Cover Story: Truth 
in Advertising

Greg Shevlin, list manager; James Hale Sr., marketing director, patient and consumer market, global products and services; and Gary Peterson, senior marketing manager

Mayo Clinic drove up response with this direct mail package printed by Downers Grove, Ill.-based RR Donnelley Response Marketing Services. The letter copy dealt head-on with prospects’ economic concerns, while the piece’s overall look retained the professional appearance it seems the public expects from the clinic (letter shown here).

Mayo Clinic drove up response with this direct mail package printed by Downers Grove, Ill.-based RR Donnelley Response Marketing Services. The letter copy dealt head-on with prospects’ economic concerns, while the piece’s overall look retained the professional appearance it seems the public expects from the clinic (outer envelope shown here).

Mayo Clinic drove up response with this direct mail package printed by Downers Grove, Ill.-based RR Donnelley Response Marketing Services. The letter copy dealt head-on with prospects’ economic concerns, while the piece’s overall look retained the professional appearance it seems the public expects from the clinic (reply BRE front shown here).

Mayo Clinic puts straightforward direct mail creative to the test

Plug the words “Mayo Clinic” into any search engine and thousands of news results pull up. Most of them concern medical breakthroughs, and all are dated within the past month.

The Rochester, Minn.-based nonprofit medical practice—with operations in Minnesota, Phoenix and Jacksonville, Fla.—readily admits that it specializes in treating complex illnesses. Heads of state, literary greats, athletes, actors and musicians have all sought treatment at its hospitals.

Yet the institution that recently provided a liver transplant to Gregg Allman, a founding member of the Southern rock group The Allman Brothers Band, will hardly be shouting that news from the rooftops.

This conservative, professional attitude—coupled with its cutting-edge expertise—appears to be expected from Mayo Clinic by the general public. That’s true, at least, if results from test after test performed by its marketing department, which regularly seeks out subscribers for its two newsletters—Mayo Clinic Health Letter and Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource—are any indication.

However, much like its thousands of physicians, scientists and researchers, the clinic’s marketing department regularly finds breakthroughs and produces results. In its latest achievement, the marketing team tweaked its direct mail creative for its newsletter subscriber campaigns and saw a 28 percent lift in response over its control. Putting this achievement into context, the response lift coincided with a 23 percent newsletter price increase, postal rate increases and a then-looming recession.

“What I decided was, I wasn’t going to ignore the elephant in the corner,” says James Hale Sr., marketing director, patient and consumer market, global products and services. “And I directed our lead copywriter … to take the tough economic issue and actually acknowledge it and demonstrate the good value and wisdom in buying our newsletter.”

Tried and Found True
Copy, offer and format are among the many elements Senior Marketing Manager Gary Peterson includes in the 10 to 15 tests he performs each quarter, Hale says.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.
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