How Powerful Brand Storytelling Can Supplement Direct Mail


Direct mail can be a powerful tool, but not if it’s thrown in the trash without consideration. The best way to keep your direct mail campaign out of the garbage is to earn the trust of your recipients. Powerful brand storytelling is the best way to do that. With the right story, readers will care—and they’ll be interested in your message.

Your brand story is built from the ground up. Here’s how…

Start with Brand Recognition

The first boost to your direct mail campaign comes from simple name, logo and branding recognition. Consistency is absolutely key to building brand recognition. You might send different types of mail, but your logo and branding should be visible and prominent on any mailing.

Customers who know who you are and already view your company in a positive light will be less likely to trash your mail. Perhaps they’ve already been to your website and signed up for an offer. Perhaps they’ve purchased your products or services before. Perhaps you interacted at a trade show. Brand recognition helps you tell your brand story, mainly because it’s the key to getting that direct mail piece in the door and in front of more eyes, unlike “cold call” mail.

Speak to Your Customers—and Your Customer Service

One of the most important services you can offer is fast, friendly customer service. Never underestimate the power of a helpful smiling face or an earnest friendly voice. Your customers are where your brand story starts, because so many great customer stories stem from great customer service.

Great customer stories are often the most powerful brand stories a smaller company can have—and one of the best ways to beat the competition. Build brand loyalty and make prospects and customers alike feel included in your direct mail initiative by telling stories about how you’ve helped people just like them.

Highlight Your Company—and Your Company Culture

Your brand story should be about your company as well—and your people: who you are, how you treat your employees, the history of your company, even your location. It’s the details that pull in your customers and help them get to know and trust your business. Loyal customers aren’t just a faceless mailing list, they are people who care about you, your company, your mission, and your brand.

If you know your customers, you know what’s important to them. Your story should touch on these points. Will your customers respond to green energy initiatives? Support of a political party? How about perks for your employees? Your technical innovations? Find the elements of the way you do business that will most likely appeal to your clients and make them part of your brand story. Customers want to do business with companies they feel good about.

Showcase Your Products & Services

Your customers have certain expectations, and chances are, they can buy what you’re selling somewhere else. Direct mail should showcase your products and services in the best possible light—with stunning, colorful graphics that reinforce your brand story.

No matter what you’re selling, you probably face some stiff competition. If your prices aren’t low enough to write home about, your brand story has to be impressive enough to gain a place in your customers’ hearts.

Powerful brand storytelling sets you apart, forges an emotional connection with your customers, and makes your brand uppermost in your customers’ minds when they think of your products and services or see your mailing. Tell a compelling story and you’ll reap the benefits of getting more eyes on your direct mail piece—and more leads in your sales funnel.



Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Brand storytelling is an integral part of an effective marketing strategy. Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
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Top-Viewed Business TED Talks of All Time

Here at Cultivate, we believe that marketing creativity is the ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, information, insight, stats, examples — and combine them in unique ways. The larger the library of building blocks, the more visionary your ideas will grow to be.

One of the best resources for finding “new building blocks” is the TED Talks archives. Below are 7 thought-provoking videos to get you rolling, followed by a list of the top-viewed business TED Talks of all time. Let’s get started…


1. Shawn Achor shares the happy secret to better work

Views: 11+ million

We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that happiness actually inspires productivity. Productivity = good business.

“If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral, or stressed,” he says. “Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we’ve found is that every single business outcome improves.”




2. Elizabeth Gilbert says each of your staff members (or coworkers) is genius

Views: 10+ million

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” genius within. I’m reminded of this quote:

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. — Albert Einstein

The key is to be open to their creativity.


And to all of you creative marketers out there, Elizabeth says, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then “Olé!” And if not, do your dance anyhow.”




3. Susan Cain teaches us to open our eyes to the power of introverts

Views: 11+ million

The author of best-selling book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” argues that charismatic talkers tend to overshadow thoughtful introverts. This can be problematic, since the loudest person in the room is not always the smartest or most creative.

Cain suggests when searching for creative business solutions, that it is, “Much better for everybody to go off by themselves, generate their own ideas freed from the distortions of group dynamics, and then come together as a team to talk them through in a well-managed environment and take it from there.”




4. Pamela Meyer shares how to spot a liar in the workplace and everyday life

Views: 10+ million

Did you know people are more apt to lie to coworkers than to strangers? Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, argues that our modern society is awash in a type of lie that is neither truth nor fiction, but more akin to “casual dishonesty.” On any given day we’re lied to from 10 to 200 times, and the clues to detect those lies can be subtle and counterintuitive. Pamela reveals the manners and “hotspots” used by those trained to recognize deception.




5. Dan Pink explores the puzzle of motivation

Views: 13+ million

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. He suggests traditional forms of reward actually “dull thinking and block creativity.”




6. Simon Sinek shares how leaders can inspire action

Views: 22+ million

Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership, all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” He explores how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust and change.




7. Ken Robinson says we need to nurture (rather than undermine) creativity

Views: 33+million

In this uber-popular talk, Sir Ken Robinson explains that we need to radically rethink our schools, encouraging and cultivating creativity and acknowledging the presence of multiple types of intelligence. Robins states:

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes.

We need to build schools AND work environments that nurture (rather than undermine) creativity.



Top Viewed Business TED Talks

 Looking for additional inspiration? Check out the full list of Top Viewed Business TED Talks for additional insights.

The most viewed business TED Talks of all time... *Great resource

Be sure to share your favorite TED Talk with me in the comments below.

P.S. For ongoing creative inspiration be sure to follow Cultivate on LinkedIn and Pinterest. Plus, if you want to keep up to date with new TED Talks, you can find your favorite format here:


  • YouTube // Each day they upload the latest TED Talk to their channel on YouTube.
    Watch TED Talks on YouTube
  • iTunes podcast // Subscribe to TED Talks special collections on iTunes.
    View TED on iTunes

  • Netflix // Watch TED Talks on Netflix as curated shows, on-demand and streaming.
    Watch TED shows on Netflix

  • TED Radio Hour // A journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions, and new ways to think and create. Based on riveting TED Talks from the world’s most remarkable minds.
    Listen to TED Radio Hour on NPR


Business TED Talks that are seriously worth your time...

Turn Your Nonprofit’s Stories into Best Sellers

When fundraising for your nonprofit, a compelling story is critical for engaging donors and generating support for your cause.

How can your nonprofit most effectively tell YOUR stories and land more BIG donations?

6 Keys to a Donation-Inspiring Story

Here’s how to ensure every single one of your nonprofit’s stories really hits home with your donors. Your nonprofit’s stories should be:

  1. Emotional, compelling, specific, and interesting
  2. Focused on the needs of the population-served, rather than the needs of the organization itself
  3. Contain elements of good storytelling, including background, protagonist, and conflict
  4. Be brief, but engaging
  5. Be outcome-based
  6. End with a call to action or a resolution

That last one is key: Stories on the web should always include a call-to-action button, offering donors a way to help NOW, at the very moment they’re most inspired by your organization’s stories.

Let’s go over a generic example…

Which Story is More Compelling?

Turn Your Nonprofit’s Stories into Best Sellers“Happy Tails shelter feeds and cares for hundreds of dogs, but needs more funding. Many of the dogs need veterinary care and expensive treatment; plus, we need to cover costs incurred for shelter, food and staff. The building is very old and falling apart. Generous donations can help save many more dogs and keep the shelter doors open.”


“Bailey, this tiny Maltese, was found in an abandoned lot—cold, alone and terrified. Our Happy Tails volunteers lured him out with gentle coaxing and bites of cheeseburger. It was obvious the little dog had been hit by a car. Through our benevolent donors, we were able to repair Bailey’s leg and help him find a family to love him forever. Donations like yours give animals like Bailey a second chance. Last year we found homes for 230 animals like Bailey, but there are still many more animals to save. Won’t you help today?”

The second story talks about the needs of the target population and gives examples of donor dollars at work. There’s a clear background, a protagonist and a conflict. The story is brief, but emotional and engaging. Before and after pictures could accompany a story to put a real face to the name. You’ll notice the story also provides a measurable outcome and ends with a strong call to action.

Remember, regardless of the type of your nonprofit: This isn’t about your needs as an organization. Nonprofits run lean, and by their very nature, they’re not known for luxurious amenities. Donors know you have overhead costs, but they really want to believe their dollars are directly helping your target population and cause.

Keep your story focused. Remember, you story is NOT  your mission statement—this is a way to warm your donors’ hearts (and open their wallets)!

Get Inspired…and Share Your Stories!

No matter your organization’s focus or target audience, you should have a set of go-to stories at all times. Keep a story folder on your desk, on your desktop, or in your notepad, and jot down three or four stories that truly reflect the impact your organization has had on at least one life. Update your story list regularly as you hear about great things that happen because of your organization.

Tell your story everywhere. Open your emails with a story. When you meet with a potential funder, tell your story. Tell your story on your website and create videos to share on your Facebook page and on other social media outlets. Put the story on your blog. Ask for testimonials, and use them on your promotional materials. Spreading your story will ensure both your story and your organization rise to the top of the “best seller” list.

Feeling a bit uninspired about writing today,  I turned to my old friend, Curiosity, and did a simple search on the word. My basic curiosity was fed immediately with the search results that came back. It’s only now a “duh” moment that Discovery Channel (to be curious is to discover, after all), would dedicate a show and website to the study and discovery that comes from curiosity.

Seeking answers to the question: What is Curiosity? The site covers topics from Arts & Architecture to Quantum Mechanics and everything in between. Anyone with a question may find some sort of explanation, or at least someone else who’s also curious enough to research the topic, here.

An interesting notion is that provides insight into questions you may not have even been curious about before, but since they’re right there, they open up more curious cans of worms.

With our underlying theme of curiosity coursing throughout this blog (and of course, overcoming the fear of failure), I had to explore and share this curious site. The actual show seems to be on hiatus at the moment, but after previewing a few of the topics from last season such as “How Evil Are You?” and “Atlantis Uncovered,” I’m curious to know when the show will return.


What are you curious about? Feel free to share in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter.