Amidst the mayhem of new media such as YouTube, iPods and blogging, using one advertising medium is rarely satisfactory. With consumers wading through an informational glut meant to provide ultimate personalization, marketers must pull out the big guns to ensure their messages are heard. E-mail, direct mail, television and website promotions are only a few of the ways to encourage an audience’s response to a campaign. It’s a delicate balancing act of maintaining enough presence to be seen, heard and responded to, without bombarding a potential audience into annoyance. In the case of direct mail, the most successful campaign is the one that nestles safely into consumers’ homes or businesses’ in-boxes.
Netflix, the DVD online rental service based in Los Gatos, Calif., is well-known for revolutionizing rental services featuring a mail-in shipping system, not to mention its signature reusable envelope. However, Netflix engages far more than the mail to remain front-of-mind with its customer base. The company, which launched in 1997, employs every advertising avenue available to it, including “network advertising, radio advertising, newspaper freestanding inserts, public relations, events [and] promotions,” explained director of corporate communications Steve Swasey.
Netflix created and refined the efficiency of its service by developing a reusable, bar-coded, postage-paid shipping package for the return of rented DVDs through the mail. Save for its website’s relatively new online viewing option, the company’s efficiency is built on the success of its shipping processes.
“Our largest partner is [the United States Postal Service] shipping force,” Swasey said. “Every day, [Netflix mails] about 1.6 million DVDs outward, returning about 1.6 million DVDs, [totalling] 3.2 million pieces of mail [sent] on a typical day [via] first class mail. ... The volumes haven’t always been that high, but the point is, we’ve worked very closely with the postal service from the very beginning to design a mailer that is functional, useful and goes through their equipment.” Swasey then explained how the mailer both protects the delicacy of the DVD, and withstands the automation the mailer tolerates on both the postal service’s end and at Netflix’s distribution centers.