $20, I’ll put my money on longer copy every time.”

  • Advertising strategy — copy that sells a product directly usually must be long. Lead-generation copy can be short.

  • Audience — Time-pressured executives and professionals often respond better to short copy, Bly says. Retired people and enthusiasts, such as hobbyists, like to read long copy.

  • Product nature — Products that people really need (for instance, refrigerators) can be sold successfully with short copy. Discretionary products (for example, magazine subscriptions) generally require long copy.

  • Familiarity — Short copy can work well with products the prospect knows and understands.
    Test before you commit your budget to any length of copy.

See also:

Advertising Copy Home Page

Marketing Tactics Home Page

Marketing Home Page

Request a quote or consultation

Purchase printing, upload your PDF or design online