CAMPAIGN DIRECT: SHOPPING WITH CAMPAIGN BURKE’S PEERAGE

Editorial director Dominic Mills kicks off a new series in which Campaign staff see how a product or service lives up to the promise of the marketing. This time round he is intrigued by, and responds to, an invitation from a namesake to find out more about his family history and some rich relatives.

Editorial director Dominic Mills kicks off a new series in which

Campaign staff see how a product or service lives up to the promise of

the marketing. This time round he is intrigued by, and responds to, an

invitation from a namesake to find out more about his family history and

some rich relatives.



We are all susceptible to vanity - journalists perhaps more so than

others. And so last week, with a quickening of the pulse, I picked up an

envelope emblazoned with the message, ’A remarkable new book is about to

be published - and you, J. Mills, are in it!’, from Diane B. Mills.



Never mind that I am not J. Mills (that’s my brother, actually), I was

hooked. The letter inside, on parchment-style paper, was an invitation

to buy the Burke’s Peerage World Book of Mills. Signed by Diane B.

Mills, the letter talked about the ’extensive work done throughout the

world on a project relating to the distinguished Mills name’ and hinted

at all kinds of joyous stuff that would follow. Also inside were two

photos, one of the genealogist, Harold Brooks-Baker, and one of a family

enjoying a bit of Burke-ing.



These goodies included a ’unique’ coat of arms, a world directory of

fellow Mills and ’a specially compiled Historic Wills Index that will

lead to the estate records of Mills of means ...’. As a come-on, it’s a

masterful piece of the direct mailer’s art, easily worth pounds 29.95

plus a free Family Chart, etc.



But who was this Diane B. Mills? I rang a customer service number in

Marlborough. No, helpful Geraldine said after 20 rings, they’d never

heard of her. If I was responding to a letter, they had a number in

Ohio. This turned out to be the Numa Corporation (three rings), which

licenses Burke’s and, initially at least, they’d never heard of Diane

either. Customer operator Deanna (two rings) explained that Diane had

’endorsed’ the letter even though she couldn’t give me a number or

address. But she had a number in England, somewhere near ’Maarlboro’.

And so the circle remained unclosed, frustratingly.



How does it rate as a piece of direct mail? Surprisingly well - it’s

personal, to the point, with a clear call to action, even if the premise

is fundamentally cheesy. Would I buy one? Well, I’ve asked my

brother ...



THE SELLER Harold Brookes-Baker, Burke’s Peerage



Burke’s Peerage produced its first book in 1826 and has published

several on genealogy and royal families. Harold Brookes-Baker,

publishing director, has been with Burke’s Peerage since 1984. He

responds to Dominic Mills’s piece.



Diane B. Mills is a real person who is a family director for Numa.



She lives in the US and is related to many people with the same surname

in the UK.



Since the letter was addressed to J. Mills rather than D. Mills, we can

only presume that on the electoral roll Mr Mills is known as J. Mills,

or maybe Mr Mills uses his second name, Dominic, instead of his first

name - could it be Jerome? Or we could put it down to our computer not

noticing it was a D rather than a J. Because Burke’s Peerage is trying

to reach the maximum number of people in the shortest time there are

bound to be human errors.



Mr Mills and others should not miss the point that in order to reach

possible relations, who are often very ancient, they must move

quickly.



An ordinary book takes two years to prepare - too long for our purposes,

since the index is full of names and addresses of people who may be

long-lost relations of the recipient. I personally would pay dearly for

the pleasure of finding any lost relation.



’Fundamentally cheesy’ the World Book is not meant to be. How else is

the man in the street going to realise that Burke’s Peerage does not

only deal with English aristocrats but with normal people like you and

me?



For years, the world has accused us of being too snotty, but we have now

found a way of delivering the same precise, scholastic information, but

in doing so have exchanged one unkind epithet for another. You can

please some of the people some of the time, but Burke’s Peerage does not

seem to please anybody at any time.