A "Healthy" Control
Even when a direct mail effort is garnering good response, there comes a time when it must be tweaked to maintain that response rate. Beating the control, on the other hand, requires crafting a whole new look, and sometimes a new message.
Health magazine saw a more modern and eye-catching polybag mailing (202HEALTH1200) upset its long term-control, a 9" x 12" white envelope effort produced by the renowned creative team of Bill Jayme and Heikke Ratalahti (the letter re-written by Judy Weiss). Not only did the wrapping change on this winning package, but a good deal of the content. Ultimately, Health cut costs and raised response by keeping the strongest elements of the previous control and adding some new flavor.
The 9" x 12" envelope control consisted of a four-color, fold-out broadside, a six-page sales letter, three health cards and an order card with the headline, "Will you please do us a favor?" printed along the top plus an interactive device of three smiley-face response stickers. This mailing was Health's control for at least seven years, until an 81/2" x 12" polybag effort, created by copywriter Heidi Hoyt Wells and designer Rebecca DePriest, was tested in late 1997.
"We felt [the polybag] was a good format to test," says DePriest. "It was a successful format in the mailbox at the time, and we felt that it was appropriate for the magazine."
Inside this first polybag test, DePriest and Wells included a 12-page, magalog-style brochure and a 41/2" x 71/2" envelope that contains a single-page letter, a BRE and an order card.
Why opt for a new, single-page letter? Wells explains, "We had plenty of information in that magalog, so we didn't need the six-page letter."
DePriest agrees, adding, "We felt that by using that magalog in the polybag, it would give us more room to showcase magazine content... in a way that the [previous control] did not."
While some elements changed dramatically, other features from the previous control were retained, such as the smiley-face response stickers, the book premium and the health card freemiums.
Wells says that she and DePriest needed to keep the offer and other winning elements the same so the test results would hold up. But the campaign objectives called for new creative to meet the constantly evolving look and content of Health magazine.
One element that is crucial to both controls is the freemium. "The health cards... were expensive," says Wells, " but [Health] had tried testing... and three health cards always won."
Besides being a proven response-booster, the health cards also helped Wells and DePriest use the clear polybag to advantage.
"What the polybag allowed us to do was show those health cards through the back, so they became the freemium, and that allowed us to then talk about the premium in the upper right-hand of the brochure." The premium is a book on disease-fighting foods that has been a staple of the long-term control's success.
After testing the polybag effort and gaining a healthy response, the next step was to cut costs. Wells and DePriest decided the best way to do this was to reduce the magalog to a four-page brochure. DePriest explains that she and Wells chose the images and copy from each magalog spread that were hot or the most compelling for inclusion in the brochure. It was important, she says, to select the right hooks to which the audience would respond best.
The polybag with the four-page brochure tested best of all, and was Health magazine's control mailing until recently. The 9" x 12" envelope effort has reclaimed its control status for the time being. Don't you just love direct mail testing!