A Gift of the World Brings Fast, Furious Response
Last year the National Geographic Society won a Direct Marketing Association Echo Award for its polybagged sample-issue mailing that featured a specimen issue titled, "Selections From NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC."
The mailing, which offered a world map as a back-end premium, reaped great rewards for the prestigious society. But a consistent repeat of this campaign is simply too costly for any company or organization to consider. A variation had to be created.
What evolved was a smaller and slimmer polybagged mailing including a poster-size world map as a front-end premium (Archive code #202-171603-0410B X). The entire package consists of the world map and a membership acceptance voucher, with a list of "Membership Benefits" and a holiday-inspired subscription form at the bottom. The voucher is almost identical to the control voucher, with a slight variation in verbiage to reflect the change in premium. Also enclosed are a reply envelope and a buck slip that entices readers to purchase National Geographic as a "gift for the entire family."
Richard Brown, director of circulation for the National Geographic Society, says the emergence of the sample spin-off resulted from careful exploration on how to get a good lift at a lower cost.
"After the sample magazine mailing, we began to think of similar alternatives to get a high response," he says. "We came up with the map idea, which has turned out to be our most cost-effective mailings. They are cheaper than the sample, and offer a return with an equal or better cost-per-order due to reduced production costs."
Brown adds that the lift is not as great on this campaign, but mailing it in high volume has driven its price down.
Dropped in October 2004, its success had not been determined as of press time, but Brown reports that gift orders were coming in fast and furious.
"We do a gift push in the fall, and people love to give National Geographic as gifts," he says. "But in the spring we can't push the gift idea. Instead, we've used a mailing with a buck slip including a map description. We've also dropped the slip altogether. The results are still out on the effectiveness of that option."
As for whether this package was developed specifically for a certain prospect, Karen Rice-Gardiner, director of creative services in the society's marketing services division, says no. "Just like any other mailing, this one is aimed toward a large audience of readers as opposed to TV viewers," she notes. "We hit up magazine lists and then merge and purge."
Rice-Gardiner adds that the map in this effort is different from other mailings, which were region specific.
"We have two or three world political maps in this campaign, which we use because of their broad appeal," she says. "In the past we've sent domestic maps to the United States, and Canadian maps to Canada, but they were not as successful."
All in all, Rice-Gardiner says the National Geographic Society is thrilled with its polybag mailings because, in the end, "recipients are still learning about world diffusions."
"The map premium is pretty hard for us to beat. Either because the world keeps changing, or because people keep misplacing their maps," she laughs. "But these polybag mailings are a perennial favorite."
Sharon Cole is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer serving the print industry.