Who's Mailing What?
Market-specific trends shed some light on what it takes to get mailers opened and responses generated
INSIDE DIRECT MAIL is a monthly publication offering reviews and analyses of the plethora of mailers being sent out across the United States. Many of the pieces are catalogued in the magazine's "Who's Mailing What? Archive," and are used to generate the MailWatch section featured in each issue. Here, BFL&S reviews some of the trends identified in the column throughout 2005.
To Each His Own
Specific markets and business sectors have clear format preferences for reaching target markets. For instance, nonprofits favor envelope packages, as opposed to self-mailers, and typically use freemium and premium response boosters when seeking donations. On the other hand, the business-to-business sector and merchandise marketers prefer self-mailers, particularly four-color postcard designs. For retailers, personalized greeting cards offering merchandise discounts are an effective way to target lapsed customers.
Interestingly, David Yost, general manager for Roanoke, Virginia-based InfoSeal, observed that many distributors experienced with traditional envelope-package mailers are realizing the value of self-mailers, including quick turn times. "We may be given artwork and data for large-volume projects of 60,000 pieces or more one day, and the job has to be in the mail stream two days later," he said. "You could never turn jobs like this at the speeds we are turning them using other formats."
Automotive dealerships and mortgage companies are huge markets for self-mailers, and Yost said orders for the retail sector—often incorporating a loyalty card for in-store discounts on specific days—are increasing.
MailWatch also reported merchandise marketers and publishers are most likely to use poly bags in mail campaigns. For instance, magazine publishers will send out poly-bagged sample issues to grow subscriptions, with the standard, clear-style poly bags being replaced by flashier designs. And, automotive companies' mailings, traditionally heavy on graphics, are balancing images with relationship-building copy for a customer-centric approach.
Publishers of health information materials utilize magalog and bookalog formats to impart a sense of valuable content to what are, essentially, advertising pieces intended to increase sales of various materials. In one instance, Johns Hopkins used a 36-page bookalog to offer 13 white papers for a free, 30-day review. The lip end of a bound-in BRE listed the papers, highlighting new or updated reports.
Publishers are also sponsoring more contests. Sweepstakes work well for acquiring and renewing subscribers, and for upselling and cross selling within households. Except for automotive and high-end mattress manufacturers, merchandise direct marketers are the least likely to use contests or sweepstakes.
Money-oriented premiums, such as cash, brand-name gift cards, frequent flyer miles and points accrued toward merchandise, are popular for credit and loan offers. However, freemiums, including calendars, wrapping paper, address labels and greeting cards, outshine premiums by more than 50 percent in any given month.
For campaigns with an environment-friendly appeal, mailers use manufacturers offering recycling programs, computer-to-plate printing, environmentally friendly paper and inks, and water-based, nonchlorinated glues and adhesives that emit no volatile organic compounds.
Publishers rarely personalize their efforts, while insurers and financial services providers consistently use personalization. And, envelope formats enable insurers and financial services providers to create an air of importance and protect sensitive information. Die-cut-window envelopes showcasing customization are declining in response to consumers' increasing privacy concerns.
Every component of a mail campaign is critical, and outer envelopes function as far more than simple carriers. Eye-catching color, graphics and non-traditional sizes—which may even lower production costs—help them to stand out in mail boxes. While #10 envelopes are the most popular, 6x9", 8-1⁄2x11" and 4x7-1⁄2" invitation-style designs are also used.
For a medical research foundation seeking donations, a humble 5-1⁄2x10" snap pack envelope design—an infrequently used format today—containing a traditional, impact-printed, single-carbon form with two personalized areas, created a no-frills look that effectively underscored the need for financial support.
Thoughts that Count
Outer envelopes are also perfect for showcasing teaser tactics, which drive positive results.
Some popular strategies include multiple windows, affixed stickers and compelling, faux-handwritten copy broken into short phrases.
To elicit an emotional response when targeting Americans over age 50 living in rural areas,
often with limited social contact, a health-care book publisher included the phrases "God bless America" and "I love you, (first/last name)" on the outer envelope, in addition to the classic teasers "do not discard" and "account information enclosed."
To sell a retirement report, a mailer included three true or false questions on the outer envelope, enticing readers inside to where the answers were printed on the back of the order form. In another instance, a book publisher affixed a shiny penny to a bright, purple 9-1⁄2x11" envelope featuring the catch phrase "a penny for your thoughts." Recipients used the penny for a scratch-off on the back of the reply device.
Score a Direct Mail Hit
It is one thing to get a recipient to open a mailer, and quite another to elicit a response. Market research shows offering a variety of reply options, such as toll-free phone numbers, Web site and e-mail addresses, traditional BREs and in-store visits, improves responses.
Bob McCormick, quality control and purchasing manager for Goodwin Graphics, Carrollton, Texas, noted many end-users do not like to send out jobs with postcard replay devices requiring recipients to remove stubs before returning.
"Dealing with perfs increases the potential for tears in postcards as well as the tendency for recipients to not want to be bothered with them," explained McCormick. "We have the capability to provide variable insert die-cut cards in almost any size end-users desire.
The die-cut cards slip out of the mailers. "Recipients don't have to do a thing but send back the pre-imaged card," added McCormick. "The die-cut adds nothing to the cost, only value to the design."
By Maggie DeWitt