3 Keys to the Mayo Clinic's Big Control
The famous, oversize, in-line package from Mayo Clinic Health Letter, keyed by editorial premiums and long, benefit-filled copy, is the most successful subscription piece ever written—it's sold 4 million subscriptions since debuting in 1995—for a monthly periodical. Mark Johnson, the Carlisle, Pa.-based copywriter behind this control, describes a few reasons why this effort is withstanding the test of time:
1. Reaching emotions, honestly. The oversize, kraft-imitation outer envelope features the simple teaser, "Please favor us with a reply within 10 days." "This [teaser] approach neutralized the objection that people often have to a headline that is too sensational or too promotional or not believable, yet this reaches just as powerful an emotion," describes Johnson. "The social responsibility to respond is just as powerful, yet it doesn't bring up those other issues that you see in direct mail, especially in health markets."
2. Making sure it gets read. One of the most common mistakes Johnson sees in direct mail is type that is simply too small. Since Mayo Clinic Health Letter mails mostly to senior citizens, he insisted upon 14-point size font and cut the copy by 10 percent to make it still fit comfortably. He also oversaw the use of the "school rule" for the letter, which, like the larger point size, makes it easier to read and contributed to a greater response.
3. Tweaking, but not overhauling, to fit the new economy. The letter, in response to the prevailing economic crisis, recently underwent its first significant change. "We call it the 'Tough Times' approach. It evolved from an earlier test, when we found that we got a terrific lift by positioning per- issue pricing as opposed to per-year pricing. We've used '$1.97 a copy' for the last couple of years, so the logical extension of that in the current economic climate was to have a letter lede that worked it in. It was a very dramatic change, and it gave us a good lift," describes Johnson.