If we judge books by their covers, then we judge wines by their labels. And their price.
If a wine’s label looks fancy or distinguished, and the price isn’t too low, then we assume the wine must be good. If on the other hand the label looks cheap, or if the wine is indeed cheap, then we may assume the wine is not very good and pass over it for something with more cachet.
This may seem like a random point to be making, but it is an important one if you are selling wine direct to the consumer via space ads.
Here is an offer I responded to last fall. This image is from a space ad. I happened to respond to a direct mail piece, but it was the same offer for the same wines. You can right-click the image and select “Save As” to download the PDF of the full ad.
Take a good look at the labels. The Cabernet with the black label and gold script on the left looks particularly fancy. So do the Le Prince labels in the middle and the Chianti labels on the right.
Then there are some more modern-looking labels in between. For example, the Ascencion Malbec and the Spot Light Pinot Noir.
I expect the selection of the wines and their staging was quite deliberate — an attempt to appeal to as many wine drinkers as possible.
Then there is the price: $219.99 worth of wine for just $69.99. You are paying a cheap price for what appear to be not-so-cheap wines.
All of this predisposes wine lovers to say yes before ever reading the copy. But there are other easily overlooked advantages this ad has that make it work.
First we must note the time of season during which this ad ran. It was in the fall, before Christmas, which is a particularly festive time of year. The blurred hearth and fire in the background lend a festive air that fits the season.
Of course, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, people are having parties and inviting their friends over. And what wine lover doesn’t want to show off a little by pulling out an exotic bottle of wine and playing the role of savvy wine aficionado for an evening?
The folks at Laithwaites know of this secret desire, so the copy alludes to it when it says, “You’ll receive useful notes with every wine, so you can always choose the best bottle for every occasion.”
I can easily imagine the new customer pulling out a fresh bottle and explaining to his dinner guests where the wine comes from and how it goes perfectly with the pork loin they are about to enjoy.
Secondly we must note that the offer is for 12 bottles of red wine. This is appropriate since red wines are generally enjoyed during the winter, while white wines are generally enjoyed during the summer.
An offer for white wines before Christmas would have probably failed. Even a mixed case offer (six reds and six whites) probably would not have performed well. So the offer of red wines was the right choice for the time of year.
I saw multiple insertions of this ad in multiple publications, so I know it was successful. I also received the direct mail piece at least twice, after which I responded and my name was probably removed from the list.
So what are the lessons here, besides those that apply to selling wine direct?
1. If you have the right product, a picture can get attention, arouse desire, and do a great deal of the selling for you.
2. Everybody wants a great product at a low price. Don’t underestimate the power of an irresistible offer.
3. You can afford to break even or take a small loss on the first sale if you are selling a subscription product like Laithwaites is.
4. Offers that are relevant and timely have an advantage over offers that aren’t in season.
5. Make it easy for your prospect to respond. This particular ad provides three methods for responding: website, phone, and mail.
A final parting thought…
Pay attention to the ads and direct mail pieces you receive. Those that show up more than once are generally profitable and worth studying.
-Ryan M. Healy
P.S. Lawrence Bernstein has an enormous collection of successful ads and direct mail pieces available online to members of his Ultimate Online Swipe File. I’ve used it many times when I’ve needed inspiration or guidance. If you write sales copy on a regular basis, I recommend getting a membership. It is worth the investment. Click here to check it out:
I launched my freelance copywriting career on June 13, 2005. Much to my surprise, I landed three clients in the first two weeks. If you'd like to discover how I did it, then click here now »